I compiled the below questions to be used in an adult couple relationship to help facilitate bonding. When our partners see the depth of our true selves and know the intricacies of our narratives pertaining to our childhood, they are better available to be emotionally helpful. To be known and emotionally held by our partner produces a sense of felt safety which promotes independence, increased stress/pain tolerance, increased hopefulness, increased resilience, increased regulation, increased connection and increased courage.
The below questions are in someways similar to the ‘Adult Attachment Interview (AAI)” with the major difference being that I have infused: existentialism, cognitive theory, narrative theory, and others. Additionally, the purpose of this is somewhat different – the goal of the AAI is to assess attachment styles – the goal of this questionere is to create an experience which: promotes bonding, lends to practicing attunement, helps facilitate a coherent self-narrative, and increases grace in a relationship by adding depth and understanding to the reasons to why our partners ‘are the way they are’.
As a therapist I set up the exercise the same way I set up most of my attunement based interventions – direction on how to set up dyadic guided enactment that promote bonding can be found here:
the simple short explanations/directions are: be in the moment and focus on the emotional expressions of your partner by favoring affect over content = try and understand how they feel in the present moment and express compassion, kindness and warmth – do not correct or over-focus on the plot.
This exercise is also suited to help you and your partner in offering more grace to each other – by understanding the origin of behaviors, beliefs, and values we can offer more acceptance and less judgemental reactivity to our partners.
If you are going to be doing this exercise without a therapist there will be one of you answering the questions while the other one asks the questions. This will take almost 2 hours to complete and it is not necessary to finish the exercise in one sitting. In fact, fatigue should be noted, and if either partner is feeling full or overwhelmed, then it is a good idea to take a break.
Note on Semantics: There are many different combinations that make up our ‘primary caregivers’. In this post I use Mom and Dad, but following the answer to question one we must be aware that there could be: only one primary, three or more primaries, two moms or two dads, a grandmother and a mom, an older sister, or an uncle and an older brother etc. Kindly make sure to use the pronouns are appropriate to the person answering the question (ex. don’t say ‘dad’ if Grandma was the 2nd primary).
Early Childhood Questions to Promote Bonding
- Did you have siblings growing up and what was your relationship with them? Who were your primary caregivers? Where did you live?
- What were you like as a child? Was there anyone in particular who you felt really knew you at a deep level?
- What was your relationship like with your mother (primary) as a child? As a teen? As a young adult? What did your learn from your mother about parent/child relationships?
- What was your relationship like with your father as a child? As a teen? As a young adult? What did your learn from your Father (primary) about parent/child relationships?
- What was the parenting style of your caregivers? In what ways were your two primary caregivers’ styles the same and in what ways were they different?
- What aspects of your caregiver’s parenting style do you want to use with your own children? What styles to you feel strongly about not repeating with your children? Why?
- What were the most important rules that you were expected to follow growing up? Why do you believe that those rules were important in your family?
- What were some of the most important beliefs that guided your family’s actions when you were young? What behaviors, daily routines, values, and goals were important in your family? What did ‘Successful’ mean in your family = what was rewarded as a success in your childhood? How did your caregivers measure their own success?
- What did you learn about balancing work and recreation from your childhood?
- Tell me about friendships in your childhood? How did you perceive your caregivers friendships?
- What were some of the traditions unique to your family during your childhood?
- What happened in your childhood when you were sad or scared? What did your caregivers do when you were uncomfortable? Does this question bring up a specific memory?
- What happened in your childhood when you were excited or joyful? What did your caregivers do when you were expressing happiness? Does this question bring up a specific memory?
- How was love expressed between your parents? How was love expressed to you? Can you tell a story which symbolizes an effective way of expressing love to you – a time, or set of experiences when you felt really loved in your childhood?
- How were your needs addressed when you were a child such as: making sure you had clean clothes, healthy food, access to recreation, access to education, experiences with friends, spirituality, safety, medical assistance, help with hygiene etc.? Who took care of you and in what ways were you responsible for taking care of yourself? Were you responsible for taking care of anyone?
- What did affection, nurturance and supportiveness look like in your family? How were you comforted most effectively as a child? Can you tell me a story that symbolizes how affection was displayed in your family?
- What did conflict look like in your family? How did the adults handle conflict amongst themselves? How did the adults handle conflict with the children?
- How were emotions expressed in your family? What are some of the beliefs that your family had concerning having and/or expressing emotions? Were there any emotions that were not permitted? Is there a story that comes to mind about emotional expression?
- What was your experience of loneliness, neglect, and/or rejection as a child? What childhood stories come up when you hear this question?
- How did fear show up in your childhood? How were you affected by fear? What were you afraid of?
- Tell me about an experience that was particularly important to your development as a child… an experience that served to shape who you are?
- Tell me about an experience that was important in shaping the way that you relate to other people? How does this show up in your current relationships?
- From your childhood, and namely your parents’ relationships, what did you learn about variables such as: trust, romance, friendship, vulnerability, teamwork, support, emotionality, honesty, sexuality, and conflict resolution?
- Through all these questions have you arrived at any themes?
- How did your childhood shape your current answer to the questions: What is the purpose of life, what is the purpose of a parent, and what is the purpose of a relationship?