Steven Lake realizes the more he learns about his partner, the more he learns about himself.
Whether in a new relationship or an old one, if you work your way through all of these suggestions, you will definitely know your partner much more at the end than of this process.
Many people think that getting to know the other person in the relationship ends once you start living together. You may know your opposite well, especially if you have dated for a long time, but I can assure you, living together opens your eyes to a whole other side of your partner and the relationship.
Living together, though not on the list, is a huge opportunity to learn about the other person. Whether it is the stereotypic stuff, like how to roll up the toothpaste, cleanliness, aesthetics, and problem solving; living together is one of life’s greatest opportunities and challenges.
Here are ten ways that you can learn more about your partner.
1) Visit her family
It is amazing to see what happens when people go back to see their parents. Watching the dynamics between mom and dad, and between the parents and their child can tell you a lot about your partner. Seeing how your partner copes with parents, what plugs them in, how close they are, how do they show affection, and how supportive the parents are to your partner, are all insights into the psyche of the one you love.
2) Play sports or social activities together or with others
I will focus on sports in this section as I am not one for cards or other games. The main point here is to experience playing, teaching, and learning with your partner in a mutually satisfying activity. If you are into it, there is also the competitive aspect of life to be explored, whether in a team together, or competing against each other.
You may discover sides you had never seen before, like, when she throws down a winning hand in cards, jumps up and does a little dance while high-fiving her partners. When she spikes the volleyball at the net for a winner and you see the killer instinct in her eyes (who knew there was a lion just waiting to come out).
With my wife, I see it when she hits a killer two-handed backhand in tennis. She positively glows with self-satisfaction, pride, and power.
3) Renovate your home
This one can make or break a relationship. Most people under-estimate the cost, time and effort it will take to complete such a major task. They often decide to live in the house while renovating due to budget issues or ignorance. Whatever the reason, living in a reno-zone is stressful beyond belief.
You may see your partner covered in dust, splattered in paint, with a nail in her mouth, and a look of grim determination as she does battle with a sub-contractor. Or you may see her in tears as she looks up at you while sitting on the floor with imploring eyes asking, “Will this ever be finished?”
Renovating a house is not for the faint of heart. But if you survive it, you can probably survive anything while learning much about yourself and your partner.
This is a fun one. Whether your partner is reading, writing, playing music, cleaning, working, walking the dog . . . just watch her without saying anything. Appreciate how she breathes, moves her body, and thinks. Take the time to appreciate this living entity that you are sharing your life with. See him or her without the usual glasses of “taken for granted” eyesight you usually view them through. Stop seeing her with your expectations and try to see her afresh. There may be things you have never seen before, or have forgotten.
5) Go shopping together
Stereo-typically, this one is a killer for guys, BUT, it can be both a learning experience and an opportunity to demonstrate your caring for what your partner enjoys (yes I know, not all women like shopping). I like to combine the previous item (observing) to make this a more enjoyable experience. Watching as she selects an item for purchase, what does she look for – price, aesthetics, usefulness?
Observe how she walks around the aisles. Does she wander or move with determination as if on a high-priority mission. When she shows you an item, what does she want from you – agreement, an honest opinion, or just an acknowledgement?
6) Read her favorite book
You may not like or appreciate the genre that your partner reads, but reading one of her books will give you insight into what is important for her. Whether she reads business, historical fiction, fantasy, or murder mysteries, there is something about these books that fills a need. What is that need? Does your partner need more mystery in their life, more adventure, or more romance?
Whatever it is, if you understand her needs you may be able to fulfill them in some way. You may not be able to be that witty, pipe smoking solver of murders, but maybe you can take her out to a murder mystery party.
7) Take a workshop together
This is one of the fastest and most intense ways to learn stuff about your partner. Workshops are designed this way. They are an accelerated learning process. This, of course, can be confronting as you may learn things that you don’t want to know. And now that you do know, what are you going to do with that information and how are you feeling about it?
You will see how your partner engages with information that she finds difficult. How she engages with other participants, and how the two you engage in this hyper stimulating environment with each other.
The upside of taking a workshop together is sharing what you have learned. This is stimulating and exciting as you learn new things about their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. It is also a shared experience that affects the both of you, often in profound ways. You grow together (though not necessarily at the same pace or in the same way).
8) Do taxes together and discuss finances
Oh, God, I hate this one. Even if you have an accountant to do your taxes, make sure you go over them with your partner. Discussing finances can be easy if you have similar beliefs about money and money management and stressful if you have divergent ways of operating.
Either way, you will learn and have the opportunity to discuss finances and how they affect you and your life together. You may not have the same beliefs about money or the same way of managing it, but this won’t be a surprise anymore and the two of you can plan for how to make money management a win/win situation.
Spend time together. I can’t emphasize this enough. We live in a high speed, high tech world where face-to-face engagement is limited and where we are so busy that having time to just be together is a luxury often taken only on our holidays – if we take any.
Taking time on a daily basis, even for a few moments will keep the relationship alive and lively. Making sure to take extended time together on the weekends to play, share and just be there for each other has long-term benefits. We need, not only quality time, but quantity of time. Often it is the little things, the innocuous moments that build a sense of comfort and safety between two people. In order to achieve this, we need time.
10) Have a sex life and talk about it.
Finally, sex is a most intimate way to get to know someone. It is also a place to be hidden and secretive. That is why I mention the talking aspect. What does you partner like, what scares them, where are their limits, what are their fantasies. Naturally, this is a two-way sharing as the two of you intermingle body, words, and dreams to create intimacy.
Believe it or not, when you have been together for some time, it is easy for sex to play second fiddle to sleep or work. Don’t let that happen. The longer you go without sex the harder it is to get back into the rhythm. Sometimes, breaks are unavoidable. Childbirth, work out of town, or sickness can interrupt your sex life.
The upside, is re-connecting. It can be a re-discovery of your partner all over again. It may even be finding out your partner’s needs and desires have changed as happens in life over time. Communicating becomes critical when your sex life is interrupted and by sharing and listening you will know your partner even more.
Learning about your intimate partner is challenging, scary, fun, threatening, and exciting all rolled into one amorphous mass of thoughts and feelings. In this process I have come to cherish my partner more and more as I experience her with openness and compassion, even for those aspects that I don’t understand. Learning about my partner has forced me to look at myself. What I like, what I don’t like. Where I have have understanding, and where I don’t. As I look deeper into her, I cannot escape seeing myself.
This list is not complete, it is just ten activities I have discovered that helps me understand my partner more. Which of these activities is your favorite, whether it was fun or because it forced you to grow in your understanding of your intimate other? If you have a personal favorite not listed, let us know. Leave a note in the “Comment” section below. You have to scroll down past all the ads (sigh).
Photo: Flickr/Jeremy Blanchard