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.