August 4, 2021 — 12:13 PM
When it comes to successful relationships, communication is key. Just ask psychologists John Gottman, Ph.D., and Julie Gottman, Ph.D., founders of the Gottman Institute: As the world’s leading relationship experts tell us on the mindbodygreen podcast, research shows that couples who “lose their spark,” so to speak, talked to each other less than 35 minutes per week. “And most of the conversations these people had with one another were really about who’s going to do what and when,” John adds.
But what about couples who talk…too much? If you live together (and especially if you work together), you may be technically talking all the time: How do you keep the conversations from getting stale, and how do you keep the romance alive?
“There’s no problem with talking all the time, as long as there’s a little mix,” says Julie. Meaning: Yes, talking about responsibilities and everyday duties is important, but don’t forget to spice things up with some deep, open-ended questions from time to time.
Why you should ask open-ended questions.
It’s just like baking a cake (stay with us here): “If you just make a cake with flour, butter, and water, it’s going to taste terrible,” Julie explains. “You’ve got to throw some spice in there. Some vanilla, cinnamon, a little sugar… The point is that you need to spice up the conversation with topics that are more open-ended conversations.”
See, if you’re talking about work and responsibilities all the time, over time you and your partner may associate that burdensome conversation with each other. All that to say: Carve some time to talk about your dreams, your emotions, and the like—and don’t be afraid to get deep. “Talking about those things can be beautiful and fruitful, and it relieves people from thinking they’re only a workhorse roped to their partner to do work,” adds Julie.
Example questions to spice things up.
Julie makes a point to emphasize: Stay away from the oft-asked question, What are you thinking? Rather: “[Talk about] what’s on your heart, not just what’s on your mind,” she says. You could ask a simple, “How is your heart today?” or be more specific with something like, “Has your spirituality evolved at all over the course of this last year?” or “What would be your dream vacation for us to take?” Feel free to check out this list of conversation starters for couples—it has every topic, from funny to romantic to sexy.
The idea here is to get your partner thinking—not about responsibilities or anything with a productive purpose but for the sole purpose of getting to know each other better (because every couple can use a refresher, even if it’s been years).
Great relationships start with great sleep.*
The bottom line? To keep your relationship from deteriorating over time, the Gottmans recommend dialing up the romance. To do so, “You need some sugar in your cake,” says Julie—meaning, spice things up once in a while with some deep, open-ended conversation.