Making a relationship happy and healthy shouldn’t be a challenge. It should happen naturally. And the key to building a happy partnership is intentional communication. By having the right type of conversations you can keep the spark alive in your relationship regardless of how long you’ve been together. Talking honestly and openly about both good and hard topics will not only enhance intimacy in the relationship, but also strengthen your friendship. Talking the talk can help you grow closer, even when it’s not exactly what you might want to hear at times. Happy couples ask the hard questions to better understand their partners and build a stronger, more committed relationship.
“Few dating couples would get married if they had as little focused conversation as most married couples do.” – Dr. Bill Doughty, The Intentional Family
For example, dual-income couples with kids, as observed by researchers, focused on mostly talking about household chores, daycare, and groceries.
I don’t know about you, but talking about picking up celery at the grocery store doesn’t make me feel loved.
The key to intentionally creating an intimate relationship is having a variety of relationship strengthening conversations, almost like adding different spices to the meals you cook. Each spice offers a new flavor of deliciousness.
Some spices are rather dull but necessary to build baseline substance; some are bitter and are an acquired taste, and others create an indulgent sensation of pleasure.
The 6 Types of Relationship Strengthening Conversations
Type 1: Routine Conversations
Routine conversations include discussions about chores, who’s taking the kids to what, what’s for dinner, and scheduling events, including date night.
These conversations are essential to accomplish practical things and to prevent items from falling through the cracks.
However, most often these type of relationship strengthening conversations do not create a felt sense of emotional connection and intimacy. When Stacy asks Dave to vacuum, it’s unlikely Dave will gaze into her eyes and in a loving voice say, “I am going to vacuum this entire house!”
When couples end up unintentionally devoting the majority of their time and energy to routine conversations, their emotional intimacy will begin to fade, since they end up having nothing left over to energize their relationship.
It’s important to remember to be mindful of your tone of voice and to be conversational, rather than demanding or critical when having these types of relationship strengthening conversations. Sometimes the routine conversation about plans can quickly lead to an escalated conflict based on how partners say things.
If household management is a conflict in your relationship, read: 4 Common Solvable Problems in Romantic Relationships
Type 2: Friendship-Strengthening Conversations
Couples often fall in love by getting to know each other. And then they often fall out of love because they forget to continue to get to know each other over the years. They stop asking questions and stop learning about each other and themselves.
“When we are no longer open to getting to know our partners, we are no longer open to a relationship and love.”
– Kyle Benson, The Human Heart Was Made To Be Known And Loved
Being known by and knowing your partner is what builds a strong friendship in your relationship. Insecure, happy, and long-lasting relationships, partners are each other’s best friends.1
They share funny stories about the kids or work and listen to each other. Each one knows their partner’s frustrations, as well as their joys, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams.
Couples heading for trouble allow conflicts to consume friendship conversations—so much so that they stop asking intimate questions.
The good news is the research on relationship workshops(2) indicates that couples cherish the idea of becoming close friends and can do so instantly. Being a friend is less about learning skills and more about shifting your attitude.
Friendship talk is the number one way to make sure that you and your partner remain connected and in-tune with one another. The goal of this type of relationship strengthening conversation is to have uninterrupted time to just be together and continue to learn about each other.
Tips for Continuing to Build a Strong Friendship:
- Consistently ask open-ended questions that get to the heart of who your partner is at this moment (Hint: The 7-Day Emotional Connection Challenge is a great starting point).
- Check-in with your partner about upcoming events in your life as individuals and as a family.
- Share good news and celebrate, even in small ways, such as giving a high five or big kiss. Or bigger ways, such as with dinner, drinks, and/or dessert.
- Share important memories from your childhood when they come to mind.
- Talk about personal or life goals and dreams.
- Share personal projects you’re working on or interested in. Ask your partner what they love or find pleasurable and meaningful about the project they are working on.
- Schedule a playdate with each other and do something exhilarating together.
“A friend is someone who is glad to see you and doesn’t have any immediate plans for your improvement”
– Bill Coffin of the U.S. Navy 3
If you don’t prioritize having friendship talk, and you eventually stop having them completely, both partners will forget why they fell in love with one another (or even why they like each other) in the first place.
“Enhancing friendship in your marriage is an investment that will pay off over time in happiness and relationship satisfaction.”
– Fighting For Your Marriage
Type 3: Support Conversations: “I Have Your Back”
When your partner is hurting what do you do? How do you offer support that your partner needs?
“When you’re hurting, the world stops, and I listen.” – Dr. John Gottman
Research has shown that emotional and physical support from a lover enhances personal well-being, especially under stress.(4) Researchers also discovered that feeling confident you can get the support you need and want from your partner is just as important as receiving that support.
“Although there is some mystery about whom we fall in love with, there is less mystery in what makes for a successful, rewarding relationship…Two of the key elements…are a safe haven and a secure base.”
– Wyndol Furman
Dr. Furman(5) advises dating partners not to commit to a relationship unless they have been through a difficult time and each found their partner was supportive in a way that was helpful.