10 Questions to Ask Your Spouse to Grow Your Emotional Connection

by | Sep 11, 2020 | Uncategorized | 16 comments

Build Emotional Connection with Your Husband
Merchandise is Here!

Do you long for deeper emotional connection with your spouse?

We’ve been talking a bit this week about how emotional connection is a prerequisite for great sex, and how sex can feed emotional connection, but it cannot completely replace it. We do need to feel “known.”

But how do you build emotional connection?

Is it just that you talk a lot?

Well, no.

Emotional connection depends largely on talking, but not all talking leads to emotional connection.

Earlier this week, a man left this comment on the blog that illustrates this well:

 

When my wife wants to talk, which is frequent, she really doesn’t want me to talk she just wants me to listen. So i have to sit there and listen. Most of what she has to say, is chit chat stuff about her day and job. Really minor stuff really. But she will quiz me about it later so i have to focus as hard as i can to remember every little detail of what was said. It’s exhausting. Its given me headaches. And if I don’t remember all of it i get accused of not listening. 

So the couple is talking, but they’re not really sharing on an emotional level.

What many of us haven’t fully grasped is that there are different levels of communication, and we don’t really build emotional connection until we get to at least that fourth level: sharing emotions. If your spouse asked you, “how was your day?” You could answer in any of these ways (with real communication and vulnerability increasing with each level):

The 5 Levels of Communication

How was your day?

1. Cliche:

Oh, you know, you win some, you lose some.

2. Facts:

It was really busy. I was running around all day, and my appointments were often running late.

3. Opinions:

Super busy day. Our boss is driving everyone crazy, and doesn’t know how to manage people well.

4. Feelings:

It was busy and discouraging. Just felt frustrated a lot of the day, because there’s so unneeded busy work going on all the time, and so much backbiting in the office, and it’s become a not-very-nice place to work.

5. Dreams/Fears:

Today made me wonder if this is really what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. I always thought this was the kind of job I wanted, but there’s so much politics, I’m not even using my education the way I want to. I’d like to pray about whether we need to make a change.

When we spend all of our time sharing facts (basic chit chatting about what happens) or opinions (I hate Trump; I love Trump); then we don’t really connect.

To connect, we need to touch people’s hearts at the emotional level.

I recommended to the man who made that comment that they try the high/low exercise everyday–with a twist. Here’s how it works:

The High/Low Check In, with a Twist

Every night, either at dinner, or just after dinner, or as you’re heading to bed, share the time today when you felt the most in the groove; and then share the time that you felt the most defeated and discouraged.

Why do it that way instead of best/worst?

Well, maybe your worst time today was when you had a migraine. But that doesn’t necessarily tell us what happened on an emotional level. Saying instead that your worst time was opening up your inbox and seeing 278 unopened emails, and feeling overwhelmed, and being scared to look deeper because you’re afraid there are a few that will make you feel guilty about something–well, that’s emotion! it may have been a trivial moment if you look at what you did all day, but that moment reflected where you were emotionally.

Or maybe the best thing that happened was that you find out your book was being published in Russian (I found out yesterday that The Good Girl’s Guide is coming out in Russian!), but my actual time I felt the most in the groove was reading someone else’s comment on Twitter about something I had wrote. It touched me more emotionally.

So it’s not the best and worst things that happened to you. It’s when the best and worst feelings manifested themselves.

When we can share emotions, we feel connected, because we’re more vulnerable.

For introverts especially, answering this form of the high/low question can be much easier than having to answer, “how was your day?” or “what did you do today?” (And bonus: it works great as dinner time conversation every night with teenagers and children, too!).

As I was thinking about this post, I got a great email with another idea that I want to share with you! When Allen Wolf first created the concept of You’re Pulling My Leg!, he thought he was simply helping two mutual friends get to know each other. Little did he know, the lighthearted card game not only forged a lasting relationship (which eventually led to marriage) for the two, but continues to help strengthen friendships, relationships and marriages—all from players asking each other questions!

I took a look at some of the questions (and borrowed one or two) and then decided to create some of my own. Because I do want to help you feel emotionally connected, and that doesn’t automatically happen when you talk. We need to have easier ways to open up and touch emotions, and these are some great prompts!

10 Questions to Grow Emotional Connection

1. Tell me about a time you had trouble forgiving someone.

Learn what hurts go deepest!

2. Tell me about a time you avoided someone.

When we avoid people, it’s often a fear of a deep emotion we’re trying to avoid: anger, insecurity, rejection. Or sometimes it’s not a big deal; it’s just awkwardness! See what makes your spouse uncomfortable.

3. Tell me about the first time you really felt like you were an adult.

What makes you feel like a grown up? When did you really feel as if you had separated from your parents?

4. Tell me about something you recovered from.

Was it a common cold? Or a  heartache? Let’s see how deep this can go!

5. Tell me about someone you used to want to be like, but now you really don’t.

Whom we admire tells a lot about our fundamental value system. When who we admire changes, often there’s a perspective or value shift. Or sometimes people just let us down! Either way, it’s a good peek into your spouse’s emotional state.

6. Tell me about something you got away with as a kid.

Here’s a window into your spouse’s relationship with their parents!

7. Tell me about a personality trait other people think you should have–that you just don’t.

I’m always being told to be nicer and gentler, but that’s not who I am. It is, however, something I beat myself up over. What box are people always trying to put you in? What about your spouse?

8. Tell me about a year in your life you would repeat.

Where is your “happy place”?

9. Tell me something, good or bad, you learned from your dad (or your mom!)

Again, let’s see how our parents influence us. What first comes to mind often reveals a lot about our emotional connection with our parents.

10. Tell me about the period of time you felt closest to God in your life.

When did you feel close to God? Have you lost that? Why?

Want to go deeper still with emotional connection?

Try my 50 conversation starters for couples! Or sign up for my emotional reconnecting ecourse that can help you build these deeper conversations into your marriage. 

Emotional Connection does not have to take a long time.

It may just be a few minutes a day, with deliberate questions and check-ins. It’s not that we have to spend hours baring our souls.

But when we’re intentional about connecting to our spouse, we’ll feel heard, accepted, loved. And that will have dividends in all areas of your marriage–including the bedroom!

Does your marriage get to the “Emotions” level? Or are you stuck on Facts or Opinions? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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16 Comments

  1. Jane Eyre

    “I’m always being told to be nicer and gentler, but that’s not who I am. ”
    But you’re such a kind person! Maybe you aren’t “nice” in the quotes-intentional way, but you are exceptionally kind. For heaven’s sake, you have a ministry! “Nice” people are, well, there’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s not a virtue and it can actually be unvirtuous.

    Reply
    • Recovering Codependent

      I agree! I recently completed a codependency education group through a counselor. One of the first things we discussed was the term “nice.” It generally is a word we use to manipulate others into behaving a certain way. Lots of kids who do what they are told are “nice.” It’s conformity. Kindness describes a deeper–heart level–of behavior. Most codependents are always trying to be “nice.” It’s surface level–it’s a look to seek approval–whether we are aware of it or not. She taught that kindness may not look nice always. For example, say your husband stays up late and then has trouble waking up for work in the morning. You might think the nice thing to do is to wake him up. The kind thing to do, however, is to allow him to suffer the consequences of his choice. We allow others to experience the full scope of their God-given agency when we see kindness through that lens–even and especially ourselves. It is the catalyst for change. So I couldn’t agree more Jane Eyre

      Reply
      • Jane Eyre

        I never thought of it that way, but you’re completely right.
        Jesus wasn’t “nice.” He was kind and loving, and all that is loving and kind comes from His father. But nice?
        As for gentleness: ideally (hi, my (puedo)name is Jane and I am terrible at this), our goal should be to minimise un-gentleness when there is a need to make a change. If that change is in a person, a church, a teaching, an institution, we should be mindful of continuing to be kind while advocating for that change and not be unduly harsh.
        But change, even needed change, isn’t comfortable, and that discomfort does not automatically equate to the need for people to be more gentle. Maybe if they were more gentle, nothing would change and more pain would result.

        Reply
  2. Lost

    I hope this can work. For a couple of months now I have totally lost my sex drive for my wife. I have been asking myself why.
    There are a lot of things going on at the same time. I have sins to deal with and I am doing it but I have also been taking care of our kids and our home all alone these last months with has drained me of all energy. I love my kids but I thought I was going to have a breakdown more than once this summer.
    My wife got pregnant and we Dustin plan it. Financially we aren’t good so it has put a huge stress on us and with my wife feeling awful during this pregnancy and barely able to eat it has made things even harder.
    But what I fear most is that after closing to a decade together I think our marriage started wrong. At least for me. It sadly became to sexual and in that feelings got confused. Looking back there wasn’t a real emotional connection. Now when we both are changing and life is changing it’s like that is becoming more apparent and even affecting the sexual desire.
    It gets even worse by the fact that I feel attracted to my coworker. I hate it specially during this time to feel this kind of desire. It’s not even sexual because I don’t think sexual thoughts about her but I feel this strong attraction on a more emotional level. I hate it.
    I want that with my wife. Maybe it wasn’t there in the beginning but I want it now. I was dumb and immature before but I don’t want it to ruin our marriage.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, dear, Lost, I’m so sorry! I’m glad you’re aware of the problem and you want to do something about it. That’s great.
      But just because your marriage didn’t start with strong emotional connection doesn’t mean you can’t work on it and achieve it. It really doesn’t. You guys have kids together. I know that’s a lot of stress, and especially financial stress, but those kids need you to fight for your marriage.
      Talk to your wife. She likely has been feeling the same way. Make that high/low exercise a habit everyday. Try opening up with her. So many marriages that are terrible do turn around. I’ll say a prayer for you!

      Reply
  3. Melissa W

    Great list Sheila! Emotional connection is essential to the health of a marriage. I want to offer one suggestion for those that struggle with opening up emotionally with words, maybe a sort of baby step. Not all emotional connection involves talking, we see that with sex. So, if expressing your emotions verbally is difficult maybe start with just showing your emotions. Maybe crying in front of your spouse. One of your commenters mentioned yesterday that he was deeply moved internally by a movie he watched with his wife but couldn’t bring himself to talk to her about it. I get that but what if he found the courage to just cry in front of his wife. That is a great first step towards seeing that your spouse is a safe place to express your emotions (only if they indeed are safe; I have a friend whose spouse makes fun of her when she cries in a movie and that is not safe) . There is also the added benefit of your spouses feeling the connection and knowing that you trust them with your true self. I will give an example. A few weeks before we got married my husband had to get rid of his dog because the dog was intensely jealous of me and there was no way his dog was going to let me sleep in his bed without making life miserable for all of us. He took him to the humane society and a few days later found out he got put down. He came to my apartment and laid on my living room floor and cried. I just laid next to him and held him and let him cry. No words, just raw emotion. Let me tell you, that intensified an already strong emotional bond which was strengthened with a physical bond just a few weeks later when we got married and had sex for the first time. So, I just want to encourage those who may not be good with words that there are other ways to start or strengthen an emotional bond that don’t involve words. Yes, words need to become a part of it at some point but showing emotion can be a baby step towards that.

    Reply
    • Doug Hoyle

      Melissa, it was my comment you are referring to. I get what you are saying, but I have to tell you that crying in front of my wife would not be a baby step. It would be much harder than words.
      I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from my counselor or others how much I need to shed some tears. She is no amateur when it comes to drawing out emotion, and I know that some of our sessions were designed just to get me to let go and cry, but there is some part of me that fights that tooth and nail, and that part of me is almost always in control. I think there is a part of me that is afraid that if I ever started crying, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
      I do thank you for your encouragement, and I am trying to do better, These last few posts by Shelia have shown me that I may have stalled in my growth in that area, and may need to get back on that path.

      Reply
      • Melissa W

        Doug, I hear what you are saying but I do want to encourage you. You have been very brave sharing your heart and emotions here with people that do not know you. You can tell from your comments that you love your wife and long to have that emotional connection with her. I will pray that your heart will release what ever it is that is holding you back from sharing your emotions and let it open up both for your own sake and for your relationship with your wife. Keep doing the work, keep pursuing emotional wholeness, thank you for sharing your journey and giving others insight into a journey that may be very different than our own and know that others are praying for you!

        Reply
  4. Lisa

    I love the levels of communication and the questions. This is so important. Once you’ve been married for decades and life seems to revolve around getting things done, teenagers with big problems, health issues, etc. it’s far too easy to slip into colleague mode rather than best intimate friends. I’m going to ask my husband to read this.

    Reply
    • Greg

      Lisa, I wholeheartedly agree with you and I fear that teenagers that drain everything out of you, its too late for my wife and I. All I can do is accept it and keep moving forward.

      Reply
  5. unmowngrass

    There are other baby steps too. Might be easier to write your spouse a letter (or an email), sometimes, too. And send it through the post! They might even write back! And it’s a whole new level of intimate emotional communication that you didn’t have before

    Reply
    • Doug Hoyle

      That is a good idea, and one that I actually utilized a few times when addressing some issues that I had a difficult time putting into words, or that I would have a difficult time staying on subject.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    It’s probably too late, since we are riding off the rails of marriage now, but my wife and I were best friends for years before we ever dated. She used to say back then if we ever dated, we’d get married and she was too busy have fun to think about marriage. Before we were married, we shared everything – talked about everything. Shared our shame and secrets with each other. Somewhere between that time and having two small children, that all changed.
    At midlife, I have a ton of regrets. One of them is that I allowed the devolution of intimacy to happen without a fight. She is conflict avoidant and life was stressful enough. I made a series of mad dashes toward emotional intimacy (I am an empath with quality time as my love language), but these were always rebuffed as childish needs. The desire to connect and be close I am told, requires her to coddle me like a five year old child. And yet here we are, some 23 years later, and I have to learn about what my wife reads, enjoys, or finds meaningful third-hand as she talks to her friends over a couple glasses of wine. I am exhausted in trying. I have gone through what I now recognize as the stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression.
    I’ve tried books, websites, quiet walks with questions and there’s nothing but stonewalling. She has refused counseling together, but gaslighted me for so long that I’ve gone to three therapists and tried anti-depressants. All the therapists said the same thing — you aren’t asking for anything out of the ordinary and the bar is pretty low here. I constantly feel like my presence in the house is an intrusion, she’s sees my attempts to connect as harassment, and any form of physical intimacy as just one of many things on the “things to do” list. We won’t travel with me or get away for a weekend.
    This all started when I suggested that we try to reconnect some and schedule coffee together once a week. (We are both self-employed and flexible in our days). She refused, said she had too much work despite scheduling lunches with her friends when she wanted them.
    I don’t think I could even begin to ask one of these questions. If I did, I don’t think she’d bother with a genuine response.
    Is there an easier place to start?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Anonymous. That’s really tough. I’d suggest starting with the hobbies post that I wrote. Instead of trying to have a deep conversation, start with just spending time together again. That can bring the tension level down enough that you’re able to have some real conversations. I am sorry, though. That must be very lonely.

      Reply

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