Steve and Julie thought there was nothing easier than taco date night. Oh, how fast they could be proven wrong…
Steve orders two asada and two chorizo tacos.
“Aww thanks, Steve,” Julie says.
Steve gives her a questioning look.
“For…the tacos,” Julie continues, a little confused. “You remember both of our favorites!”
“Uh, these are my tacos,” Steve says.
“All four of them?” Julie questions.
“Well…yes.” Steve responds. “Why?”
Taco night just took a turn. And no one wants to ruin taco night.
The terrible side effect of being misunderstood (and the reason taco night was ruined)
Is Steve being neglectful or is Julie attacking him?
The answer is usually more complicated than who’s right or wrong. Both Steve and Julie missed the full emotional picture.
Julie feels forgotten because Steve got tacos only for himself.
Steve feels he’s being judged for his eating habits.
Bottom line, there’s a lack of understanding. And when there’s a lack of understanding, both parties usually end up hurt.
The real question is, how can you avoid this in your relationship?
To start, you need to understand an important principle.
Being misunderstood has a terrible side effect: feeling unaccepted.
Acceptance is what we want in our relationships. Our relationship is a place where we should feel fully understood and accepted as who we are.
How can we get there? How can we get to a place where we feel accepted, and the flip side of that, have our partners feel accepted?
You might be surprised that it’s as simple as asking good relationship questions.
That’s right, ask and you shall receive.
How asking the right questions can work wonders for your relationship
You might know facts about your partner, but that doesn’t mean you understand their emotions.
Take our taco couple, for example.
Let’s say Steve knows that Julie had a group of friends in high school that would regularly “forget” to tell her where they were hanging out. Steve knows the fact of her past, but hasn’t made a connection to her emotions.
Julie might be sensitive to feeling left out because of those friends she used to have.
Steve ordering tacos for only himself now comes with a little emotional baggage he didn’t even realize was there.
And maybe Julie didn’t either!
Sometimes, we don’t even know ourselves well enough to explain certain emotions. (But more on that in a bit.)
That’s why it’s important to ask the right questions:
They help us understand not just facts about our partners, but their underlying emotions as well.
First, you have to know where your communication is before knowing the right questions to ask in your relationship.
The Three Levels of Communication in All Relationships
There are three levels of communication in a relationship. (And this goes for non-romantic relationships too).
Grunt represents communication in its most basic form. Simple responses like fine, ok, here, sounds good, make it clear the question was heard but don’t reveal much else.
Journalist is the level of facts. It’s like reporting the weather to each other. The office was freezing today. I missed lunch and now I’m starving. This is enough to know what has happened in the day, but not any depth to the why’s or how anyone was feeling.
Feelings are at a deeper level. There’s enough vulnerability to understand the emotion in the conversation. I feel sad because I wasn’t invited to lunch at work.
Below is a list of questions to help you dive deeper through these three levels of communication. There’s something for every stage of a relationship, ranging from fun to more serious.
Remember to get to the core feelings of an answer.
Your partner’s favorite movie is the Journalist level of communication. Why that movie has affected them gets to the Feelings level.
That’s where understanding starts to happen.
Good Relationship Questions (By Stage of Relationship)
New Relationship Questions
These questions are specifically designed for the early days of a new relationship.
- What was your favorite book/movie as a child? Why? What was your favorite part?
- What was your favorite Christmas of all time? What made it special?
- Who is the person you first turn to when you need advice?
- Where did your family go on vacations when you were a child? Do you have a favorite place or memory from them?
- What’s your favorite color? Have you ever wondered why it’s your favorite?
- If you could live out in the country or in the big city, which would you choose? Why? Is it another place altogether?
- What has been the biggest surprise for you in the last year?
- How would you describe your partner’s sense of humor?
- Which is your favorite season? What about your least favorite? Why?
- What was a typical dinner like in your childhood home? Did a family member cook? Was it a lot of take-out? Where did you eat and what were the conversations like?
Serious Relationship Questions
- What is the most difficult challenge you had to face before meeting your partner? How would this change if you had to face this challenge together?
- What act of kindness has your partner recently done for you that you have not thanked them for?
- Which one of you makes the most decisions in the relationship?
- Which of the two of you is more accepting of change?
- What is something you do that is always sure to get a laugh out of your partner?
- What is something your partner does that makes you feel appreciated, respected, and valued?
- What are your partner’s top three core values?
- What are your thoughts on professional counseling? Is it something you would ever consider if you needed it? Why or why not?
- If you were crying about something, how would you want your partner to respond to that?
- When was a time when you made a mistake and your partner was full of grace and didn’t criticize you?
Relationship-Building Questions for Married Couples
- When was one specific time that you remember deeply missing the other?
- What personal habit about your spouse did you used to find annoying but now find endearing? In other words, what used to bother you about your spouse that you now appreciate because that’s a part of who they are?
- What interferes the most with you spending quality time together? What can you do about it?
- Outside of your wedding day photos, what is your favorite photo of the two of you? Why?
- What is the most endearing way your spouse says “I love you” without using words?
- Do you have spiritual goals for your marriage? If not, could you come up with some now?
- What was the last conversation that you had that was really meaningful to you? Do you remember what was said?
- What topic of conversation with your spouse do you fear the most?
- When was the last time you felt completely secure with your spouse? What contributed to your feeling of safety?
- What word of advice would give a couple that is about to get married?
Relationship Questions to Ask A Guy
- Do you fit the stereotype of a man who won’t ask for directions? What do you think of the stereotype and where did it come from?
- What is your favorite memory with your dad?
- What female character in a movie/show do you find the most romantic?
- Did your dad fall into “traditional” gender roles in your childhood home? What do you think about gender roles and chores done around the house?
- What would your partner say they admire the most about your mom?
Relationship Questions to Ask A Girl
- Some say chivalry is dead do you agree? Do you want it dead, why or why not?
- What is your favorite memory with your mom?
- What male character in a movie/show do you find the most romantic?
- Did your mom fall into “traditional” gender roles in your childhood home? What do you think about gender roles and chores done around the house?
- What would your partner say they admire the most about your dad?
Fun Relationship Questions
- If you were given $100,000 to use to build one additional room for your house/apartment, what kind of room would you build?
- If you could make any kind of amusement park that you wanted, what would it be? Would you base it off of a popular franchise or do your own thing?
- If you could double date with any famous couple, past or present, who would it be with and why?
- If you could read each other’s minds for 10 minutes out of the day, what part of the day would you choose? Would you want this superpower at all? Why?
- If you could take over the writing and direction of a movie/show/book series which would it be? Where would you take the story?
- What’s your dream vacation? If money was no object, where would you go and what would you do? Why?
- If you could be rid of one household chore for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
- What is your ideal meal? Is breakfast, lunch, or dinner your favorite? Why?
- If you had a free Saturday and $1000 you had to spend that day, how would you spend it?
The Key to Making Relationship Questions Count
No matter how good your questions are, or how many follow-ups you have, they’re useless if you and your partner close off your emotions.
These questions are about both of you becoming vulnerable.
Even the silly questions can reveal something special.
Take the “what’s your favorite color” question. Why do we even have a favorite color? Is there some association in our past with it? The color itself is at the Journalist level, but the answer is at the Feelings level.
The only way to get that deeper answer is to be vulnerable.
Here’s the thing, we have to understand ourselves to be that vulnerable.
We have a constant narrative with ourselves. The way we treat ourselves reveals how vulnerable we are willing to be with others.
If all we have is negative self-talk, how are we supposed to be confident enough to take that step towards vulnerability?
If you are curious to see how your self-talk affects your relationships around you, click here to take the self-assessment quiz.