(Relationships)

Want To Connect Better With Your Partner? This Simple Practice Could Be The Key

Take notes... literally.

By Jessica Estrada
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couples journals

It’s not exactly news that journaling comes with a slew of mental health benefits. It's good for anxiety, not to mention a great mood-booster. That said, journaling doesn't always have to be a solo activity — including your partner can help you reap the aforementioned benefits, plus help cultivate connection and intimacy with your significant other. The best part? There are journals designed specifically for couples — complete with built-in, thought-provoking prompts — that take all the guesswork out of the practice.

Christie Kederian, EdD, psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in the psychology of relationships, recommends couples journals for people who desire to get to know each other in more profound ways and on a deeper level. The couples that would most benefit from journaling together, she adds, "are those that are hoping to draw closer and more connected than before, but may feel limited by their difficulties with vulnerability or expressing themselves."

So what makes journaling as a couple so different from, say, having a basic discussion? "[Couples journals] can help you get to know your partner in a deeper, more vulnerable way without the directness that can often be misconstrued as interrogation when asked in a direct question, face-to-face conversation," Dr. Kederian says. "They help couples grow deeper and more emotionally available and open to learning about each other from a place of fun and curiosity rather than from a place of fear." The reason for this, she explains, is that it is often easier to write out one’s honest feelings than it is to verbalize them, making journaling a potent tool for couples to express themselves.

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When you're shopping for a couples journal, Dr. Kederian recommends looking for ones that allow for reflection on light-hearted, fun topics as well as deep topics you can both connect on. A light-hearted journal prompt, for instance, can be "what's on your bucket list" or "would you rather live on an island without your cell phone or without a book?" Dr. Kederian says these feel-good prompts help you learn more about each other without emotional depth. On the other hand, the deeper questions can be "what is your biggest regret" or "what was a difficult childhood memory that you wish you could give yourself emotional healing from?"

According to Dr. Kederian, the energy by which you approach the activity of journaling is what allows you to reap the rewards. "The right way to do this is from a place of fun, curiosity, and allowing someone to share without the need to comment or express," she says. "This helps relieve the pressure or putting someone 'on the spot' so that it becomes a source of connection and healing rather than fighting about it." Additionally, before beginning your journaling practice together, she suggests setting a clear intention that your journaling time is a safe space for reflection and discussion.

Dr. Kederian also notes that journaling as a couple can be a powerful way to work through conflict, but it’s important to focus on reflecting on yourself and your own experience while also witnessing your partner’s vulnerability and feelings. “By noticing how conflict affects the thoughts, emotions, and internal world of your partner, you are armed with more awareness of their needs and fears and this helps you approach them with more empathy and grace,” she explains.

With that, Dr. Kederian adds that the one thing she recommends avoiding in a couples journaling practice is judging one another or trying to do the work for the other partner. “If there's a piece of insight or reflection that you have about their lives, it's not helpful to tell them this before they've reached that level of insight themselves,” she says. “This often will just cause shame and defensiveness in your partner rather than the goal you are trying to achieve of feeling connected.”

As for how to journal, Dr. Kederian recommends either working on the answers together or separately and then finding a time to discuss your answers together. “Working on them separately may help you feel less limited by time and feeling influenced by your partner in some way,” she says. And lastly, like with all wellness practices, consistency is key. The more you do it, the more you'll benefit.

Ahead, some expert-recommended journals to help get you and your significant other on the road to connection.

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