When you and your spouse first met, chances are there were few obstacles standing in the way of constant happiness, love, and affection. But things change as time moves on in a relationship—it's totally normal if you've experienced a slight (or major) altering of your day-to-day interactions as you've graduated from the courting phase to the dating phase and then from the engagement phase to the newlywed phase. The key is to touch base with your partner frequently so that you're always on the same page—or at least in the same chapter of the same book.
To help get you reconnect instantly, ask each other these five questions.
What do you need from me now?
"Communication is the barometer for any relationship," says Greg Behrendt, relationship expert and author of "He's Just Not That Into You." "Being able to not only communicate your needs, wants, and position on any given matter in a healthy, diplomatic manner will make you relationship ninjas." He recommends having an open and honest conversation with your partner about what he or she might need from you now, starting with the simple question. "Our shared reality changes as our lives change, and if you can't have the difficult conversations to realign your stars or draw new boundaries you will find yourself bogged down with struggles and resentments," he adds.
Where would you like to be in five years?
This is the question most employers will ask you or your spouse before entering into a long-term work relationship—and it holds a lot of ground for a romantic relationship as well. "Having the insight about where your partner would like to be in five or ten years can help you be in tuned with his or her goals," says Mercedes Coffman, L.M.F.T. "Not only does this question help couples encourage and support each other, but it also allows both partners to feel more connected in the relationship."
How are you feeling about that?
When your partner talks to you about something that may or may not be truly bothering him or her, ask how he or she feels about the subject. This, Heidi McBain, L.M.F.T., explains, can help you focus on your primary emotions (happy, sad, mad, scared) so that you can get to the heart of what's really going on with your partner. "It's also a great ways to talk about how you're feeling as well," she adds. "Some couples have a very easy time talking about feelings, while this can be quite a foreign concept to others!"
What can I do to help?
If you notice that your partner is feeling particularly down, stressed out, or just plain overwhelmed, offer your assistance, even if you think he or she knows it's there. "Not only does this let them know that you see them and would like to help, but it also focuses on your partner's wants and needs in that moment in time," explains McBain. "This can open up a discussion between you two on how you can best support each other during hard times."
How do you think we've changed as a couple through the years?
It is important to share how your life is changing, as this is inevitable, explains Barbara Grossman, Ph.D., L.M.F.T. "You will have new feelings about yourself as you grow in your work, have a baby, or find your relationship to your parents or friends is shifting," she says. "As you both are changing, you will find areas of conflict, so it's important to acknowledge your differences." She recommends that couples share their points of view rationally and calmly. "Out of these conversations, you will build the framework of your relationship and truly understand what you want and need in life," she adds.