As humans, we’re programmed to fill the gaps.
If we don’t have the information, we tend to make it up.
Unfortunately, this can mean missed opportunities in relationships. Instead of digging deeper to find out what somebody needs, we assume.
By asking questions for couples, we can unlock the hidden thoughts or feelings. In doing this, we’re able to act and speak in ways that strengthen, instead of harm, our relationships.
Read on to learn 6 questions for couples with a relationship communication problem to transform your relationship.
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6 Questions for Couples with Relationship Communication Problem
These questions for couples with a relationship communication problem should be interspersed into your day-to-day routine as appropriate. Used frequently, they can help transform your communication.
#1 Are We Fixing or Listening?
You can probably relate to being misunderstood or misunderstanding someone when they’re in crisis mode.
The stereotype is that men are “fixers” whose first impulse is to patch up a problem. Sometimes, though, people just want someone to listen. They don’t need your advice or step-by-step action plan. They just need a shoulder to cry on. You don’t need to fix everything.
Researcher Brené Brown noticed this problem in her marriage. When one was ranting, the other would pop in with some unsolicited advice. Or, when someone is really asking for guidance, you might just listen instead of providing help.
To understand what the person truly needs, Brown shared on her podcast one important question they ask each other: “Are we fixing or listening right now?”
“You know, and so, I’ve come to this belief that, if you show me a woman who can sit with a man in real vulnerability, in deep fear, and be with him in it, I will show you a woman who, A, has done her work and, B, does not derive her power from that man.”
And if you show me a man who can sit with a woman in deep struggle and vulnerability and not try to fix it, but just hear her and be with her and hold space for it, I’ll show you a guy who’s done his work and a man who doesn’t derive his power from controlling and fixing everything.” -Brené Brown
#2 How Does That Feel?
Like other questions for couples, this can be helpful in a few contexts.
In the bedroom, we might assume that a partner likes something when they really don’t. Even if we’re used to a sexual act, everyone has different specific preferences. Something your ex loved might be hated by your new partner. The only way to know is to ask, “how does that feel?”
Even if we know it’s helpful, it can be awkward to say. Asking where we’re falling short can feel (and be) vulnerable. Still, it will elevate how you physically feel with a partner.
“How does that feel?” is also a good question to ask when you’re making plans or decisions. Let’s say you had to cancel a date you rescheduled. Is your partner okay with it? Do they hold any resentment? By asking, “Is that okay? How does this feel?” It gives a chance for them to say, “Well, I’m not sure” or “Okay but I feel like you’ve been cancelling a lot lately.” This can help you uncover potential problems before they grow and become a relationship communication problem.
#3 How Can I Help You?
If someone is struggling with something, don’t just stand by and watch. See if there’s a way you can support them. Sometimes, it’s obvious. But other times, it’s not.
Let’s say the person is stressed about a big work project. Since you know nothing about their line of work, you aren’t sure how you can help. Asking this simple question can reveal options you never thought about. For example, maybe you can help by making dinner, so they have more time to catch up on work.
A relationship communication problem can arise when we assume how someone wants help. Although we think we’re helping, we might be getting in their way or acting condescending. In other cases, co-dependency makes us rush to help, even without our partner wanting it.
#4 How Can I Support You?
Other times, people’s problems are more emotion-based. In these cases, help will probably be less tangible. If you know someone is going through a difficult time, like a period of depression, this is a good question to assess their needs.
Pick the right time to ask this one, though. And don’t ask it when the answer is obvious. If someone is spilling their heart out to you, they need someone to listen. If someone is down on themselves, they usually need affirmation before you ask what other support they need. After you’ve applied emotional first-aid follow-up with asking how you can support them. And if someone doesn’t know, that’s okay too.
The key here for a couple with a relationship communication problem is to know that people like to receive support in different ways. For example, you might like a “tough love” type of support, but that doesn’t mean your partner does. In fact, it can cause a relationship communication problem and make them feel worse.
#5 How Can I Make This Better? Questions for Couples
It’s such a simple question, but it can go a long way. When someone is mad at us, sometimes we get angry too. If we’re arguing, we can get lost in the battle. When there’s a relationship communication problem, we further exacerbate it by getting lot in the haze.
Instead of looking for a way out, we contribute to the steamrolling — which escalates the situation. Instead of seeing ourselves as a partnership against the problem, we feel like we’re against our partner. We become concerned with winning the argument, worsening the relationship communication problem.
Remember that in these moments, you have a choice. If someone is upset about something you said or did, look for a way to make it better. Ask, “How can I make this better?”
If the person also wants to deescalate the situation, they should respond with what they’re looking for. That could be changed behavior, an apology, an action, etc. If the person can’t articulate what could make the situation better, consider taking a break. If you’re just going to go back and forth without a resolution, it could damage the relationship. Instead, take a time out and brainstorm how to make the situation better when you regroup.
#6 What’s On Your Heart?
We artificially ask people how they are. Or what their day was like. But what’s taking space in their heart?
Not their mind but their heart.
Asking someone this question can reveal the things they’re worried about most. What are they caring about? How are they feeling about life?
When someone is acting off or you haven’t checked in lately, it’s a great icebreaker. Pay attention to the answer.
Understanding what’s on their heart can help prevent a relationship communication problem. We might not understand why somebody seems different and assume they’re upset with us. For example, if your partner is worried about the health of their mother, they may act more snappy. You might assume they’re angry with you when in reality they’re stressed. Knowing the inner-workings can help you tackle them with your partner. You can nip the relationship communication problem in the bud by asking them about the stress trigger instead of dancing around it.
More Relationship Communication Problem Questions
Along with these specific questions, asking about your partner can help you learn more about them. Understanding them better in general can help prevent relationship communication problems. Read out other guides for more questions for couples:
- 71 Interesting Get To Know You Questions For Couples
- 160 Questions For Couples: New + Longterm (Very Telling)
Summary: Questions for Couples with Relationship Communication Problem
Not these questions for couples with a relationship problem will be appropriate all the time. Rather, keep these phrases in your back pocket for when they might be helpful. In situations where you might assume something, get curious. In situations where there’s ambiguity, fill in the gaps by asking. Use the questions for couples with a relationship problem to better assess the needs of a relationship.