Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we bring you a very important Weekend Homework Assignment. If you have read Dr. Gottman’s New York Times bestselling The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, this exercise may be familiar to you.

Our priorities, goals, likes, and dislikes inevitably change with the passage of time. Beyond the simple in-and-outs of our everyday lives, we experience deeper changes as our life experiences evolve and transform us. More than ever, these life experiences are influenced by technology: how we plan them, how we experience them, and how we remember them.

To truly know your partner, especially in the Digital Age, it is necessary to first know yourself. With the stressors of daily life – from deadlines at work, cleaning around the house, children to take care of, finances to manage, etc – we don’t always have the opportunity to make the time to ponder these important questions of self-actualization. 

Dr. John Gottman understands all of this and encourages you and your partner to set aside some time to consider the following questions.

While we encourage you to begin this exercise over the weekend, it is not meant to be completed all at once! Rather, it is meant to be completed over time, in a relaxed and focused manner. We hope that the conversations facilitated by this exercise last for weeks, months, and even years to come. These questions will allow you to embark upon deep and meaningful explorations of yourself while strengthening your bond with your partner, deepening your love for one another through the intimacy created by sharing your deepest hopes and dreams! Without further ado:

Who Am I?

By John Gottman, Ph.D. 

My Triumphs and Strivings: 
1. What are some of the proudest moments of your life? What kinds of trying and stressful experiences have you survived in which you felt more powerful, victorious, capable of meeting challenges? 
2. How have these successes shaped your life, changed the way in which you view yourself, your goals, your dreams?
3. Did your parents show you that they were proud of you for your accomplishments? What about other important figures in your life? How did this affect your experience of feelings of pride in yourself?
4. Were you shown love and affection in your family? If not, how has this affected your relationships in your adult life? 

My Injuries and Healings: 
1. What experiences have you had in which you have felt the deepest senses of disappointment, loss, self-doubt, hopelessness, loneliness?
2. What kinds of deep traumas have you undergone? How have you survived through them? What kinds of changes do you feel in yourself after going through these difficult times in your life?
3. How did you strengthen and heal yourself? How did you protect yourself? Did you find ways to avoid such experiences in the future?
4. How do you think that these experiences have affected your relationships? Your relationship with your current partner? What do you want your partner to understand about you and your past injuries?

My Mission and Legacy: 
1. What do you feel is the purpose of your life? Its meaning? What do you want to accomplish? What is your greatest struggle?
2. What kind of a legacy do you want to leave behind when you are gone?
3. What kinds of significant goals do you still yearn to realize to feel that you have lived a full life?

Who I Want to Become? 
1. Describe the person that you want to become.
2. What kinds of struggles have you faced in trying to become that person?
3. What internal demons are you fighting? What demons have you conquered?
4. What would you most like to change about yourself?
5. What do you want your life to be in five years?

When you and your partner work through this exercise this weekend, set aside a time when you are both relaxed and uninterrupted. Turn off the TV. Turn off your cell phones. While this exercise is meant to inspire conversation, it is a long, complex conversation that should not be had all at once. It is a conversation that should be ongoing throughout your lives as you change and dream and grow together! 

More in The Digital Age
The Digital Age: Who Am I?

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.