I'm pretty confident that if you ask any divorced person what a top five reason for the end of their marriage was, something that is going to come up is a breakdown in communication. Unfortunately, some people go into a marriage thinking that they are a far more effective communicator than they actually are (being able to speak well when you suck at listening is an example of being a poor communicator).
Others feel like their partner should be some sort of mind reader. Still others aren't the best at exhibiting patience, acceptance and a willingness to allow their partner the space to be different from them (you'd be amazed how many people feel like their job is to turn their spouse into their clone).
For these reasons and more, that's why I'm all about couples taking what I call "seasonal inventory". To set aside some time, each season of the year, to ask some vital questions—just to make sure that they are on the same page and shoot, even in the same book. While I could provide about 25 questions that are beneficial to ask, for the sake of time and space, I've listed seven.
If when spring, summer, fall and winter roll around, you make these inquiries and take them to heart, it can really do wonders when it comes to feeling close, connected and confident in your relationship with your beloved.
1. “What season do you think we’re in?”
Some of the older heads may remember the group Exposé from back in the day. They used to sing a song called, "Seasons Change" and, just like the weather, this applies to relationships too. Shoot, even the Bible tells us that there is a time and season for things (Ecclesiastes 3). The thing about seasons, though, is whether you feel like you're in the summer (typically considered to be the best season) of your life or the winter (oftentimes thought as being the worst), if you're patient enough, the season will shift. This is why it's important to 1) prepare for every season; 2) be intentional about being patient in every season, and 3) to focus on what you can learn from what each season has to offer.
Keeping all of this in mind, there is one more thing that married couples need to consider—they need to ponder if they both are actually in the same season, at the same time. Say that you're looking at your relationship from a financial perspective. If one partner feels like it's "summertime" and they're spending a ton of money while the other feels that a winter trial is coming and money needs to be saved like nobody's business, there is going to be conflict. Make sense?
There are four seasons in a year—spring, summer, fall and winter. Taking some time out, each of those seasons, to ask your partner what "season" your relationship is in, from their perspective (as you share yours, of course), that can help you both to see if you're on the same page when it comes to insight, planning and strategy. It's a hack that can spare a lot of stress and drama if you actually implement it.
2. “In what areas do you feel unfulfilled?”
The goal of happiness is gonna cost a lot of people in the long run. What I mean by that is, there's something that I've said before—if your motivation for everything that you do (or don't do) is if it makes you "happy" or not, you are going to find yourself missing out on a lot of lessons and probably blessings in this life. For one thing, happiness is fleeting and fickle; it comes and it goes. Secondly, sometimes life requires that we do things that absolutely DO NOT make us happy yet do make us better.
Are you always happy when you go to work? Are you always happy in your marriage? Are you always happy when it comes to making the sacrifices you need to make for the sake of your children? Are you always happy when you pay your bills? Are you always happy when you've got an engagement that you've committed to that you know you need to keep? C'mon. We all know that the answer to each and every one of these questions is "no". Yet sometimes things need to be done for the sake of maintaining your character, honoring your obligations and preparing for your future.
That's why, when it comes to this particular question, I'm pretty "meh" when it comes to asking your partner if they are happy or not. It really depends on the day—and sometimes the moment—when you choose to ask them. A question that I do think is pretty important, however, is if they feel unfulfilled in some area of the relationship. A definition of fulfill that I think is really important in the context of this article is "to satisfy (requirements, obligations, etc.)".
When it comes to what you and your partner need in order to feel satisfied (which is about having your desires, expectations and needs met) in your marriage, it's always a good idea to check in on those things. When you feel fulfilled, it can make the not-so-happy moments worth enduring. So yeah, it's definitely an important topic to broach.
3. “Are you good with our sex life?”
Folks who know me know that any time a married person tries to water down the relevance of sex in their relationship, they automatically get a side-eye sent their way. I say it often because it's the truth—if ANYONE should be having a healthy, satisfying and consistent sex life, it should be married folks! And so, if there is a sexless situation going on (within a relationship where both people are physically capable of copulating), that is a red flag. Sex is about pleasure. Sex is about communication. Sex is also about cultivating a form of oneness (even the Bible says that; Genesis 2:24-25 and I Corinthians 6:16-20—Message). And why shouldn't two people who pledged to share their lives, for the rest of their lives, want to partake in an act like this, just as much as they possibly can?
So, when I say that it's important to ask your partner, at least four times a year, if they are "good" with how things are going in the bedroom, it's important to state that I mean more than just one kind of good. Is your partner "good" with how often the two of you are having sex?
Is your partner "good" with the kind of sex you're engaging in (too many or not enough quickies? Is there not enough morning sex? Is sex too routine?). Does your partner feel like you're both still on the same wavelength as far as mentally and emotionally making a connection? Have they "outgrown sex" in some way? Is there something that they wish they received more—or even less—of?
I joke with married couples all of the time that, since marriage requires so much, DAILY, they deserve to have off-the-chain sex, just as much of possible! However, awesome sex typically doesn't just happen; couples have to communicate about this too. When's the last time you and yours did just that?
4. “Do you feel completely supported by me?”
Any single person who desires to be married who's reading this, please do not underestimate how critically essential it is to be with someone who is truly supportive. A supportive individual helps to hold their partner up. A supportive individual can withstand good times and bad. Another definition of support is "to undergo or endure, especially with patience or submission; tolerate". Gee, when you take all of these things into consideration, no wonder the divorce rate is still so much higher than it needs to be. Unfortunately, far too many folks want to be supported without actually being supportive in return.
Listening is a form of support. Being your spouse's friend is a form of support. Letting them know that if no one else in this world has their complete and total back, it's you? That too is a form of support.
And don't get it twisted. I have sat in the presence of many couples where either one or both people have started to build up a wall against the other and it's exactly because they don't feel very supported. That's why they talk to their friends about their marriage more than their spouse. That's why they flirt with their co-workers more than their spouse. That's why they find other ways to feel loved, cheered for and encouraged instead of seeking those things from their spouse.
Two people who support each other on the regular are two people who are able to go the distance, on so many levels. Four times a year (at least), ask your partner if they feel like you really and truly support them. Support is a superpower that goes unnoticed far too often in marital dynamics. Don't you be someone who causes you to become a divorce statistic when taking heed could've ultimately saved your marriage.
5. “What kind of dates do you want to go on?”
It really is kinda crazy, how often we all have heard—and probably said—that the same efforts that you put into getting your partner is the same effort you need to put into keeping them. And yet, so many of us do not take heed to that pearl of wisdom. SMDH. When it comes to married folks, I know this for a fact because I have counseled many who can't remember the last time they had a romantic evening, went on a fabulous date, checked something off of their sex bucket list (if they even have one) or took a sexcation. A lot of them claim that it's because life is so hectic that there's no time for such things. Uh-huh. I'm pretty sure that you were busy when you were dating and engaged too. You made the time because it mattered to you.
And here's the thing. Once you've "got" the person, if you were truly serious about the vows that you took, don't you think that you actually need to put even more effort into spending quality time with them and making sure they feel like they are your top priority than you did when you were dating?
It can be really easy to fall into the slump of crashing on the couch and watching a movie every Friday or Saturday night. Break out of that rut and bring more romance and fun into your relationship by asking your partner what kind of dates they would like to go on. Matter of fact, why not make a dating bucket list that you update 1-2 times a year? It can give the two of you something to look forward to—and that's always a good thing.
6. “Am I speaking your love language fluently?"
Y'all, it's one thing to know what your partner's love language is. It's something very different to speak it in a way where they feel like you know what it is. Case in point. There's a couple I know where the husband's love language is gifts and the wife's is quality time. Every birthday, every anniversary and every Christmas, without fail, they continue to do for the other what they want instead of what their partner requires. Yep, she plans a date where they can be all up under each other when he'd prefer a nice cashmere coat or some gold cufflinks while she would prefer to go on a weekend getaway and instead, he purchases her some thousand-dollar bag that only ends up sitting in the closet. Because of this, they both feel unheard and irritated. And again, it's because they think it's more important to give what they want instead of doing what their partner needs.
There are two main reasons why it's a good idea to ask your partner, four times a year, if they think you're tapping into their top two love languages. One, if you are, there is a good chance that you're not doing it as well as you think. Two, believe it or not, sometimes people's love languages shift because they do. So, to always be doing an act of service when they're more into words of affirmation is kinda futile. Checking in prevents this from being the case.
7. “What can I do to make you feel more secure in the relationship?”
This one? It's crucial. It also needs a bit of clarifying. One of the many reasons why people should consider going to therapy, on their own, before getting married is so they can make sure that they are as healed and whole as possible prior to jumping the broom. Otherwise, they could find themselves expecting their partner to fill voids that aren't their fault or problem. And so, when I speak of security in a marital dynamic, I am not saying that it's your spouse's job to make you feel good about yourself (when you don't even know how to do it) or to compensate for areas where you were lacking before they ever came along. Spouses are human and no one should be your savior but the Lord.
That said, where I am coming from is it's vital that your spouse makes you feel like they respect your union, that they are trustworthy and that, if anyone has your best interest at heart, it should be them. Taking it a step further, security in a relationship should also make you feel free to be your complete and total self—that you can tell your partner any and everything and you will still be loved and accepted.
Why does the question of security need to be asked more than just a couple of times a year? Because life tends to bring about things that can potentially shift one's level of personal security. Job loss. More kids. Weight gain or loss. Family or friend-related drama. Illness. Aging. Financial strain. Mistakes made. Dreams deferred. Death. The list goes on and on. And when these kinds of things happen, it can tempt someone to feel insecure and draw into themselves rather than reach out to the one who should be the most reliable in their life.
This is why it's so important that you ask your partner what you can do to make them feel more secure in their relationship with you as they do the same to you. Because the more that the two of you are able to feel confident that your partner can be depended on and that the relationship is not "liable to fail", even the really trying times, the better you both will be at leaning on each other and getting stronger as a unit. No matter what season you and/or your marriage is in.
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