A hundred dinners in? Yeah, not so much.
Once you already know each other intimately, it can feel like you’ve run out of questions to ask. But no matter how long you’ve been together, keeping those deep, exciting conversations alive is incredibly important for a happy relationship.
Take it from Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great and professor at Oakland University in Michigan, who has been following a set of over 370 couples for the past 30 years. No surprise, she found talking is key to keeping a deep bond. “One trait of the happy couples [I’ve studied] is that they are intimately familiar with each other's inner lives and social worlds,” she says.
So…where do you start? Not with re-hashing your morning run, talking about all your to-do's, or bringing up your kids, says Orbuch. Instead, go for "the type of questions you used to ask when you first met one another.” Think: less office politics and weekend plans, and more hopes and dreams.
So before you resort to the same old "how was your day?" inquiry, try asking your partner of these expert-backed questions instead.
1. “If you won the lottery, where would you travel and why?”
“This tells you all about your partner's dreams for adventure and travel,” Orbuch says. Plus, it’s a fun opener that introduces the idea of going deep without getting too intense right off the bat.
2. “If you could be anywhere in the world this moment, where would you be and what would you be doing?”
“We want our partners to be authentically curious about who we are on our deepest levels,” relationship expert and psychotherapist, Gin Love Thompson, Ph.D., says. But asking bae to share his or her innermost thoughts and desires over appetizers can be a little, well, intense. “Keep it light and fun while increasing the energy and excitement by starting with an icebreaker question like this,” Thompson says.
3. “Remember when we [insert sexy memory here]?”
“Rev it up by telling your partner the moments you’ve enjoyed most, asking them to share their most memorable,” says Thompson. “Then together bounce around ideas of new tantalizing adventures you would both delight in.”
4. “What makes you feel connected/disconnected to me during sex?”
Sometimes a level of directness can help you go deeper—especially when it comes to the most intimate parts of your relationship. “I hear all day from couples that they harbour a sense of disconnection that they often don't say out loud," says Brandy Engler, Psy.D., a relationship therapist in Los Angeles. "These kinds of questions help people put words to what they want and how they want to feel—it taps into your core longings.” Getting this direct might feel awkward at first, Engler says, but ultimately, talking about it can help bring you even closer.
5. “If you were able to work in any other job for a year, what would it be?”
“This is a fun question that reveals what your partner thinks about, and their challenges and values,” Orbuch says. “It also might reveal what your partner was thinking about when they were younger—dreaming about what they would be and do as they got older.”
Not only do questions like this open up the conversation to what your S.O. is secretly dreaming about, it also helps you revisit a part of their past you might not have talked about in those early days.
6. “What's stressing you out the most this week?”
With this question, “you'll find out what keeps your partner up at night,” Orbuch says. Whether it’s a small annoyance with a coworker or a more serious issue, these worries define what stresses your S.O. out.
“When you are familiar with your partner's present challenges, you know what is troubling them and you are better able to cope with their emotions,” Orbuch explains. “You’re better able to help them if needed, which creates a deeper bond between the two of you.”
7. “What's your biggest goal for the next 10 years?”
Aside from sharing your dreams and ambitions, this question also helps you start a conversation about compatibility—how similar are your goals, do the futures you envision look similar? “It helps figure out where they think they are in the arc of life,” Orbuch says.
8. “What is the one thing you want to be remembered for?”
Like those questions you probably asked in the early days of getting to know each other, this question helps you discuss your underlying values, Orbuch says. “You find out your partner defines themselves—how they see themselves,” she says. “This says, ‘I really want to know you better and I'm paying attention to who you are.’”
9. “How are you?”
“One of the deepest questions we can ask our partner—when done with sincerity and an intensive listening ear—is, ‘How are you?’” says Thompson. When you ask, make eye contact and don’t interrupt—it’s as much about the listening as asking the question. “In the ultra fast-paced world we live daily, we can lose sight of what our significant other is encountering on a personal level, be it at work, with the kids, family or friends,” Thompson explains.
"While a simple question on the surface, it can open up the conversation,” she says. Really listening to the answer is the key to getting deep. “This is an act of love, and this support can enhance all areas of your relationship.”