Being a couples therapist, people often say, “Why don’t we have a connection like when we first met?”

My response is, “Are you spending time talking and still getting to know each other?”

I get crazy looks and comments like, “We’ve been together for over 10 years. I think we know everything about each other!”

I explain how much there is to get to know about your spouse even after you’ve been together for years.

We are constantly changing as we have different life experiences. We change how we think about things and see things. Yes, there are many things you do know about your spouse, but there are probably some things under the surface that will leave you in surprise.

What should we talk about?

I suggest couples spend at least 2 nights a week talking for at least a half hour, communicating on a deeper level. Don’t just sit and talk about the kids or work.

Talk about your experiences and how things made you feel when you had them.

For example, if my husband asked me, “What zoo animal would you be and why?” I wouldn’t just talk about how much I like penguins; I would talk about how I relate to one. The way they parent, their standards with mating, and their sense of community are all similar to my personal values. It’s simple questions like this that can reveal to your partner who you are and what you feel about things.

How do we get the conversation started?

Here are some resources if you are like many of my clients and feel like they need a tool to help them get the conversation going.

  • If you have an iPhone, there are 2 apps I like to use. They are “Question of the Day” and “ What if: The conversation starter.” These are easy ways to get things going. Just make sure you take the conversation to a deeper level as often as possible.
  • There’s a series of books by Evelyn McFarlane called: “If … Questions for the game of Life.” The last one is “If … Questions for the Soul”- which is my favorite.
  • Share things on your bucket list with each other, or do a bucket list together as a couple. It’s never too late to dream!
  • Get the game “Family Talk” deck of cards.  My husband gave these to me as a stocking stuffer on year and I love them! They are full of thought provoking questions!

Several people might think it’s silly to use a tool to help you talk to each other. But if you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t open up well, you are going to need these!

Just remember that your intent is to connect and really get to know what the other person thinks about something and how it affects them. Don’t just talk about a news event- talk about what you would do differently and why, or how it feels when an event like that happens.

Reveal a part of yourself.

Make sure you keep the scenario emotionally safe by not judging or making fun of your partner’s answers. If they are truly opening up about something, and they feel shut down, they won’t trust to open up again very easily.

Have fun with this! Remember that you can’t read each other’s minds- so it’s important ask questions to find out what’s going on in their mind.

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC