How To Get To Know Your Partner on a Deeper Level
We learn all about a potential partner through dating, and once we discover enough things that we like about them, things tend to progress into a relationship. In the dating stage, we are proactively trying to find things out about our date, but it’s not uncommon for curiosity to fade in a long-term relationship because you think you know everything you need to.
But the truth is, we’re always discovering new things about ourselves. We aren’t the same people we were a week ago, so to assume your partner is the exact same person you were dating six months ago is crazy.
Continuously getting to know your partner ensures you’re both still on the same page and can help to strengthen your relationship, as you tap into intellectual intimacy, physical intimacy will be sure to follow. Amber Kelleher, relationship expert and CEO of Kelleher International, shares with us how you can get to know your partner on a deeper level.
Step One: Never Stop Being Curious. Ever
Getting to know your partner on a deeper level requires you to be curious about their life, thoughts, emotions, and so much more. “You may think you know your partner but unless you check in regularly you can’t possibly know what they are thinking,” says Kelleher-Andrews.
Curiosity is also what keeps us feeling alive and excited about life – and the same goes for our relationships. “Staying curious also helps keep your finger on the pulse of your relationship and allows you to participate in it, as opposed to being a passenger,” explains Kelleher-Andrews. “What does it mean to be curious?” She gives her expert insight into curiosity and partnership in the following steps.
Step Two: Always Ask Open-Ended Questions
“Curiosity means ‘to have a strong desire to know or learn something about something,’ or in this case about someone,” Kelleher-Andrews explains. “If you are tired of floating on the surface of your budding relationship a good rule of thumb is to go deeper and ask open-ended questions.”
These questions relay to your partner that you’re interested in their answers as it allows them the space to explore their own thoughts, emotions, opinions, and personal history, and not just give one-off answers.
“Open-ended questions provoke thought and create deeper conversation,” she explains, “as opposed to a yes or no answer.” So, if you want to learn more about your partner and connect on a deeper level, stay clear of the multiple-choice, yes or no types of questions. They will only put a limit on your conversations, and hey, we want you to feel curious and excited about love, not bored and dull.
Step Three: Listen and Connect To Your Partner’s Answers
Listening is a vital component of communication and – as it turns out – curiosity. Kelleher-Andrews recognizes this may sound intimidating or too vulnerable for some, but that’s no reason not to do it. Pushing past that coyness will get your relationship to that more profound, satisfying state. “Don’t be shy. If things are going well with your open-ended questions, don’t stop there!” she urges.
“I personally like to follow up my questions with a deeper dive into their answers,” she says. That’s right. Their answers, not yours (not yet). Listening and connecting to your partner’s answers requires curiosity in order to keep the conversation moving in new, awesome directions. It’s as Kelleher-Andrews explains, their answers give you a road map of where to navigate next and knowing when it’s time to expand on the conversation and take your relationship to new depths.
“For example, let’s say you asked your open-ended question such as, ‘how was your childhood?’ or ‘did you have a positive childhood or upbringing?’ and your partner shares with you that they had a difficult childhood or maybe they even experienced abuse in their past. Don’t simply nod your head or make a mental note. Expand on this newfound information,” encourages Kelleher-Andrews.
Your goal is to make them feel seen and heard. So instead of taking that mental note and saving it for a rainy day, make your conversation engaging and thought-provoking at that moment. “Ask more such as, ‘have you been able to come to terms with this?’ or ‘do you feel like you still have unresolved feelings?’ Or simply just ask, ‘how does that make you feel?'”
Even if the question is a bit difficult for your partner to answer, they will appreciate your curiosity and vulnerability, encouraging them to share and open up to you more. “There are so many ways to take an original open-ended question deeper once your partner has engaged with you, and by doing so you are allowing space for more intimacy and trust can begin to build,” says Kelleher-Andrews.
Step Four: Relate To Your Partner’s Vulnerabilities
Vulnerability can quickly make a relationship messy if it’s only one-sided. To be in a healthy, growing relationship, vulnerability needs to be shared between partners. And that’s where you come in.
“Okay, you have asked the open-ended question and were able to expand on their answers taking your relationship dynamic to new depths. Now it is time for you to participate and the best way to do this is to offer some heartfelt information about yourself and share your vulnerabilities,” says Kelleher-Andrews. “For example, ‘I can relate to this abuse because I too had moments in my own childhood that were very difficult at times.’”
You can share as much or as little as you feel comfortable with at the time, all that matters is that you are honest and putting yourself out there. “It is important that you are always authentic and real,” she says. “You don’t have to have the same experience to be vulnerable. Everyone is unique and this exercise is simply to relate to your partner in the sharing of your own stories, whether they are similar or not.”
Step Five: Connect the Dots and Step Out of the Box
Conversations take active participation, and sometimes that means exercising your brain to connect the dots of what you previously have known or heard to grow your intimacy and connection. “It’s so nice in any partnership to be seen and heard, and with your newfound knowledge brought about by your curiosity it’s time to show your partner you were paying attention,” she champions.
“Your curiosity brought about great open-ended questions and in these intimate and perhaps even revealing conversations, you can keep the ball moving.” With momentum on your side, you can really start to see how your relationship is beginning to grow stronger and how you can take your budding relationship into new directions and establish new connections together.
“Let’s say your partner shared with you that they came from a wealthy upbringing and with this privilege brings self-reflection and the desire to give back in some way.” Kelleher-Andrews says that “this is your opportunity to get creative!” The objective is to pick up on bits and pieces of what your partner is saying and turn it into a richer experience you both can share. It can even be a bit adventurous, she adds.
“Create a spontaneous adventure for you and your partner that connects the dots by directly relating to this revelation and step out of the box,” suggests Kelleher-Andrews. “For example, spend the morning packing lunches for the homeless by making personalized paper bags with dried fruits, bottled waters, and homemade sandwiches.”
Not only is this an inspirational way to spend quality time together as a couple, Kelleher-Andrews believes, but it will also deepen the bond of love between you, relate to your shared discussions, and help others at the same time. Talk about a win-win!
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Step Six: Build Memories Together
Memories are one of the few things in this life that are made to last, so make more of them! “Find more shared experiences and adventures to enjoy together,” she recommends. “You are on a roll as a couple and have now shared a deeply meaningful experience together. This should lead to the desire to have even more.”
And what sparks more conversation and inside jokes than fun memories that only you two share? “Shared experiences add memories to your partnership which also deepen your bond.” And honestly, it’s that simple. Kelleher-Andrews explains that “the more memories you have together as a couple, the stronger your partnership gets.”
This is for several reasons. For one, the more experiences you share together, the more comfortable and excited you are to have more. “For example, going paddle boarding in the ocean can be a relaxing way to get exercise into your day but taking your partner out in the ocean on a paddleboard turns it into a romantic shared experience that can transform your exercise routine into a lifetime memory.”
Step Seven: Meet the Parents
Oh yes, we said it: Meet the parents. They are, after all, a significant part of your partner’s life and history, so learning more about the family is one sure-fire way to learn more about your partner and strengthen your relationship.
“As a professional matchmaker,” says Kelleher-Andrews, “I have always found it risky to assume I know a client well without inquiring about their parents first. In a relationship, you can go as far as meeting your partner’s parents in person – and you should if possible!”
Getting a proper feel for your partner and their relationship with their parents can tell you a lot about them and give you an idea if this relationship is one you want to continue further into the future. “Most apples don’t fall far from the tree as they say, and if you want to get a sneak peek into your partner’s behaviors and pathology, learning more about their family tree is highly recommended,” she advises. And we couldn’t agree more.
Step Eight: Holy Discourse
A strong, long-lasting relationship eventually needs to explore those larger, philosophical ideas that give our lives value and meaning. “How we feel about life and death matters,” says Kelleher-Andrews. “It also says a lot about who we are and even how we handle crises and conflict.”
“Having a strong belief and/or faith for example can carry people through difficult times,” she encourages. And diving deeper into these belief systems and core values can teach you a lot about your partner, yourself, and your relationship.
“Religion, spirituality, and life after death conversions are important to have with your partner and add building blocks to your partnership. Have soulful conversations and explore the inner beliefs that your partner carries within.”
Step Nine: Explore Sexuality and Intimacy
We might not need to convince you much on this one, but it’s an important reminder of how intimacy and developing a deep connection with someone are intrinsically intertwined. And this doesn’t have to be just sexual. “There are several types of intimacy such as mental, spiritual, emotional, and more,” says Kelleher-Andrews.
Even so, part of what makes a romantic relationship special is the sexual intimacy you can explore with each other. She encourages us to not forget about sexual intimacy when it comes to a romantic partnership and embrace it instead.
“Exploring what your partner enjoys in the bedroom and under the sheets is a natural progression in any romantic partnership,” she says. “How they like to be touched, what positions they enjoy, or even suggesting new ways to be intimate together and pushing the envelope as a couple can be a great way to get to know your partner deeper and vice versa.”
Step Ten: Overcoming Challenges and Adversities Together
Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. So no matter how perfectly easy-going your relationship is, adversity and trial are bound to happen at some point – it’s just a matter of life. And one good thing from this is that your relationship will grow stronger by facing and overcoming these challenges together.
“Relationships need attention and nurturing along the way,” Kelleher-Andrews says. “It is important not to take your partner (or your relationship) for granted. This means, when you hit a roadblock, you overcome these trials and tribulations together as a couple.” By doing so, you will significantly deepen your partnership.
“For example, an illness or physical debility, loss of family members, or even loss of a job are all adversities and/or challenges that you may face as a couple.” But “overcoming these together and supporting your partnership through this forges perhaps the strongest bond of all,” believes Kelleher-Andrews. It’s like that well-known saying: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
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