How to Assess the Quality of Your Relationships

by  John Stoker  |  Self Leadership
How to Assess the Quality of Your Relationships

Sometimes I just can’t pass up a good story. Here is one that my financial planner told me this week.

It seems that he was out to lunch with one of his clients. While eating, his client was approached by a police officer who asked him to identify himself. The client gave his name, and then the officer passed him a set of papers.

The client chuckled and said, “This is obviously a joke given that it is my 50th birthday tomorrow.”

The officer replied, “No sir, I am an officer of the law, and I have been paid to deliver these service documents to you as required by the fact that your spouse is divorcing you.”

The client was dumbfounded and just stared at the table.

Finally my friend said, “Don’t worry about the rest of lunch. I think you had better go home.”

His client left the restaurant totally in shock that his spouse had filed for divorce. He had no clue that anything of this sort was even in the works.

At times we may be blindsided by that which we don’t notice or understand. Additionally, we often assume that things are going well until something happens that tells us that they are not. Below are a number of questions that you might ask yourself to assess the current quality of your relationship with your spouse or companion. You might also begin each question with the phrase, “On a scale from one to 10 how….”

Once you have answered the question, ask yourself, “Why did I answer the question the way I did?”

Answering this question should help you to identify the reasoning or rationale behind your selection. It will also give you an opportunity to identify an example or justification for your answer. Once you have answered the questions for yourself, ask your spouse or companion to identify how he or she would answer each question. Then hold a conversation comparing scores and talking through the major differences.

  • How satisfied are you with the current health of your relationship? – This question is intended to help you take a hard look at what results you are currently experiencing as opposed to the results that you would rather receive. Become more aware of the health of your most important relationships.
  • How open are you with one another? – You could ask yourselves if you are totally honest about what frustrates you about one another. Or, you could acknowledge whether you hold back or avoid talking about certain topics for fear of having to deal with conflict, emotion, or animosity of some kind. Being open allows you to identify what you need to work on.
  • How deliberate are you in identifying certain goals that might improve the relationship? – If you haven’t set any particular goals, then you have probably not talked about what could be or needs to be improved. Not particularly identifying what you could work on usually means that things will either stay the same or become worse over time. Pick something to work on and make a plan to do just that.
  • How supportive are you of one another’s activities, goals, and aspirations? – Individuals who are un-supportive usually begin to drift apart or look for more fulfilling activities or relationships away from or outside the association of their companion. Look for opportunities to be supportive of each other.
  • How often do you schedule quality time to be alone with one another? – There are so many demands that we place upon ourselves because of work, social obligations, child rearing, or other pressing concerns that it is easy to not be alone with one another. Failure to schedule time together usually leads to feelings of estrangement and missed opportunities to reconnect with one another. Make time to be together.
  • How clear are you about your needs and desires? – If you don’t know what you want or what you would like to improve, then you are probably not talking about it. In addition, if you believe that stating your needs may cause conflict, then you are also probably not talking about them. You can’t expect your partner to read your mind. You need to be clear about what you want and talk about it if you ever hope to have your expectations met. Unfulfilled expectations are usually expectations that are not communicated.
  • How often do you express appreciation or acknowledge the efforts of your companion? – This does not happen enough. Because we often don’t notice what others do for us, we usually lack the awareness and the gratitude that would naturally accompany noticing the efforts and sacrifices of others in our behalf. Catch each other doing some great things and express gratitude.
  • How unified are you in the way you make decisions? – This question deals with how we will respond given certain situations that arise. Children are particularly good at dividing and conquering when we have not made a firm commitment or decision about how we will handle certain situations. I know my children seem to have an uncanny ability to pit my spouse and me against each other if we have not discussed an issue beforehand. Finally we agreed that we would always check in with one another before responding to the requests or pleas of the children. Be unified.
  • How specific have you been in identifying your expectations? – Most couples avoid conversations about finances, physical intimacy, in-laws, and personal values. Failure to talk about such issues may lead to frustration and to harboring of ill feelings. Create opportunities to discuss and explore differences in perspective and personal values.

I was just as surprised as you were by the story that my friend shared. It is easy to take others for granted and ignore the warning signs that things are not going well within our relationships. Taking the time to be deliberate about assessing the status of our current relationships and setting goals to make improvements will greatly improve your joy and satisfaction with those that you value most.

Which of the questions above resonate with you the most?
Photo Credit: istock

About The Author

Articles By john-stoker
John Stoker is the author of “Overcoming Fake Talk” and the president of DialogueWORKS, Inc. He has been in organizational development work for over 20 years helping leaders and individual contributors to learn the skills to assist them in achieving superior results. He has experience in the fields of leadership, change management, dialogue, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mary C. Schaefer  |  18 Dec 2015  |  Reply

John, what a great set of questions. There’s a book in that post.

Also, what a wonderful time to reflect on the quality of our relationships, whether we are celebrating a holiday this month, or reflecting on the past year and what we want for the new year. AND, these questions can be adapted to just about any relationship. Definitely worth thinking about.

Thank you for this gift.

John Stoker  |  18 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Thanks for your kind words! I believe that we all could do a better job at slowing down and asking ourselves some difficult questions. Questions make us think more deeply and the answers can be really quite self-revelatory! Have a great holiday!!

Duncan M.  |  18 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Joh, this article talks about so many serious issues that most of us tend to avoid simply because we are afraid of the answers. This is how frustrations are born, communication almost ceases to exist, and a whole relationship turns into ashes. I find these two question “How supportive are you of one another’s activities, goals, and aspirations?” and “How clear are you about your needs and desires?” the most intriguing because they refer to personal desires that need to be met in order to be able to understand one another and provide the needed support.

John Stoker  |  18 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Great points! I hope this will help you and others really reflect upon the depth and quality of their relationships. Best wishes this holiday!

John E. Smith  |  18 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Hi, John:

Well, you certainly got my attention with that opening story …

Every single item on your list resonates with me, especially with my past work in therapy. These are classic points for people in relationships to consider, together and separately, as they live, love, work, and go through life together, regardless of specific relationships.

I have to fix two, because they seem to fit together closely:

“How open are you with each other?” is vital, because the quality of your openness with another speaks directly to the quality of the trust in the relationship. Without a strong and healthy mutual trust between two people, openness will simply not occur to the level needed for progress and happiness.

“How unified are you in the way you make decisions?” might actually be considered a corollary or a symptom of my first choice, depending on the health of the relationship:)

You used the pronoun “you” twice in that sentence. The first use might be the personal “You”, where you are reflecting on your contribution to the relationship in terms of making decisions. The second use is clearly collective, where the results of both people affect the decision-making process.

If openness is not present, you will not have unified decision-making. Without openness, decision-making becomes either a psychological game tournament or a power struggle based on personality traits.

Really enjoyed reading and reflecting on this post, John:)


John Stoker  |  18 Dec 2015  |  Reply

Thanks for your analysis. I appreciate your insights. I think many times we are not candid with ourselves when we stop to consider the quality of our relationships. If we would take time to reflect on how we are feeling and what we are thinking, we put ourselves in a position to improve upon what matters most. Thanks again for sharing.

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