Would you be willing to take a relationship audit? Sitting down and reflecting on how things are going is a habit of healthy relationships
We are in the most loved-up time of the year, where couples both new and seasoned are very much in the mushy, look-into-each-other's-eyes mood. But the other 364 days of the year is when sh*t gets real — when the Valentine's feeling wears off a little, how do you feel about your relationship?
A day to celebrate the love between you both is a lovely idea, but it's also a good opportunity to take stock of how things are really going in your relationship. It's what many call a 'relationship audit' — a regular check-up on the mechanics of your partnership and whether things are running as smoothly as they could.
The idea may sound a little cold and impersonal — but this isn't simply checking boxes on a list. Checking in both personally and with each other on your feelings, your irritations, your goals and where you feel things are going wrong is actually very healthy.
Let's face it — we've all found ourselves at some point Googling questions like "how to have the 'exclusive' talk", "how to make things work long-distance", or even "how do you know if your relationship is over". Instead of internalising these questions, and building anxiety and paranoia over the possible answers in our heads, speaking about them openly with your partner is the best way to find a solution that works for both of you.
Dr. John Gottman, one of the most prolific relationship therapists in the world, wrote that a problem in a relationship cannot be solved until each person is able to say "yes! You understand me. That's exactly how I'm feeling". He recommended what he called a 'State of the Union' meeting for couples — once a week, to sit down and hash out any existing or potential conflict between them, so that they can move forward feeling like they are both on the same team. Once a week may feel a little overwhelming, but as long as you're checking in on how things are going regularly (say, every few months), you're on the right track.
An open and honest relationship is a happy one — trust is the most important ingredient of any partnership, and it's important that you both feel listened to and trust in each other. Ready to get started? Here are ten questions we recommend diving in with.
What does a balanced relationship look like to you?
Balance in a relationship can relate to a lot of things — whether it's the practical stuff, like who's doing more of the housework, to emotional stuff, where one person may feel like they're putting in more effort than the other. Ask each other what your view is of an ideally balanced partnership — do your views line up? If not, it's time to talk about where your priorities lie, and where you'd be willing to compromise.
Where do you see our relationship in a year/ five years?
This is the question that every couple has to face at one time or another — you're essentially asking "where is this going?". Being in a relationship at its core means being part of a team. Your long-term goals and dreams may be personal, but in a good relationship, they should align and be supported by your partner. Do you both see yourselves living together in the future? Going on a holiday? Getting a pet together? What does the future look like, and more importantly, are you both happy in it?
How often do you feel happy?
This is a chance to delve into the primary emotions of your relationship. It's a myth that the perfect relationship will make you feel ecstatically happy and in love all the time. Relationships are hard work, and force couples to deal with some tough feelings. You won't feel happy all the time, but the important thing is that you feel happy and contented more than you feel sad/angry/frustrated about the relationship. Is this the case for both of you?
What is something we fight about a lot, and what do you think we could do to resolve it?
This is entirely personal to your relationship — every couple fights about different things, but often, couples find themselves caught in a cycle of constantly returning to the same issue. It could be money, or trust, or something someone said months ago that you can't seem to get over — whatever it is, now is the chance to finally work through it. Remember not to get caught up in your same old patterns — approach the problem as a team working against it, not working against each other.
When you think about our relationship, how do you feel?
Again, delving into the emotional side of your relationship is a healthy way to assess how things are going. When you think about your partner and your life together, what is your strongest emotion? Good answers are safety, contentment, affection, and joy. Less good answers are irritation, anxiety, indifference, or fear. Be honest here — feeling a negative emotion doesn't necessarily mean that your relationship is over. It may just mean that there are issues that have yet to be resolved — as long as you are both willing to work through them, there is still plenty of hope for a positive outcome.
How satisfied are you with our sex life?
This is a difficult subject to broach, but it is consistently one of the most common issues that crop up in a relationship. If you are feeling disconnected from your partner when it comes to sex, there are plenty of ways to resolve it — but remember that pressuring or demeaning your partner is not an acceptable way to do so. A healthy, mutually satisfying sex life is one of the most important factors of a happy partnership — achieving this means having regular conversations about what you like, what you don't like, how often you want to have sex and things you want to try.
What is the next step in our relationship, and when do you see us taking it?
A question that every couple will have at some point. Maybe it's a big step like marriage or moving in together, or maybe it's as simple as not seeing other people and dating exclusively. Whatever your next step is, it's important to know that you and your partner are on the same page. Even if you don't see yourselves taking the next step for months, or even years, as long as you both agree on it, it's a sign of a healthy partnership.
What are your thoughts on kids/marriage/splitting our finances?
The practical stuff may seem boring or scary, but these are the issues that will test your relationship to its limits at many points throughout your life. Early on, it may be easy to brush past the fact that you want kids but your partner doesn't, or that you don't believe in marriage, whereas they have been planning the big day for years. But as the relationship progresses, these issues tend to become impossible to ignore. Be honest and direct with what you want for your future, and be willing to accept your partner's answer too.
Is there anything you'd like me to do differently, in order to make you feel more at peace with our relationship?
It can be very difficult to open yourself up to criticism in a relationship, but being vulnerable and willing to work on behaviours that may be causing problems are essential to growth. It may be that you get distracted when they try to talk to you about something that's bothering them, or that you shut down when conflict arises, or that you just won't leave the toilet seat down. Don't be afraid of your partner's answer, and don't be afraid to give them an honest reply too. Just remember to approach the question from a place of kindness, not anger — don't get into a slagging match.
What is your favourite thing about me?
End the conversation on a happy and positive note. This question is all about being present and thinking about what made you attracted to your partner in the first place. Try to steer clear of vague adjectives like "you're funny" and only complimenting features that provide a service for you, like "you always make my favourite dinner on a Friday". This is about your partner, and what makes them unique – why are they the person you want to spend your life with?
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