9 Relationship-Strengthening Questions Every Couple Needs To Ask
Growth requires work and attention. These questions can accelerate it.
Your connection with your partner isn’t something that should remain stagnant. You want it to grow, and growth takes work and attention. But even when you’re with the person you’re closest to in the world, the idea of broaching the subject of the relationship itself can be an intimidating one. There can be the residual worry that wanting to talk about your relationship might make it seem like you think there’s something “wrong” with it. The answer is to actively seek ways to interrogate your relationship in a positive way. For this, we asked relationship experts and psychologists for some questions you can ask one another to help put that anxiety to rest and leave your relationship a stronger one on the other side of the discussion.
The goal with any of these questions is not to interrogate your partner, but to create a forum where the two of you can give each other permission to get specific, go beyond “I think we’re in a good place,” or “I don’t think this is working” and dive fully into the nitty gritty. Listen actively, respond with understanding, and you’ll create a non-judgmental environment where both of you can feel comfortable doing what it takes to improve your relationship together.
1. “How can I support you better?”
This simple question opens up an opportunity for discourse about mutual opportunities for support instead of the airing of grievances. “This kind of discussion can help make sure [both partners are] pulling in the same direction and giving each other what they need in doing so,” says psychiatrist Cassandra Boduch, MD, the Chief Medical Officer of PsychPlus. Each of you will be more likely to feel like you’re succeeding with the confidence that someone is behind you all the way, and you’ll be able to share in that success together.
2. "What do you need from me emotionally?"
“People with busy lives often lose track of whether they’re giving their significant other the emotional support they need,” says Boduch. “And without asking questions like this, it can be very difficult to know where things stand in this regard.” Emotional support can look like a more concerted effort to understand your partner’s emotional life, giving them more opportunities to talk about their emotions, or giving them more space to feel their emotions by themselves. Once you ask, they can let you know.
3. "How can we spend more quality time together?"
‘Quality’ is the operative word here. More time overall isn’t always the goal, but agreeing on how to make the time you do spend together might be, and this discussion can help you both get aligned. “Sometimes problems in relationships can be addressed by simply scheduling your activities and time together (and apart) more effectively,” adds Boduch. These adjustments can often lead to a heightened feeling that your respective lives are operating in harmony.
4. "What are your expectations for our sex life?"
This isn’t a question you’ll want to throw on your partner as you’re in line at the grocery store. But it’s important to find the time to engage with them about this topic. “Sexual satisfaction is an important aspect of a relationship,” says relationship counselor and clinical sexologist Dr. Martha Tara Lee. “Discussing expectations, desires, and boundaries around sex can help partners ensure that both their needs are being met and that they feel comfortable expressing their desires.”
5. "What are your goals and dreams?"
A bit cliché of an ask? Sure. But when was the last time you asked it? Living in the present and looking towards the future aren’t mutually exclusive, and learning about the person your partner wants to become helps you to be a better ally to them in that effort. “This question helps partners understand each other's aspirations and allows them to support and encourage one another in achieving their individual goals,” says Dr. Lee. “It also provides an opportunity to discuss shared goals and dreams as a couple.” Discovering the areas where your visions for the future organically overlap can help you more effectively work towards a future you’re both excited about.
6. "How do you prefer to resolve conflicts?"
Maybe you’ve never asked. Maybe you asked once but it was some time ago and, well, things change. In either case? Ask it. Some couples spend their entire lives together and never delve into these waters, choosing instead to have the same fights again and again. Do better. “Conflict resolution styles can vary between individuals, so discussing this can help partners understand how to navigate disagreements in a way that is respectful and effective for both parties,” says Dr. Lee. “It promotes open communication and reduces misunderstandings.” This conversation can also give you valuable lead time to reflect on how you could engage in your partner’s preferred method of conflict resolution before a conflict actually arises.
7. "What are your fears or concerns in our relationship?"
Asking this question may feel like it’s walking a tricky and potentially uncomfortable line and that’s okay. You’ll want to stress that you aren’t trying to unload resentments on your partner or expecting them to do the same. Nagging doubts or areas of anxiety will just seem a lot less scary once they’re out in the open. They’ll also seem much more manageable once they’re being tackled by a team. According to Dr. Lee, having this conversation gives you the peace of mind that you’re actively problem solving and addressing these issues before they grow into bigger problems.
8. “What can we improve in our relationship?”
This question is distinct from the one above in two ways. One, you can improve upon a good thing just as easily as you can improve on something that isn’t working. Two, a dysfunction in a relationship doesn’t necessarily have to inspire fear or concern. Either way, valuing your partner’s perspective on your behavior in the relationship gives that relationship a huge advantage. “Sometimes there are things we need to change [that] we don't see, but our partner does,” says psychologist Aura De Los Santos. “They probably don't want to tell us so as not to make us feel bad, but if we ask this question it's a way for them to feel comfortable doing it [while understanding] that we won't be offended.”
9. “Do you feel that you can be yourself around me?”
It’s a question that we would never ask expecting or hoping for a ‘no’ from our partner. But opening up a space to discuss the ways in which your partner feels they can be themselves with you — or times where they felt the need to hide who they really are around you — will bring the two of you closer together regardless. “[It] allows us to get to know our partner more deeply and to know how they feel about being themselves,” says De Los Santos. And that’s the goal.