One of the worst things that we do in our intimate relationships is make assumptions.
By Jordan Gray
We assume that our partners receive love in the same manner that we do. We assume that our partners expect the same things from marriage. We assume that our partner defines monogamy the same as we do.
The assumptions are endless.
Along with the occasional dose of courage and vulnerability, if we only learned to let go of our assumptions, we would experience so much more authentic bliss in our love lives.
Get in the habit of asking the three following questions and I promise that you will pull the rug out from underneath the vast majority of your emotional suffering in your relationships.
1. What are you looking for from a relationship?
So much of the pain that you may have experienced in your dating life could have been from going after someone who was incompatible with you. Whether we realized it or not at the time, we often end up in relationships with people that do not have any long-term potential for what we’re looking for.
Get clear on what you’re looking for in a romantic partner and then have the courage to screen for these things early on in the dating process.
If you know that something is important to you, you are fully within your right to ask your potential significant other about this information outright. Do you want kids? Do you want a partner who is kind and compassionate? Do you want to date someone who has a similar style of intelligence as you? Let it be known.
You can ask someone you are dating, even on the first date, “What are you looking for from a relationship?” By getting clear on this from the outset, you both save yourselves time if you discover that you’re looking for different things.
So ask this question early on in the dating process.
2. How can I love you the best?
Whether you ask this question on your tenth date, after two years or after 50 years of partnership is irrelevant. Get absolutely clear on how it is that your partner wants you to love them.
Some people need more time to themselves, while others need as much quality time and physical connection as possible. Some people desire deeply stimulating conversations, while others would rather hold hands while sitting in silence. What registers as love to you doesn’t necessarily register as love to your partner.
We bring increasing amounts of intentionality to our health, to our finances, to our career aspirations … but the majority of us are still stunted in how we show up in our relationships.
So, the best thing we can do is come to our partnership with the honest question, “How can I love you the best?” And then, after hearing their response, loving them as they have asked (unless you are unable to, in which case you might need to relinquish them to allow them to get their needs met with someone else).
3. How am I doing as a partner lately?
The last question is often the most difficult for people to ask.
By honestly (and regularly) checking in with your significant other about how you are showing up for them as a partner, you will be inviting the kind of dialogue that would eradicate half of the divorces across the world.
We don’t ask this question because we often don’t want to know the answer. It’s a vulnerable question, with an answer that will likely threaten our egos. It’s easier to assume that we’re doing everything right than to intentionally check in and see if we could improve in any way.
But here’s the thing … this question isn’t meant to be an exercise in self-shaming. The intention is not to give your partner free reign to cut you to pieces with their words (and, hopefully, you aren’t with someone who would do that to begin with). This question is an extension of “How can I love you the best?”
If “How can I love you the best?” in a business context is the quarterly plan, then “How am I doing as a partner lately?” is your check in with your co-worker to see if you’re on track. This isn’t a pass/fail examination. It’s an ever-shifting artful dance between two intentional and loving human beings. The fact that you are even asking this question means that you want to show up, fully engaged in your intimacy.
Even the attempt at having these kinds of conversations is an act of the ultimate love, reserved for the kinds of people who have had the courage to face their own internal demons and to choose love over fear throughout the course of their entire lives.
If you’re entering into a new relationship, start with “What are you looking for in a relationship?” If you are in an emerging relationship, or have been dating for a while, ask your partner “How can I love you the best?” And finally, once you have a solid understanding of how it is that your partner wants to feel loved, ask them “How am I doing as a partner lately?”
These are the three best questions you could ever ask your partner.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project . Reprinted with permission from the author.