Many of us have heard the advice from relationship counselors and experts: Date your spouse. Get out of the house. And then do NOT talk about the most relevant things in your life – your kids, your household responsibilities and obligations, or your career. We might think one of two things when we hear that: We might think “That sounds great!” or we might think “Then what in the world DO we talk about?”
So we do as we are told, and head out to dinner for our date, and we start our conversation as we always do – talking about the project at work, the things that need to be fixed at home, or the upcoming birthday party for one of the kids. Sound familiar? And then we remember – we aren’t supposed to talk about those things. But then what do we talk about instead? If you’re anything like Austin and I, every idea usually ends up falling into one of those categories, so we would spend dinner trying futilely to come up with something, and then the tension of the silence and the “trying” just sucked any fun out of that dinner.
Now, I fully understand why the experts tell us to not talk about the day-to-day things, (although I had to figure that one out on my own as I never really received an explanation as to why we shouldn’t.) I’ve learned that we are always changing, our partner is always changing, and our life circumstances are always changing, so therefore our relationship is always changing. One of the most impactful ways to stay connected with our partner during all these changes is to spend time with them, and during this time, to always be getting to know them, for they aren’t the same person they were a decade ago, a year ago, or even a month ago.
It's an absolute fallacy for one to say that they know all there is to know about their partner. We are all changing all the time. It might be in tiny ways that aren’t easy to spot, but it also might be in more significant ways. To believe that you know everything about your partner is one of the fastest paths to failure in a relationship/marriage. If you believe that you know all there is to know, you lose your curiosity and when you lose that, you lose your interest in your partner. As you lose interest in your partner, your partner is continuing to change. This just creates an even larger difference between the person you believed you knew so well and the person that is lying beside you in bed at night. Hence, you become disconnected and think thoughts like “I don’t even know this person lying next to me.” And you’re right. You don’t know them.
Spending time away from the things that distract us from each other is the easiest way to be able to create connection, and that includes not talking about the things that we are trying to get away from in the moment. Great, so if we need to not only get away from our distractions, but can’t even talk about them, what the heck do we talk about? I hear you, and just hang with me for a minute more and I promise you a great answer. But if you really just can't wait, click here.
Let’s go back to the dating idea and what the experts tell us. They tell us to “date our spouse.” What they often fail to clarify is what that actually means. It actually means so much more than “go on a date with our spouse”, which is how most people interpret it. Most people just think the act of going on a date is the solution. And while that’s part of it, it’s far from all of it. Think back to the experience of dating your spouse or partner in the first year you were together. What was that like?
Yes, you went on dates and did fun things together. You also talked for hours, wanting to get to know everything about them. You were curious and playful and silly. You were kind and thoughtful and sweet to each other. My guess is that you helped and supported each other happily, and you were affectionate and flirty with each other. You probably used more manners than you do now – both in words and actions, and you were truly grateful when your boyfriend/girlfriend not only did big things for you, but little things, like bring you coffee or senda sweet text. ALL of that (and more) is “dating your spouse.”
So, let’s focus on the talking for hours idea. When you talked for hours, what did you talk about? My guess is that you talked about your family, your childhood, sharing all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful memories so that you could get to what made each other the person they were. You shared funny stories and sad stories. You probably talked about things that were happening in your current life, whether it was a big career move or re-hashing the surprise party that you both attended the night before. And then you talked about your future, and you created dreams together. Maybe at some point you played games such as “Would you rather”, or “Truth or Dare” with your spouse, which were not only fun ways to spend time, but more importantly, the answers to each other’s questions gave you valuable insight into each other.
So, now that we understand just how important having conversations NOT about the day-to-day things in our lives is, what exactly do we talk about then?
Let me share with you how Austin and I found the answer.
One night, on a precious 24-hour getaway, after our orders had been placed and our cocktails arrived, there we sat, holding hands and just smiling at each other, but otherwise, speechless. And then Austin asked me this seemingly random, but very genius question: “If you could have any five people, living or dead, as your personal Board of Directors, who would you choose and why?”
Wow! What an incredible question. It required me to really think and explain and it was SO MUCH FUN! I answered, and he asked a few more questions about my choices and why I chose them. And then he answered the question as well. We probably spent 30 minutes discussing that single question. Then he came up with another seemingly “silly” question which I believe was “if you could personally choose any actor to play the leading role in the movie about your life, who would you choose?” Again, weighing all the options out loud – who acted most like me, who looked most like me….it was so much fun to just laugh and explore with each other. We ended up playing this “game” for hours that night, back in the hotel room in our pjs and a cocktail in hand, volleying questions back and forth and each taking a turn to answer each question. We played it during the 2-hour car ride back home the next day. Often, our conversation organically migrated into another conversation and then another. Now we play it often – sometimes it’s just a random question here or there, and sometimes we intentionally make it part of our date time together.
And here’s the thing: Yes, some of the answers might matter in the long run and are worth tucking into your memory, but ultimately, most of them are not. Knowing your partner isn’t about memorizing the answers like they are a test, but rather understanding what makes he or she tick, what makes them laugh and smile, what types of things trigger them or breaks their heart. Knowing your partner is spending time intentionally with them – listening to them and being happy in each other’s company, like you did when you were dating. (Remember when you were dating, how you could be so happy just being in your partner’s presence?).
So, since we know just how challenging it can be to find those topics of conversation from a cold start, I put together a list of 100 Fun and Meaningful Conversation Starters.
In this guide, you'll find questions like:
As you can see, some questions are profound, some are serious, and some are silly, but interesting and intriguing nonetheless. Tuck a copy into the glove compartment of the car for a long drive, in a cabinet near the dinner table, in your nightstand or just save a copy to your phone, so that it’s handy wherever you are. Pick one question. Ask a few. Some may resonate and some may not. That’s OK. Not only is this here to be a resource, but it’s also meant to simply get the creative juices flowing. Add your own questions to the list when you think of them. And don’t be afraid to ask the questions over again because it’s very well that since we are always changing, the answer may also be changing.
Most importantly, have fun connecting and getting to know your partner – over and over again!
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