What are the main advantages of your couple? Where do the difficulties come from? What can be saved or improved in a relationship, and what is not? The questionnaire, which was composed of three leading specialists in couple therapy: psychoanalyst Robert Neuburger, psychotherapist Patrick Estrad and sexologist Sylvain Mimun, will help research these issues and understand what is happening.
You can answer questions alone or with a partner. Take your time, give yourself time to ponder the answers – and let them be as sincere as possible. Write them down, then you can reread and supplement if necessary.
FEELINGS – APPRECIATE THE POWER OF YOUR LOVE
When conflicts escalate, the feeling that they don’t understand us is intensified, insults accumulate, and it’s hard to understand what we really feel about our partner. But feelings are the foundation on which love stories are built. If they weaken, the whole building will be shaken. Sometimes you want to stop everything by saying briefly: “I no longer love him (her), it’s all over.” But this radical conclusion expresses a desire to end a difficult situation rather than part with this partner. Hence the first tip: do not make hasty conclusions – go step by step, not trying to predict what will happen next, and not giving in to impatience. Start with the following questions:
1. If you could solve all the problems, do you think love would revive from the ashes, like a phoenix?
2. Do you have a feeling that you wish each other good?
3. Do the relationships and their surroundings remain very important to you, despite the problems?
4. What do you feel when you imagine that you will no longer see a partner and that further life will pass without him?
5. Do you have a feeling that you are loved / accepted as you are?
6. What do you get more – reproaches and criticisms or words of approval and support?
7. Do you often tell your partner that you value in him that attracts and touches you? And he?
Love and culture couples
The love of a couple is all the feelings that two people have for each other, explains Patrick Estrad. Culture is all that these two build together: a place to live, a lifestyle, a family that includes the parents and relatives of both partners, as well as their values, ideals, plans, trials, memories. You can lose attachment to a partner – this is the collapse of love – but remain attached to the culture of your couple, to what is created with the partner. Keeping this difference in mind, we will be able to better understand what exactly is no longer suitable for us – a person or lifestyle – and whether we are ready to do without one or the other.
Recognition and encouragement
The ability to express affection and emphasize the virtues of a loved one are elements necessary for a love feeling to last long and to live together pleasantly, says the therapist.
COMMUNICATION – IDENTIFY MISUNDERSTANDING
This is a reality that everyone can observe: the way in which communication between two people actually takes place unmistakably indicates the degree of closeness in their pair. However, “a couple’s life is paved with misunderstandings, difficulties and misunderstandings,” recalls Robert Neuburger.
Digital and analog communication
Human communication is intrinsically complex, the psychoanalyst notes. The fact is that we use two methods that complement each other, but do not coincide: “digital communication” (words to be interpreted) and “analog communication” (intonation, gestures, postures). In pairs that get along with each other, speech and facial expressions are deciphered easily. But in those couples that do not get along, misunderstandings, misunderstandings and incorrect interpretations arise all the time.
To these difficulties is added what psychologists call a “communication deadlock” (everyone wants to express their point of view, while experiencing a feeling that they do not understand or do not listen to it), or communication falsifications (secrecy, “a lie for the good” or just a lie hypocrisy, misinformation). To understand how you communicate with each other, ask yourself the following questions:
8. Are you satisfied with how you communicate in a couple?
9. Do you have a feeling that you understand the partner, and he is you?
10. Do you think that in your communication there are significant shadow zones – topics that are difficult or impossible to talk about?
11. Do you happen to intentionally hide from your partner some actions and thoughts?
12. Has it ever happened that you deliberately lied to him?
13. Do you think a partner can hide something from you and even lie?
14. Has your couple already encountered the intentional lies of one or another of the partners?
15. If so, how did you deal with this situation?
PROXIMITY – MEASURE THE DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU
Closeness is at the same time a feeling (“they understand me, I can take off the mask, there is agreement between us, sometimes we understand each other without words” …), space (house, apartment, room) and time (which we as a couple devote to “ feel good together ”).
Sense of intimacy
To be close with a partner means to feel safe, to feel that he supports and accepts you as you are. What is the correct distance in a pair? “To be close enough so that the partner can touch you, and yet far enough to surprise you,” Patrick Estrad replies. To understand the distance in your pair, answer the following questions:
16. Do you have a feeling that the partner is really listening to you?
17. And you – are you really listening to him?
18. How often do you share with each other what excites you, makes you laugh, carries away or disturbs you?
19. Do you have a feeling that the partner kindly / with humor accepts your small flaws and oddities? Do you respond to this in return?
20. Are there any thoughts, facts or actions that you do not tell anyone or tell someone else, not your partner, in order to maintain a relationship?
21. Does your partner’s familiarity (gestures, words, behavior) cause you emotion or irritation and conflict?
The place where we live speaks eloquently about us. Interior design can tell a lot about the ability of a couple to create a harmonious common space, taking into account the personal needs of everyone, including children. And how are you?
22. Is the place where you live tailored to the needs and tastes of each partner?
23. Are there any rooms (furniture, things) in the common space that your partner has imposed on you and which you cannot stand?
24. If you had to live alone, would the arrangement of your place to live be radically different or basically the same?
25. What is the interior like your couple?
To develop and strengthen, proximity takes time. But in reality, the time that should be devoted to a couple is often spent on family, work, friends and leisure. Those who want to make relationships more harmonious should consider them one of the priorities. Is this the case for you? Here are relationship questions to help you understand how your desires diverge from reality:
26. How often do you happen to postpone joint plans (going out together, traveling, time spent together at home) due to a request or request received from outside?
27. Do you have the feeling that you do not have enough time specifically for the couple?
28. Do you and your partner give yourself time to be alone, alone with yourself?
29. If you had the opportunity to spend more time together, how would you handle it?
30. Do you have household chores distributed that satisfy both?
SEXUAL LIFE – CHECK HOW SATISFIED YOU ARE
As for sex life, each couple writes their own score and moves at their own pace. The frequency or duration of intimate meetings is not important – only everyone’s satisfaction and the ability of partners to talk about the changes that one of them wants can matter. Sylvain Mimun offers you these questions:
31. Is the frequency of intimate contacts suitable for you?
32. Do you feel during sex that you are not only desired, but respected?
33. Do you happen (sometimes / often / all the time / never) to feel bored?
34. Do you consent (sometimes / often / always / never) to sex, only to please another?
35. Do you (often / sometimes / always / never) agree to some practices only to please the partner or succumb to his pressure?
36. Would you like to make a change in the sex life of a couple? If so, which ones?
37. Do you feel intimacy and understanding with a partner when talking about sex life?
38. What would you say about your sex life – is it generally satisfactory or is there a problem?
39. If everything continued as it is now, would you say: “everything is going well” or “something is missing”?
PLANS – IDENTIFY COMMON DESIRES
A couple is a living, developing organism in which partners try to combine personal self-realization and happiness together. Plans are an integral part of a couple’s life, they express its vital strength, as well as the degree to which each person is involved in a common life. One of the difficulties is to combine general plans and personal ones. Ponder this when answering questions:
40. Do you have at least one joint plan (vacation, leisure, work, family)? If not, why?
41. This plan is regularly repeated, is it akin to habit? If so, do you enjoy it?
42. Do you find that the partner is investing enough in the future of the relationship? And you yourself?
43. Are important family plans always offered by someone alone? If so, is this suitable for you?
44. Does your partner usually accept your suggestions about joint plans well?
45. Does your partner support your personal plans?
After you have investigated your feelings, communication, intimacy, sex life and plans, ask yourself additional questions:
46. You began this study of a couple’s life willingly, with a desire to better understand your couple, to contribute to her happiness?
47. Have you been surprised by any positive aspect of your relationship that you were not aware of?
48. Have you been surprised by any negative aspect?
49. Did the partner also answer all these questions? If not, why?
50. What do you feel at this stage – enthusiasm or anxiety? What are they connected with?
PUT YOUR PROBLEMS ON THE TABLE
Once the questions are asked, it is time to face the difficulties. The recommendations of a couples therapy specialist will help to deepen understanding of problems and begin to solve them.
The questions probably awakened a lot of thought and emotion. If everything is fine in the relationship, you enjoy it, they delight and support you. You feel that communication with the partner is established and works well. And the future promises to make it even stronger. But if your couple is experiencing a period of crisis, you are probably sad because you clearly saw those sides of the relationship that cause pain or inconvenience. But do not rush to conclusions, give yourself time to relax. This is necessary, because researching relationships requires effort. “And then write down everything that you feel, without softening the expressions,” offers therapist Patrick Estrad, therapist for the couple. “Fears, doubts, anger, sadness, guilt …”
Entrust experiences to paper or page on the monitor. Having found peace, with clarified thoughts, you will be able to listen to what desires you have: to continue or, on the contrary, to end relations, set boundaries, make demands … But do not rush to make a decision. After all, you still do not know anything about which path the partner has taken. Maybe he denies the problem or avoids self-observation. But it can be the other way around: he seeks to correct the situation and is ready to change more than you expect.
Move aside material issues and what you know about the partner’s desires. It will now be about you and your aspirations. Start by figuring out what you think is in your life: “I don’t want this anymore!” From here we can conclude what you want for yourself. To figure it out:
- Reread the answers. Emphasize what seems most important to you in different areas of relationships (feelings, communication, intimacy, sex life, plans).
- State what you don’t like. To do this, make a list of “I don’t want anymore …” (for example: “I don’t want to be reproached or silent in response to my words”). Let it have as many points as you need.
- Write down the sentences. What can you do yourself to improve the situation? Write ideas opposite each “I don’t want anymore …”.
- Think about how much you want to work on relationships. “Do I still have motivation (at least a little)?” Do I still believe in this relationship? I still want to believe in them? ”
- Think about what happens: “What do I want more – to stay in a pair or to leave?”
“I want to end the relationship”
Are you sure? Explore the issue:
- Am I ready to leave the whole world of my couple: family partners, mutual friends, habitual way of life, place of residence?
- What is my desire for a break based on? Am I tired of long conflicts? I feel that the relationship has become obsolete, and this can’t be fixed?
- If the relationship changed and became satisfactory in all areas, would I want to continue the path with him (with her)?
- I want to part for a while or forever? Parting for a while brings hope, we want something to change. And the final break is the complete end of the relationship.
“I would like to stay in pair”
You refuse to leave, despite the difficulties. Think:
- What is behind the desire to be paired? Fear of being alone? Feeling guilty about children? Desire to maintain material conditions? Love?
- Will the continuation of the relationship require victims from me? Will I have to give up what matters to me (values, plans, personal freedom)? Do I have to accept the conditions set by the partner?
- Is there a willingness to reconsider my life and think that I can change in myself to improve the situation?
- Will / will the partner also be able to change something and change?
- Finally, make a list of everything you’re not ready to give up. And, accordingly, everything you want to see changes in.
“I’m getting ready to talk with him (with her)”
Give yourself time to ponder your “preliminary decision” before talking with your partner. Do the inner work to calm the emotions that can overwhelm you and interfere with communication. Take a constructive position: avoid raising your voice, reproaches, offensive remarks. You met to talk about you (desires, boundaries), and not in order to judge your partner. Your task is to solve a common problem.
Work for two
Agree on the atmosphere in which to have a conversation – it is better that it be a neutral place, a meeting outside the house (in a restaurant, for a walk). Agree that you will share thoughts and feelings with each other, without trying to convince and maintaining mutual respect. If something goes wrong, postpone the conversation and reschedule the meeting the next time. There must necessarily be three stages in such a conversation, emphasizes Patrick Estrad:
Stage 1: my condition. Let each in turn (without interrupting each other) summarize the conclusions regarding each area of the relationship (feelings, communication, intimacy, sexual life, plans). Devote one or more meetings to these topics as you see fit.
Stage 2: what I would like to change. Let everyone say what, in his opinion, has become unbearable in a relationship, and share suggestions on what can be done to change the situation for the better.
Stage 3: my desire. Let each tell the other about his desire (in any case, about what is at the moment): “I would like to continue the relationship” or “I would like to end the relationship.”
Work on relationships is a process that takes time and perseverance. Do not be afraid to make more appointments and once again discuss the conditions in which you can conduct a dialogue. If your findings diverge or if you cannot speak calmly, contact your GP to take advantage of his experience and support.