Have you ever sat across from your partner at a restaurant and there was nothing but the sounds of each other chewing to fill the space between you? Those moments are the perfect opportunities to get to know your partner even better. And just so we're clear, they happen to everyone. They don't necessarily mean your relationship is in peril. Maybe you're tired, or maybe you're so close that you can't really think of anything the other person hasn't already heard.
If that's you, or if you're just the curious type, then employing a few strategies to get to know each other even better, on a new, deeper level, will help fill those spaces with the kind of conversation that brings you closer as a couple. I've seen it happen as a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Responsible Sexuality Educator. The key is not just to make chit chat. It's to really open yourself up and to be honest and vulnerable. That sets the stage for your partner to do the same.
I mean, we're all deep wells of secrets. Some of our secrets are ours on purpose. Some are mysteries, even to us. You can never run out of things to know about your partner. Even if you can only think to ask them their opinions about birds or what kind of rain they prefer. Learning about each other every day is part of the hard work of being in a healthy relationship.
1. Go For A Long Drive or Walk
What is it about long car trips on dusky nights that makes people start spilling their guts? I don't know, but some of the best and most intense conversations I've ever had have been on car rides. You can get into really deep stuff, too, like your childhoods, your fears, your dreams, and any lingering issues you need to resolve in your relationship. This also works for long walks.
2. Play Would You Rather
Sometimes it's in the goofy moments that you learn serious things bout your partner. "Would You Rather" is a goofy game that offers such insight. You ask each other questions, like "would you rather have an extra nose where your genitals are, or extra genitals where your nose is?" and you have to pick one or the other. But, and here's where the real fun comes into play, you have to explain why. There are books and endless websites with potential game questions, so you truly can play it your whole lives.
3. Go On An Adventure
Before my wife and I got married, we went on a cross-country road trip. I'm now convinced there's no better way to really get to know someone than to spend three weeks sleeping in cars, showering in creepy motels, camping in bear country, getting lost, and seeing breathtaking sights together for the first time. You won't just learn what your partner smells like after four days without a shower. You'll also learn how they respond to frustration, fear, fun, fatigue, awe, and pure joy. It's like a jackpot of feels that will bring you to a whole new level of closeness.
4. Do Things You Hate
I'm an artsy type. My ex was pretty sporty. Even though I would have rather put butter knives through my eyes, I went to some sporting events with him, because, you know, compromise. And what I learned is that when someone is in the moment, doing something they love, you'll get to learn a whole new side of them. It was wonderful enough to kind of make going to sports worth it. Do something you hate with your partner, or just something you know they love, so you can experience them in pure "living life and loving it" mode.
5. Talk To Old Friends And Family
If you have a partner who isn't a great story teller, who has a bad memory, or who just doesn't like to talk about themselves, spending time with their family and closest friends will prove to be a treasure trove of fantastic information. You'll get everything from adorable but embarrassing kid stories to awkward teen stories. Seeing how your partner reacts to this information is also telling. Hopefully in a good way.
6. Keep Shared Journals
If neither of you are the talking type (and even if you are), shared journals are an initiate and less confrontational way of expressing yourselves. You can jot down notes around a theme, like "thinks I wanted to say but didn't" or "how that made me feel" and you can leave them in places where you both can read them without judgement. They can say things like "I really don't like it when you tell me I need a jacket, like I don't know how to dress myself" or "I wanted to tell you how smart you are, but I didn't get the chance." Even if you don't always share the with each other, you'll have gotten them out.
7. Make Arts And Crafts
When you're doing things with your hands, you have a lot of opportunities for deep conversation. Plus you can learn about your partner's artistic side, patience, color choices, world view, and more, just from looking at their art. You can even have a few good laughs if the craft projects turn out horrible. Just be careful no one ends up in the emergency room. Although that is also a telling experience.
Even if you don't do any of these things, even if you just pay attention more to your partner's actions, facial expressions, and words, you'll learn and realize things you never knew. No matter how long you've been together.