A Note from Terry: This is a guest post by Cindee Snider Re, co-founder, along with Pamela Piquette, of Chronic Joy (A Faith-based Chronic Illness Ministry). Chronic Joy has blogs and curriculum resources for needs in several categories: chronic illness or pain; mental illness; and caregivers. Actually, this the post Cindee wrote for their own blog this week, in light of Valentine’s Day coming on the 14th. They gave me permission to use it as well. You’ll find Cindee’s transparency refreshing, and the list of questions for couples practical.
Nothing affects one’s emotional and mental health like the most significant human relationship many of us have: our marriage. Now let’s shift to Cindee’s words.
Maintaining a healthy marriage is a sacrificial pursuit and a life-long journey.
Fulfillment isn’t something that just happens. It requires honesty and intentionality, commitment and compromise, patience and attention, trust and a willingness to forgive. Love that gives, multiplies. When we pursue one another, love deepens and grows.
Do you remember the early days of your relationship? Do you remember how easy it was to talk? Over time, we can slip into mundane, sound-bite conversations: How was your day? What’s for dinner? Have you talked to the kids? Did you feed the dog?
Difficulties Can Be a Doorway to Deeper Love
It’s even easier to lose touch in a marriage with chronic illness. Care-taking responsibilities can make physical and emotional intimacy difficult, and the added stresses of financial concerns, pain, exhaustion, shame and guilt, along with a lack of understanding or compassion from friends, loved ones, or our church families can deplete our ability to enjoy one another’s company.
But difficulties can also be a doorway to deeper love. Ryan and Selena Frederick of Fierce Marriage wrote, “There is no love more beautiful than that tempered by grace through trial and time.”
I agree. For nearly 30 years, my husband and I have been navigating marriage with chronic illness. He has been my caregiver after dozens of surgeries. We have cared together for our five kids, four with significant, life-altering chronic illness. He is our sole provider. Along the way, we lost touch with one another, and almost didn’t make it.
At the breaking point, we committed to weekly date nights at a local restaurant. For nearly two years, we sat in the same booth in the same restaurant, ordering the same food almost every week. Some nights we barely talked. Some nights we argued. Most nights, I cried. Some nights it took everything in me to stay in that booth all the way through dinner.
But we persevered.
And slowly, we began to talk. Really talk. About deep and important things. We learned to listen even when it hurt. And somewhere along the way, we began to laugh and remember and dream again. That little flicker grew into a flame, and seven years later, in the midst of five major surgeries in two years for me, of helping our growing-up kids learn to navigate life with chronic illness on their own, my husband and I continue to intentionally pursue one another, and our marriage is healthy and strong. Our investment has been worth every difficult minute.
Jumpstart Your Journey
If you’re longing to reconnect as a couple, these 76 questions are designed to jumpstart your journey.
This is an exercise meant to be worked through slowly, one question and one conversation at a time over many months. Use the questions in any order you choose. This is an exploration and an opportunity to grow more deeply in love as you rediscover one another.
Have fun. Be honest. Laugh. Hold hands. Dance in the kitchen. Flirt. Hug. Kiss. Let your lips linger. Remember. And cry. Let the emotions come. As you courageously step in, your love for one another will begin to deepen and grow.
76 Questions to Help You Reconnect as a Couple
1. What do you remember thinking the first time you saw me?
2. When did you know you were in love with me?
3. What three qualities first attracted you to me?
4. What are three of your happiest memories from our dating days?
5. Is there something specific you remember that still makes you smile?
6. What movie does our love story most closely resemble?
7. Which of our dates was your favorite? What made it so memorable?
8. How (and when) did you know we’d make it as a couple?
9. What three strengths do we possess as a team?
10. What’s your favorite memory of me?
11. Did you fall in love with me suddenly and all at once or slowly over time?
12. How do I make you feel most loved?
13. What is one thing I do that makes you crazy, but that you also secretly love?
14. What’s your favorite sexual memory of us?
15. Is there something you’d like to try that could spice up our love life?
16. What’s your favorite non-sexual way of being touched?
17. When was the last time you daydreamed about us? What did you dream?
18. Which of your character qualities are you most proud of?
19. What’s the greatest lesson your dad (or another man) taught you?
20. What’s the greatest lesson your mom (or another woman) taught you?
21. When you were growing up, did you trust your parents?
22. What was your favorite childhood meal? Do you still enjoy it?
23. Use three adjectives to describe your childhood.
24. Who was your childhood best friend? What are your favorite memories with him/her?
25. What was the first album/cd/mp3 you ever bought?
26. What’s your all-time favorite song?
27. What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?
28. What was your first experience with death? What do you remember?
29. What are the top three things on your Bucket List?
30. Who who made you feel most loved, accepted, safe, or special as a child?
31. What was your favorite childhood TV show?
32. What book or movie had the greatest impact on you as a teenager?
33. What three tools would you want if you were stranded on a deserted island?
34. If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
35. What three countries do you most want to visit?
36. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
37. What are the qualities you most admire in a man? In a woman?
38. Who is a real-life hero to you? Why?
39. What are you most grateful for in life?
40. What do want to do in life that you haven’t yet?
41. What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
42. What did you learn from your greatest failure?
43. If you could travel to any point in history, when would you choose and why?
44. What keeps you up at night?
45. Which relatives are your favorites? Why?
46. What is your favorite memory with your family? What makes it stand out?
47. Is there something you’ve secretly wanted to ask me?
48. What are you most afraid of?
49. What is the best part of being alive?
50. What’s the hardest part of being an adult?
51. If you had to choose one outfit to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?
52. What has felt most challenging lately? What has felt most hopeful?
53. Which family tradition do you most enjoy?
54. What activities bring you the most joy?
55. Where are you most at peace?
56. Use three words to describe us as a couple.
57. How would you describe a perfect day?
58. Which superhero, movie or book character do you most identify with? Why?
59. What qualities do you appreciate in a friend?
60. If you could study any subject, what would you choose?
61. When do you feel most connected to yourself? When do you feel most connected with me?
62. What’s the best compliment you’ve received? What’s the best you’ve given?
63. What’s the best part of our relationship?
64. What did your parents/grandparents teach you about love?
65. Name a great marriage role model.
66. What are your first thoughts in the morning? Your last thoughts at night?
67. Name three ways we are similar. Three ways we are different.
68. What is your least favorite household chore? What is your favorite?
69. What is your favorite way to serve others?
70. If we had a theme song as a couple, what would it be?
71. What moves you?
72. What restores your faith in humanity?
73. Name one thing from this past week that you’re proud of.
74. How can I best help you when you’re sad, angry, hurting, tired, lonely, or overwhelmed? What do you most want me to understand in those moments?
75. Tell me about the person you’re striving to become.
76. If you could design our perfect date, what would it be?
One of the following links will take you to a two-page document that contains only these questions. The other link takes you to Chronic Joy’s homepage.