This is a preview. The full article appears in Neil's book: Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship

Can you hear feelings and opinions about yourself without becoming defensive? Can you hear honest feedback from someone you love or care about, or do you force loved ones to walk on eggshells around you so as not to offend you? This column is going to challenge you to talk—and listen—openly and honestly with your spouse, lover or intimate partner, and not get defensive, reactive or angry.

When we share our innermost feelings and talk intimately, most of us feel closer and more connected with each other.

So why do I bring up defensiveness in this discussion? Because that’s the easiest and quickest way to sabotage the questions that follow. If you become defensive or upset at hearing your partner’s open and honest answers to personal and intimate questions—frequently thought but not spoken—exactly how close do you think your relationship is going to get?

So honor this good-faith rule before you address the following questions as a couple: no defensiveness, anger, vindictive responses or hostility allowed. This exercise is designed to help the two of you feel closer, not more distant. If you cannot hear what your intimate partner truly feels and thinks, your relationship will never feel solid and strong. These questions come from 365 Questions for Couples by Michael, Stanis and Seanna Beck (Adams Media Corporation):

  • Do you believe I know myself well?
  • What is your favorite thing about my personality?
  • What, if anything, have you learned from me?
  • If you could plan a trip for us to anyplace in the world, where would you choose to take us?
  • What is your favorite memory about our relationship?
  • In what ways do you feel I could make your life easier or more comfortable? What changes or adjustments would I have to make?
  • What, if anything, do you feel you need to sacrifice or compromise by being a part of our relationship?

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