Couple Questions
January 22, 2015 3:28 AM   Subscribe

I often meet a nice couple and want to know more about their life together. Can you think of good, appropriate questions to address this?

One question in this class is "where did you guys meet?" Except for being a little trite, it seems like the perfect example. Another one that matches the spirit here and that I've tried to use is, "What do you guys like to do together?" But that almost feels like I'm just asking them if they like to have sex.

Can you think of good questions in this theme, for conversation?

[Note: this is not in a 'swinger' context; instead, let's just admit that maybe it's slightly nosy, but that I enjoy hearing what people like about each other. ]
posted by tintexas to Human Relations (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I sometimes see this conversation start with a variation of, "you two are so cute together" or "you have such a nice family." It breaks the ice.
posted by michaelh at 3:44 AM on January 22, 2015

I find "How long have you been together?" often gets interesting replies.
posted by futureisunwritten at 3:58 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I ask, "So, what's the secret to a happy relationship? Any advice?"
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:10 AM on January 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

As opposed to asking vague, open ended questions, be specific about what you "want to know", such as: What hobbies/sports do you guys participate in? What church do you attend, are you sports fans? Each question is going to open the door to more questions. You might also try to find a way to express why you're interested: "You two seem to be very peaceful/active/dynamic/etc, I'm curious as to what aspects of your life lead you to that place:.

As long as you're not too intrusive in private matters, it's hard to go wrong, the majority of people love talking about themselves when there's an interested listener.
posted by HuronBob at 4:18 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wow. This is an interesting, odd question. Just spent about about an hour talking to my spouse about it. I think we have a good marriage (in that people tell me all the time how much they like my husband).

I would add a few observations of my own.

I have known golden couples, glowing in company, seemingly perfectly suited to each other and charismatic and lovely and you just want to punch them in the face they are so cute. Who have then fallen apart with appalling stories of neglect or abuse on one side or the other. I have also known couples who act like they barely know each other in public who happily raise kids and grow old and have loud monkey sex in shared holiday apartments with thin walls.

So given that, and given that you are presumably asking this in good faith.

Why do you think the people you meet are in happy relationships? What questions do you ask people to get to know other people? Generally, just to make friends?

Ask where they went for their last holiday. Ask what they did. Ask where they would like to go next. Ask what bands they like to see. If they like music at all. Ask what they did on the weekend. If they won $10 million who would be the first person they told. Ask where they fell in love.

Ask how boring each couple thinks they are on a scale of one to 10.

They won't tell you when the last time they fought was, what it was about. How mad and angry and wrong they can make each other feel. And how then right and good. What the single nicest thing each of them did for the other. And the single, dirtiest worst. If they would stick to each other in sickness and health, stay to the end. Or bolt at the first dodgy biopsy or diagnosis, or in fairness the first unkind word.

You can't know this through a couple of questions. Neither can they.

Tolstoy was kinda full of shit. Happiness can be weird, icky and a bit dull. It's rarely the same.
posted by arha at 5:03 AM on January 22, 2015 [25 favorites]

"So, what's your story?"
posted by jbickers at 5:49 AM on January 22, 2015

I'm an open book and I'm in a good relationship with my husband but I just wanted to mention that some of these questions would make me shrug and say I don't know. There isn't anything wrong with that in my opinion but wanted to give you a heads up.

For example, my husband and I don't really have shared hobbies. I volunteer, sometimes he comes to events where I'm volunteering. I run, he cheers at my races. We've both joined each other on work trips. Most of our traveling (but not all) involves visiting family. So feel free to ask. Most people like talking about themselves. But some people, though happy, are boring :-)
posted by kat518 at 5:59 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Great answer arha, I kind of needed to read that myself.

If you want to understand a marriage you need to know the partners well. There's plenty about my marriage I don't talk openly about to random people. We are to all appearances a functional, happy couple; active in our community, with 2 adorable kids, a nice house. We do fight, and don't always feel able to trust each other to act in good faith. Being in a marriage is absolutely the most soul-challenging thing I've ever done. Neither of us are sure we'll be able to stay together, but I guess not much in life is sure anyway.

I suspect the reality inside most marriages does not match up with our shared cultural narratives about the institution. In my experience, it's a process of capitulating one's cherished ideals, or fighting for them, and there's no magic percentage of common ground that makes for success even between people who are basically functional (ie not abusive). I think really judging the condition of a marriage, even for the participants, requires an implausible amount of spiritual acrobatics, and you never really know if you're doing it right.

That's not to say I'm unhappy in my marriage. I have a fairly high appetite for adventure, and yet there's nothing under the sun I'd rather be doing than making home with my family.

To really know what's inside a marriage you proably need to get into one. In the memorable words of Randy Newman, "I'm sorry dear, you're too late. I've already ruined my life."
posted by maniabug at 6:09 AM on January 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

As long as people seem like they want to talk, I think asking these kinds of questions is great. My advice, though, is to be particularly sensitive about topics that are extra loaded. "When are you going to have children?" is the classic, because while it is totally neutral for some people, others are going to be sensitive to the judgment that is often contained in the question, or have been dealing with miscarriages or infertility, say.

The answer is to have conversations that are organic and work off of what the other person is obviously comfortable and happy to discuss. Don't jump straight to the personal stuff, but work off of the things people put out there -- photos of their kids on their desk, say.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:17 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me as if you'd like to befriend these couples. Why not just get to know them that way? Plenty of couples, even those with children, have single friends. If you're accommodating of their schedules (especially if they have kids) and not inclined to feel like a third wheel, just ask them if they'd like to hang out sometime.
posted by mchorn at 6:57 AM on January 22, 2015

"What has surprised you most about your relationship?"
posted by jph at 12:29 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hm.. Instead of having one very open ended question (which people will find tiring to tackle if they are not feeling gregarious) you could ask them smaller follow up questions/prompt them to say more?
You: 'you guys are so cute together'
Them: (story about how they met)
You: wow is it still like that now?
Them: (more information)

And also I think it's totally ok to ask them appropriately share something about yourself and make specific queries about relationships e.g. 'my SO and I always stay in over the weekend is that normal?' (and then they will tell you what they do).
posted by dinosaurprincess at 1:05 PM on January 23, 2015

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