You may feel that you already know as much as there is to know about your mate, but knowing everything about them and understanding them are two completely different concepts.
When it comes to relationships, understanding your partner on a very deep level is the key to avoiding unnecessary fights. You may feel that you already know as much as there is to know about your mate, but knowing everything about them and understanding them are two completely different concepts. Case in point: ever do something that totally pissed your partner off to the point that they were in a blind rage and you honestly didn’t even think they would be mad about it? Knowing what makes your mate tick means no surprises; you understand ahead of time how they will feel about almost everything. It will also help you to anticipate their needs, comprehend their emotions, and prevent minor disagreements from escalating into full fledged fights.
Sounds good, right? Luckily enough, I’ve got some great “exercises” to help you and your partner come to a deeper understanding of each other. Depending on how much time you get together, these sessions can happen once a day or once a week. Since you’ve already had “the talk” with your partner, it won’t be terribly awkward to suggest these sessions and after the first session you guys will actually look forward to subsequent sessions.
To begin, plan on 30 minutes to an hour of alone time in a quiet, private setting. All you’ll need is a pen and paper for each of you. The exercises are simple, though some focus on sensitive topics. I suggest starting with really light, fun exercises and then working in a few tough ones here and there. Remember, these exercises are intended to bring you closer by helping you to understand each other on a fundamental level. Don’t take anything personally that may come up as it is meant solely to build a stronger relationship.
Here are a few fun, easy exercises to start with:
10 Favorite Qualities In Your Mate:
Each of you will make a list of what you like about each other. One or two physical traits are okay, but try to focus on more unique qualities- their laugh, the expressions they make while they are on the phone with someone they don’t like, the way they play guitar on the steering wheel- things your mate wouldn’t even realize they do because it comes so natural to them.
10 Dream Travel Destinations:
This one is fun because more than likely you will have a dream destination in common. Maybe you both want to see Norway, or you both want to road trip the entire U.S. Whatever it is, now you have a common “dream.” If you don’t have a spot in common, I’m sure you will find yourselves agreeing on how amazing a few of each other’s choices would be!
10 Bucket List Items:
This one may offer another surprise. Maybe you both want to skydive at some point, or climb Everest, or build a house, or run a marathon, or go on a volunteer mission; finding out that your partner shares a dream with you is an amazing bonding experience.
Slightly deeper exercises, but still easy:
Sometimes we carry our regrets with us forever and we never share them because we are in denial or it’s too sad to think about. Unloading that burden is a relief.
This one digs a bit deeper and offers an inside look at the decisions that have helped shape your mate. It could also help you gain a more sympathetic outlook on decisions they make in the future. This is can be a great exercise for you both as individuals as well. Sometimes we carry our regrets with us forever and we never share them because we are in denial or it’s too sad to think about. Unloading that burden is a relief.
A few superficial fears are OK, but I highly recommend sharing a couple of doozies. I can tell you that sharing with my husband that I have been consumed with the concept of death since I was a kid and that to this day I prepare myself to die at a moment’s notice at least 10 times a day was the biggest sigh of relief I have ever experienced. I expected him to laugh at me, but he was very sympathetic about it which has built even more trust in our relationship. It’s really important that you respect each other’s fears at all times. Fears are off-limits- no mocking or teasing or discussing them with other people. They are secrets, after all.
10 Pet Peeves:
This is where you may get a little sensitive with each other’s answers, but it’s all in good fun and will absolutely strengthen your relationship. Most of these can be general pet peeves, but you should include a couple of your mate’s quirks that drive you batshit crazy. Remember, pet peeves may not signify that the “offender” is doing something wrong, per se – just that it annoys the “offended.” For instance, I hate food noise with a fiery, burning passion. Chewing sounds are something that naturally accompany food and it really shouldn’t make someone crazy, but it DOES make me crazy. Even knowing that it isn’t rational for me to hate food noise, my husband respects it- mostly because if he didn’t he would be chopped up, bagged, and sunk to the bottom of the sea Bay Harbor Butcher style. Once you know what your mate’s pet peeves are, you should try not to commit them. It’s a respect and understanding thing.
A Few Doozies:
3 Times You Lied to Your Mate:
This one is kind of shitty, but it feels good to be done with it. Remember, your mate is going to be coming clean on three lies as well, so approach their list with as much love and understanding as you hope they have for yours. I highly recommend both of you including a BIG lie. Maybe they suspected you cheated a few years back and you lied to “protect them.” Maybe you called out of work one day and didn’t tell them so you could have a day to yourself. Maybe you backed into a telephone pole in their car last summer and you lied and said you came out of the store and found it like that. Remember, if your mate drops a bomb on you (the kid isn’t yours, they screwed your best friend while you were in basic, they didn’t get robbed on the T they actually had a weekend bender with hookers and such and that’s where the $1200 went), try to keep it cool. They are telling you themselves instead of you finding it out from someone else. They could have kept it a secret but they had more respect for you and knew that you deserved the truth. The fact that they are having this conversation means that they are trying to have a better relationship with you and fix their mistakes.
3 No Holds Barred Questions:
Maybe you want to ask about your mate’s ex. Maybe they want to ask you about the person you cheated on them with a few years back. Whatever the questions are, there should be nothing off limits. Questions should be for the purpose of understanding your mate better or to feel reassured of a past situation. Answers should be given freely and calmly, knowing that the asker is only seeking peace and understanding on the issue to achieve more trust and openness in your current relationship.
There are so many more “sessions” to be had, but these certainly give you the idea. As far as sharing answers go, it’s up to you guys. If you want to switch papers and read each other’s answers, or go back and forth sharing your own answers with each other, it’s totally up to you. I do feel like these sessions can remain an important part of your relationship forever. Having a weekly session brings you back together no matter what’s happened during the week. It’s a little reminder of how much you love each other. For a quicker “maintenance” version of this, there’s a series of books, “If… Questions for the Game of Life” that may prove to be useful for you. Just keep in mind that the purpose of these exercises and questions is to bring you closer to your mate and to help you gain a better understanding of who they are and how they operate. Their answers shouldn’t be taken personally.