About The Book
“Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts.”
Date night bucket list ideas for couples
Diagnostics for understanding your and your spouse's love language
Over 300 relationship questions with prompts
Work solo or with your partner!
How to enjoy emotionally safe communication
Specific techniques for getting your spouse to open up to you
Two FREE Chapters of The 5 Step Action Plan to a Happy & Healthy Marriage Counseling 101 Book
Chapter 1- Daily Conversation and Relationship Questions
We start with daily questions for you to answer, ideally, WITH each other as a way to connect everyday.
Some of these questions are easy and some are harder.
Harder because you may feel reactive upon hearing your spouse’s answer and you want to retort back.
Harder because the question is asking you to be vulnerable with your partner.
The good news is that we’ve separated these relationship questions into three different sections; easy, medium, hard.
The easy questions may seem silly at times but know that they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Giving you things to laugh and smile about with your partner, helping to bring about warm and fuzzy feelings that are oh so important in building a life together. Don’t discount these questions!
Please don’t judge yourself or your partner if you choose to stay in the easy “lane” of questioning. It’s simply where you are at now and within your comfort zone.
The hope is that as you learn how to talk and listen, both you and your partner will feel safer to express yourself and share as time goes on.
A few ground rules for sharing and listening (which is much harder for some!) . Listening is other focused. This means, not responding, reacting, offering advice, or even commiserating. The safest thing you can do is just be quiet and say nothing. A more active way of listening is called mirroring. This means reflecting back, like a mirror, what your partner shares with you verbatim. This is helpful for many reasons. We tend to interpret external stimuli through our own lens. What often happens is that we misinterpret, leading to miscommunication and often conflict. By mirroring, you are focused on exactly what the other said, not your spin on it and you make sure you got it right. After repeating back, you can check and see, “did I get you?” If not, let your partner repeat. Once you got it, ask “is there more?” giving a safe opportunity to continue opening up.
Another reason to mirror is that much of the time, all we really want is to feel heard. We don’t want a response or a rebuttal. Mirroring alone can help us deescalate and feel better. Finally, it helps the listener stay other focused. Instead of responding or getting reactive, the listener’s sole job is to reflect back. This helps the listener not take it personally, and stay calm. When you listen to partner’s responses in this way, you can prevent a potentially touchy topic from exploding into major conflict.
Another way to keep the sharing safe is to schedule a time to do this work. Make sure your partner is available to listen. Otherwise, if you catch him/her off guard, it is a sure way to set your self up for the opposite of what you want. When you do share, make sure you use “I” statements. Focus on yourself and your feelings as opposed to what your spouse does or does not do. This way you make your sharing safer and less likely to provoke your partner. Finally, make sure your language is not laced with negativity or sarcasm. This only seeks to pollute the space when your goal is to develop a deeper connection. If you follow these guidelines, you are more likely to achieve the intended goal of these exercises.
We’ve included questions that are going to give you the opportunity to talk about funny, embarrassing, financial, spiritual, future, critical, and things from your past. All are important as they serve as a way for you to deeply get to know your spouse, see them as the child that they once were, knowing that despite you being married and committed to each other, your spouse is actually a unique world of his/her own, with different experiences, viewpoints, mindsets, and passions.
Your job is to be as a guest, traveling across the bridge into another “land”. A land where you may not- at first glance -understand the language or want to adopt their customs, but as a traveler, it is not your job to judge whether or not their language sounds good or their traditions acceptable. You are simply a tourist.
You’ll want to be the best guest that has ever visited this land, so that one day you will be “invited back”. Being invited back willingly looks like your spouse enjoying sharing with you and wanting to tell you more, feeling more and more comfortable with you in their world, because you aren’t a loud or obnoxious guest- complaining about the food or not understanding the language in this place- but a gentle, respectful observer in this new strange land.
That is how emotional safety and connection is built. No blame and no shame.
Feel free to start with one question a day or a few questions at a time should you have some blissful uninterrupted time together.
If you’re listening on audio, simply pause the recording when you wish to pause your work for the day.
After you’ve completed the questions over some time, you will know much more about your partner and be able to progress into the next step of this book which is to list caring behaviors that you now know your spouse wishes that you would do, romantic gestures your spouse would love, as well as fun, future high energy adventures that you both wish to cross off your bucket list to do together.
The final goal of this book is for you to be able to draft a complete joint relationship vision together.
What is a relationship vision?
Think of it as a joint mission statement.
Just like in a business, the company needs a formal statement so all employees know the goal of the organization and where they are headed, having a vision provides us direction to reach our destination and helps us focus our energy to get there.
Without it, we may feel aimless, chaotic, and empty. This is especially true with marriage. A lot of couples get married and assume the relationship will take care of itself. Sooner or later they realize that it is not so easy. They both entered the marriage with their own unconscious ideas of how their relationship would be, with separate desires, dreams, values, and needs. Many early frustrations in a marriage arise when husband and wife butt heads about these very issues, discovering that they are not on the same page.
Whether or not you have already woken up to the reality that some degree of conflict is inevitable in relationships, it is essential for you to co-create a conscious shared vision. How do you want to build your home? What are its foundations? The following exercise, based on the work of Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want, is an effective tool to help couples create this vision.
Are you ready to begin?
In an unconscious partnership, you believe that the way to have a good relationship is to pick the right partner. In a conscious partnership you realize you have to be the right partner. As you gain a more realistic view, you realize that a good relationship requires commitment, discipline, and the courage to grow and change; creating a fulfilling love relationship is hard work.
I created the idea of the Surprise List exercise. These were caring behaviors above and beyond those requested by either partner. Each would generate a list by paying close attention to their partner’s wishes and dreams. A woman who casually mentioned to her husband that she liked a dress she saw in a store window might be delighted to find that very dressꟷin the correct sizeꟷhanging in her closet. A man who expressed his interest in Gilbert and Sullivan might open the mail and find a love note from his partner and two tickets to a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. When couples added unanticipated pleasures like these to their regular caring behaviors, the beneficial effect of the exercise continued on a gentle rise.
Most people tend to choose fairly passive activities as their caring behaviors; they have forgotten how to have fun together. As soon as I noted this trend, I surveyed all my clients and found that they spent, on average, about ten minutes a week playing and laughing together. Improving this bleak statistic became a priority for me. I knew that when couples have fun together they identify each other as a source of pleasure and safety, which intensifies their emotional bond. When the old brain registers a positive flow of energy, it knows that the person associated with the energy is connected to life and safety, and the two people begin to connect with each other on a deeper unconscious level.
About the author.
Rabbi Slatkin is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, a Rabbi, and a father of 5. He is an advanced Clinician in Imago Therapy.
A gifted teacher who has lectured throughout the world, Shlomo Slatkin edited and co-authored the Jewish version of Couplehood as a Spiritual Path , a curriculum for synagogues based on Imago Relationship Therapy and Dr. Harville Hendrix’s Getting the Love You Want.
He is also the author of The Five Step Action Plan to a Happy & Healthy Marriage, as well as numerous published articles on relationships.
A graduate of Loyola College in Maryland, Shlomo Slatkin holds a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology, with additional psychotherapy training at the Imago Relationship Institute. He received his undergraduate training at the George Washington University and Oxford University and holds a B.A in Middle Eastern Studies. In addition, he studied in prestigious Rabbinical seminaries in Israel and the United States, culminating in ordination.
Shlomo Slatkin is a clinical member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, Imago Relationships International, and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Imago Therapists.
Together with his wife Rivka, he is the founder of The Marriage Restoration Project, a global initiative to help keep couples together and happy. Rivka is the marketing director of TMRP and is a co-presenter of the Getting the Love You Want worldwide workshop.
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