By Tracy Henderson, LMHCA
Working with couples is an incredible privilege. It takes a tremendous amount of courage for couples to take the first step to address the health of their relationship. A frequent dilemma that couples face is a decrease in intimacy and diminishing connection in their friendship. It’s not easy for couples to share with a stranger the challenges they face which is why I appreciate the trust they extend to me.
As a therapist who uses Gottman Method Couples Therapy in my work, I commonly discuss with couples the concept of Love Maps (Gottman) to help re-connect the couple to what brought them together. When couples first meet and begin their courtship there are countless questions asked and incredible stories shared which helps to build each other’s knowledge and fondness for one another. The insights that are shared between the couple become a sort of road-map in each other’s minds about one another. The road-map eventually leads the couple towards a common bond and off they go to the next steps as a committed couple or even further – marriage.
While the couple moves down the road together and their lives continue to evolve, the relationship changes. A decrease in intimacy and diminished friendship can commonly occur due to a multitude of reasons such as extended hours from work, a new addition to the family, going back to school, caring for an ailing relative, increased financial debts, or numerous other day to day events that draw us apart from one another both mentally and physically.
Which is why it is extremely important to remain grounded with your partner and maintain a healthy understanding of each other’s history, concerns, and preferences. It is common that many couples I speak with have forgotten over time the simple stories and unique facts about one another. Many times, when a couple meets with me, they can quickly share several habits they can’t stand about their partner whereas, they often have a slower recall about what brought them together.
An exercise that I commonly offer while in session, as well as, for couples to do on their own, is to re-connect with each other around what they know about one another. This takes place through a process of sharing open-ended questions. The goal of the exercise is to re-establish a healthy bond between one another and support the couples effort to re-connect intimately and as friends by rekindling what brought the two together. The questions can vary from simple, curious, light-hearted, and fun to more risky and intimate.
Here are a few questions to get you going…
- What is your favorite food?
- Where are you ticklish?
- What is your most enjoyable hobby?
- What is a secret habit your friends don’t know about?
- What would you do with 2 hours of free time?
- What time of the day do you enjoy making love?
- Describe what stresses you out during the week?
- What has been the most embarrassing moment you’ve experienced?
Don’t be surprised if the responses to some of these questions have changed. It’s normal. Our tastes, preferences, and attitudes evolve over time which is why it is important to check-in with our partners consistently and maintain this healthy connection.