Shirley squirmed in her chair and leaned forward, giving me a hard, exhausted look.

They’ve been here before. It was Deja Vu all over again… Groundhog Day.

But now they were in couples therapy with me.

They needed a way out. Fast.

“Ok, Daniel. This is how Mike and I do Groundhog Day.

I usually say… this. He typically says… that.

Then I just know he’s gonna give me that look. And I just know I’ll get really agitated.. like I always do.

And then he says “you’re not really listening.” I tell him I am…. but we both know I’m lying.

Then I know I’m gonna say X, and then I just know Mike’s gonna say Y, and by then…


That’s the thing about ineffective marital communication.

It’s just like Groundhog Day. It’s the same thing over and over and over…

The next time you’re only pretending to listen to your partner, ask yourself this very important question:

"Do I really want another groundhog day?”

If the answer is NO WAY… Have a Generative Conversation instead. This is a big part of improving communication with your spouse, as well as building momentum after an intensive.

Here are 43 questions (and useful variations) you can ask while listening INSTEAD!

43 questions you could ask your spouse to ward off Groundhog Day!

  1. What are you feeling right now? Is this hard for you to talk about?
  2. What else are you feeling? Have your feelings intensified on this issue?
  3. What do you need most on this problem? Have I dropped the ball on this?
  4. What do you really wish for? What’s most important to you?
  5. How did this all come about?
  6. What would you really want to get across here? And to who?
  7. Are there any feelings you have here that you are afraid to even think about?
  8. Do you have any mixed feelings here? What are they?
  9. What are your (our) choices here, as you see them?
  10. What are the upside and downside of these choices?
  11. How Can I be part of the solution? What’s the most important thing I can do for you right now?
  12. Do you think this has impacted our relationship (or another relationship)? How?
  13. Is there some way you wish you (or I) could have done something differently? How so?
  14. What do you feel obliged to do here? How do you see your responsibilities?
  15. What do you need most from me right now?
  16. Is this a problem that you would prefer to deal with on your own?
  17. What would you like to ask of me on this? Is it hard for you to ask?
  18. What do your values tell you about this? What do you think we should prioritize?
  19. Is there anything or anyone you really disapprove of here?
  20. Are parts of you conflicted over this issue?
  21. What do you dislike most about this issue? What’s the most irritating part of this issue?
  22. How do you feel, right now, as you are talking to me about this?
  23. What, if anything, makes you feel (upset, angry, hopeless -insert appropriate emotion) about this issue?
  24. How did this all start for you?
  25. When did you first notice that this bothered you?
  26. How do you see how this problem fits into your (or our) life overall?
  27. Who, in your opinion, should take responsibility for what here?
  28. Is there any part of this issue that you’d like me to take specific responsibility for?
  29. How does this situation touch you?
  30. How has dealing with this issue changed you? What do you regret not doing about it sooner?
  31. What is your major complaint here? What can I do to help you with it?
  32. What meaning does this problem have for you as you bring it up to me now?
  33. What have you (we) learned from this?
  34. What would you like to learn from this, once we solve it?
  35. Who is most impacted here? How? Why?
  36. Does this remind you of anything you’ve faced before?
  37. Is there a deeper meaning to this issue that you’re reluctant to talk about?
  38. How does this impact your identity.. how you see yourself? Or how you see our relationship?
  39. How do you want us to resolve this? How hard do you think it will be for us to do that?
  40. How big of a problem is this for you in the cosmic (overall) scheme of things?
  41. What are the benefits for us if this issue is reasonably resolved to your satisfaction?
  42. Is this issue something that you would like me to fix without any support or encouragement from you? Do you want me to take this off your plate?

Save these for last:

43. What else would you like to tell me about this that I haven’t already asked? Do you feel this conversation is helping move this issue forward? What can I do differently to understand your point of view here? Do you feel understood on this? So what I’m hearing you say is... (then summarize using some of the exact words and metaphors they used in speaking with you).

Questions can be beautiful!

Generative Conversations that employ these questions can gently challenge assumptions, disrupt established reactive structures, interrupt automatic cognitive processes and thought patterns, encourage you to start talking differently, and maybe…even consider behaving differently!

These questions are from science-based Gottman Couples Therapy and the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy.

Remember avoid being defensive. Ask yourself, what can I agree with here?

These are all beautiful questions. I hope these questions help you. Why not try them out? We’ve got lots more too.

But remember, when you ask a new beautiful question… to your partner as if they were someone you loved.

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist and the blog editor. He currently works with couples online and in person. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and Developmental Models in his approaches. Daniel specializes in working with neurodiverse couples, couples that are recovering from an affair, and couples struggling with conflict avoidant and passive aggressive behavior patterns.

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