Following Up With Statements That Deepen Connection

When you can reflect what your partner is sharing, you encourage them to open up more and intimacy follows.

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When you can reflect what your partner is sharing, you encourage them to open up more and intimacy follows.

When you can reflect what your partner is sharing, you encourage them to open up more and intimacy follows.

The most important predictor of a good relationship is the friendship at its core. Couples who “know each other intimately [and] are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams” are the couples who make it. 

To deepen your connection with your partner and build on the skills of intimate conversation and asking open-ended questions,  here is another insightful exercise. Its simplicity allows you to apply it in everyday conversations to build trust and friendship with your partner, which is the key to romance.

When your partner answers a question, respond in your own words, reflecting the emotion that you just heard back to them. Your understanding and encouragement will open your partner up to sharing more with you.

Example: 

David comes home late from a meeting and flops into an armchair in the living room next to his wife Lisa. Both are exhausted, and David is stressed. He wants to talk.

Failing to Deepen Connection:

David: Richard was ridiculous tonight. I’m not sure what to do with him.

Lisa: You sound like you’re mad at him.

David: (frowning) I guess.

Lisa: What are you so mad about?

David: I don’t know, we’re both tired. Let’s just go to bed…

Succeeding in Deepening Connection:

David: Richard was ridiculous tonight. I’m not sure what to do with him.

Lisa: Are you feeling like you need to do something with him?

David: I’m just so frustrated. He seems like he’s trapped in life.

Lisa: It sounds like you feel responsible. Is that what’s making you frustrated?

David: (sigh) Yeah. He’s relying on me. We’ve known each other since we were little, and I know his family life isn’t peaceful.

Lisa: He’s lucky to have someone who cares so much about him. I’m lucky to have you.

David: Let’s invite him over to dinner Tuesday night?

Try this at home with your partner. To learn more, read “What Makes Love Last”, a book that will teach you skills for increasing your compassion and empathy in your relationships with your loved ones.


Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute and editor for The Gottman Relationship Blog.