Questions To Build Emotional Intimacy In Nonmonogamous Relationships | Nonmonogamy Academy

Many years ago, the list of 36 questions to ask your mate to fall in love came out.  It’s certainly a great list for getting to know someone!  The original 36 questions are broken down into three sections that move from ice-breaker to deeper questions about vulnerability.  They were put together by Dr. Arthur Aron, a psychologist that specializes in love.  They were originally created for fast-tracking intimacy, but they are also great for long-term couples to get to know each other all over again.

I have asked these questions of partners I was already in love with, and they made for great conversations on long hikes.  With one partner, I asked them at the beginning of our relationship 6 years ago, and we recently went through them again.  I discovered that I didn’t remember any of his answers from before, and many of them had likely changed in that time for both of us.  

One of the things I like about these questions is that they don’t include questions about your work.  So many times when getting to know people, we want to ask them about what they do, who their family is, or in nonmonogamy – what their nonmonogamy looks like.  These questions are rote and don’t always have great answers.  If you are in a highly technical or specialized field, talking about your job with someone in a completely different field doesn’t always make for great conversation. If you have a difficult relationship with your family, trauma dumping (or feeling like you are anytime your family comes up) isn’t the greatest on a first date.

Codependency and the 36 questions….

In asking my partner the question about the perfect day, I made some observations.  Calling back to our blog post about mutuality vs. autonomy, you can infer a lot about where someone sits by the way they answer some of these questions. The question that alerted me to this was “What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?”  I gave two answers, one was over-the top never going to happen: Have several great therapy sessions where I solve major problems with a few quips, brilliantly write an award winning book, make a pile of cash on our course, then Star Trek transport to a vacation spot, do some scuba diving, eat super fancy food with a wine pairing, hang with friends and lovers at our vacation house with people serving us fancy cocktails, pass out instantly when going to bed. The other answer was much more realistic: Be on vacation with friends and lovers in a warm location, have a great writing session by the pool, eat great local food.  

The point of them is that they include both personal accomplishment and a bit of time with friends and lovers, and the friends and lovers are interchangeable.  My partner had a very similar best day answer.  We both tend towards the autonomous end of the spectrum, and our perfect days weren’t reliant on specific others being happy or doing things for us. As far as I can tell, this is a clear indication of how we exist on the autonomous side – we have our own interests and goals independent of each other, but there is still room for any or all of our partners and friends to be involved in some aspects of our days.  Someone completely on the autonomous end might decide their day doesn’t include people.  Someone on the codependent side might have difficulty coming up with an answer to this question without the input of significant people in their lives.

When to ask the questions

If you have a first date coming up, having a few of these in your pocket is a great way to make sure the conversation keeps going.  After all, a common complaint women have about first dates is that their partner doesn’t ask them any questions or show any interest in them.  You might want to stick to the first set of questions that are meant more as ice breakers.  If the date is going well, you can move on to more intimate questions.  If you’ve been on more than 4 dates with someone, they might all be fair game.

These questions can really help you get an idea about whether you are going to be compatible. It’s not just the content of the questions that can lead to an understanding of compatibility, but also an understanding of how they answer the questions.  Consider the following:

Are they being cagey and guarded? Most of the questions on the list don’t point to traumatic events or get too deep into strong emotions, but some of them could go there.  This is why not answering a question or asking a question on the first date may not be a red flag.  My answer to “What is your most terrible memory?” is extremely traumatic and personal.  I’m not likely to want to pull that out on a first date or even 3 months into a relationship.  However, if they are struggling with coming up with something they are grateful for, that could be a red flag.

Are they giving you short answers to questions you have very long answers to? Some of this could just be nervousness.  Some of it could be that they don’t have a lot of insight into their own processes.  Some of it could be that they are hiding something.  My answer to the question “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?” is going to be “I don’t know” and “I think I blocked that out” because I can’t carry a tune worth a shit, and no one needs to remember that.  But if you can’t “Take four minutes to tell your partner your life story in detail”….that’s a red flag. The answer may be an indication of something that is not important to you, but is to them. This can be a great place to be curious and ask more in depth questions if you want to know more about,why they picked that song to sing, or that person to sing to. 

Can they explain why they answered the way they did? This can be useful for picking out how much insight someone has on their inner world.  Lots of great people are not high insight people, but if this is something that is important to you, consider if it sounds like they are giving you an answer that sounds good vs. an answer that is true for them. If you don’t know, ask. If they aren’t comfortable answering those questions, that may be a place that you aren’t compatible. 

Nonmonogamy Specific Questions

In this same vein, I’d like to add nonmonogamy specific questions that can help you build a deeper understanding of who you are wanting to be in a relationship with.  These questions are more likely to be used on a first date, but I’ve also come across people who have been in relationship for years that could benefit from having a discussion around these questions.

  • What do you value most about being nonmonogamous?
  • What does your ideal set of relationships look like?
  • What do you like most about your other relationships or partners?
  • How do you manage your sexual health? (yes, this can be a first date question)
  • Do you ever feel jealous?  What tends to make you jealous?
  • Do you ever feel compersion?  What tends to make you compersive?
  • How do you handle competing needs among your partners?
  • How much do you want to know your metamours?
  • What have you learned about yourself as a nonmonogamous person?
  • How do you manage communication with your partners and metamours?

Other Questions To Take On A Date

Aside from falling in love, here are a few additional questions that could be good to ask early on in dating to make sure you align long-term with someone.

  • Do you have any bucket list items you’d like to do?
  • What are the three most important aspects of a good relationship?
  • How do you define romance? Do you think of yourself as romantic?
  • What is your favorite thing to do when you have a night to yourself?
  • What do you like to do the most with your partners?

There are of course a lot of other great questions to ask on your first date.  What are some of your favorite questions to ask?