Ramon Presson

Today is Aug. 26 but it feels like March 156, the sensation that we’ve been repeating the same day over and over since mid-March. That’s when the coronavirus established itself throughout the U.S., and the real possibility of contracting the highly contagious disease forced inside our homes with our hoarded rolls of toilet paper and one small precious bottle of hand sanitizer.  

For months now it feels like we’ve been living out an updated version of the movie “Groundhog Day,” except that unlike Bill Murray’s character, we’re not learning to play the piano, master conversational French, or carve intricate ice sculptures. 

Since the spring many couples have been adjusting to working remotely from home. While such couples have been able to trade long commutes and uncomfortable work clothes for sweatpants and a Zoom call from the kitchen table, they’ve also encountered a challenge at the end of the day—what to talk about.  When you spend almost all of your waking hours with the same person (spouse and/or children) under the same roof, asking “How was your day?” at the supper table seems rather pointless because you pretty much already know the answer.

In an article on the Prepare-Enrich blog, author Ann Malmberg proposes five questions to replace the tired standard “How was your day?”  

I’m including Malmberg’s five questions here with some slight edits, along with a bonus question from Dr. Gary Chapman

  1. What is something that made you smile or laugh today? 
  1. If your day was a meal/song/color, what would it be and why? 
  2. What is something that you learned today? 
  3. What is something that gave you a sense of accomplishment today? 
  4. Is there something you’d like to do before this day ends? 
  5. What is something that happened today and how did you feel about it? 

These questions are great alternatives to “How was your day?” regardless of whether one, both, or neither spouse is working from home.  

Here are a few recommendations regarding use of the questions:

  1. Greet your partner warmly when they come through the door at the end of the work day, but do NOT hit them with one of these questions before they have a chance to settle in and get relaxed. 
  2. The supper table is an ideal time to ask each other a question or two from the list. Some couples prefer to wait until later in the evening when they can relax together after the kids are in bed. 
  3. Actually, these are good questions that you can ask your children. Again, the supper table provides a great location and time to make the questions a family sharing time. You’ll be surprised how interested children are, not only in answering the questions themselves, but in hearing your responses as well.
  4. One or two questions is sufficient. There’s no need to ask/answer all five or six questions. There are a few ways to do this:
  • You select a question to answer and your partner answers the same question.
  • You and your partner can each select a different question.
  • Write the questions on index cards and shuffle them. Each spouse takes a card and responds to the question. (With a family this method speeds up the question selection process.)
  • Take the questions in order based on the day of the week: Q1: Monday, Q:2 Tuesday, and so forth through Saturday. On Sunday you can take a break from the questions or create your own 7th question.

By the way, I co-authored a trilogy of books titled “101 Conversation Starters” with Dr Gary Chapman that provide fun, interesting, and engaging questions for couples and for families.  They are published in book form as well as in a deck of cards.  

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at [email protected]

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