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What’s the State of YOUR Union?

surveyMany of us take our primary relationships for granted.  But every now and again, it’s time to assess just how we’re doing as friends, lovers, co-parents, and all-around partners.  Here’s a quick check-up/check-in that you can do on your own, or even better, with your partner.  That way, you can see how your answers (and your experiences) match up.1)  Do you feel emotionally connected to your partner most of the time?

The reason I say “most” and not “all” of the time is that it’s a much more realistic standard.  We can’t expect people to be 100% available, but are most of our emotional needs being met?

And what I mean by emotional connection is that you have an abiding sense of closeness.  For some couples, this is created and stoked verbally (could be banter, or sharing of confidences); for other couples, it might be more non-verbal (affection, snuggling, sex.)   There’s no one way to accomplish closeness.  You just know it when you feel it.

Some people get used to a certain level of disconnection in their relationships and they either stop noticing or questioning it.  It’s a similar process to how organisms adapt to a low-oxygen environment.  But that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy adaptation.

2)  Is your partner emotionally available?  Are you able to talk to him/her about what’s bothering you?  Are you available and responsive to your partner?

Successful communication begins with a spirit of openness.  It’s important to look at whether you’re embodying that spirit, as well as what your partner is bringing to the interactions.  If you don’t feel you can approach your partner, you’ll often bottle things up and they’ll come out in other unproductive ways.  That might look like passive-aggression, or it might look like irritability.  You might internalize it and just feel highly anxious often, without apparent cause.

3)  Do you feel like your partner has your back?  Is he/she reliable and supportive?

When you feel like your partner is there for you, you’ll function better in all areas.  When you feel like you can’t truly count on him or her, everything will feel more stressful and overwhelming.

Sometimes feeling highly stressed is an indication that our primary relationship is off-kilter and needs some examination and adjustment.

4)  Are you an effective domestic team?

I’m talking about parenting, but also about just household responsibilities.  If one person is shouldering a lot of the burden, it’s normal to become overwhelmed and resentful.

In regards to parenting, think about whether you are truly a united front, or if you only think you are. Sometimes we inadvertently undermine each other as parents without even realizing it.  We might presume agreement and then behave as if we’ve already achieved it.

Having overt discussions about differences in parenting style can help.

5)  Are you satisfied with your sexual intimacy?

Be honest with yourself and your partner about how often you’re having sex versus how often you want it, and whether you want what you’re getting.   Sometimes couples are in a rut and they’re afraid to say anything about it.  Sometimes they have mismatches in terms of libido but one partner just goes along rather than make waves.  Sexual fulfillment is about knowing yourself.  Take a non-judgmental inventory of yourself as a sexual being, and look at how that’s playing out in your relationship.

If other issues are making it hard to want to be close to your partner, start working on those.

Hopefully, by answering these five questions, you can move toward a stronger union.

Couple talking image available from Shutterstock.

What’s the State of YOUR Union?

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2014). What’s the State of YOUR Union?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Jan 2014
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