5 Questions to Replace “How was your day?”

When you finally get the chance to reunite and reconnect with your partner at the end of the day, what do you say?

“How was your day?”

There’s definitely nothing wrong with this question! It shows you’re interested in each other’s daily lives and can be a great way to start a more in-depth conversation. But when you both start asking the question mindlessly and responding with one-word answers, it might be time to say hey, we can do better!

Therapists and researchers John Gottman and Bill Doherty both believe that “rituals of connection” are an important tool in nurturing successful relationships. Create a daily ritual where you intentionally reconnect each evening, whether it’s over dinner or after the kids are in bed.

To get you started, here are five questions to ask instead of “How was your day?”

  • What made you laugh out loud today?
    This might sound like a silly question, but more than likely it will lead to sharing a story, whether it’s to provide context or explain what happened. Out of this you might learn more about your partner, increasing your connection.
  • If your day was a meal/song/color, what would it be and why?
    Here’s another question you can have fun with, but that can actually give you insight into the flow of each other’s day
  • What gave you a sense of accomplishment today?
    Sure, you might find out about a big work project or the third day in a row of hitting their step goal, but the conversation might take a deeper dive as well. Maybe they don’t know how to answer because they’ve been struggling with balancing work and home responsibilities, and that’s okay. The goal is to have a more meaningful conversation or at the very least give yourselves the opportunity for one.
  • How would you like today to end?
    Maybe their day was so busy they didn’t have a spare moment to catch their breath, and now all they need is some quiet time to relax. Maybe it was a bad day and they just want leave it all behind them and play games with the kids. Either way, it gives them an opportunity to tell you exactly what they need – and an opportunity for you to help make it happen.
  • What did you learn today?
    Sure, this might sound more like something you’d ask your kids after school, but hey, we adults learn new things, too! Maybe it’s an interesting factoid from that new podcast they’re listening to. Or perhaps they learned they shouldn’t stay up so late reading (they were dragging today) or to always make sure the blender cover is on tight. Whatever it is, you can hopefully also learn something new about each other.

When we reunite with our partner at the end of a long day, it’s easy to let mundanity creep in. But research shows that intention around creating and engaging in rituals of connection has a profound impact on the quality of your relationship. We think it’s worth the effort.


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15 thoughts to “5 Questions to Replace “How was your day?””

  1. Those are deep questions. When people are winding down after their day, they don’t want to have to think through those kinds of questions. I wouldn’t.

    1. I certainly understand Suz’s comment. And, as a guy, hope that is true, but that would be the easy way out. After 38 years of marriage, I am fine if my lady doesn’t want to share much about her day especially with the 20,000 decisions she makes daily (as lead RN she runs an outpatient pulmonary clinic), And sometimes she dumps the Caterpillar super scoop commercial dump-truck on me and yes, I have learned to just listen buried underneath that load. Yet I do want her to know that I truly care and would love some great insight into the realities of her day. I have found once she knows I know, she can really relax and let her hair down, so to speak.

      As her husband, I really want her to know I am interested in her days and understand the challenges in them. And she has come to know that I really am not just trying to make conversation with her but trying to connect with all that comes home with her from her day. So, while I do have to be careful with the asking of thinking questions, she had come to learn that it is my way to connect more deeply with her as her supportive husband, and frankly her responses fuel my prayers for her. I have come to discover, it is how I am able to help her continue forward.

      She has learned that when I ask her about her day, I really do want to know. Do you? And should I get a lackluster response, I try to ask her another question along the lines of this blog that assures her I really want to know.

      The funny thing that comes to mind now is that she is retiring and now if I ask, her day might fully be in response to “our day” together and what did and didn’t happen. Hopefully a good transition, but only time will tell…

      1. Yes! Venting is something that needs to be done after a day in a high stress job. My husband and I sit on the deck in the evening and talk about our day.

        What I don’t want is someone asking “If your day was a color, what would it be?” or “What gave you a sense of accomplishment?” Yikes! That makes me cringe.

    2. I definitely feel that way sometimes! I’m an introvert who has a very extroverted job (restaurant manager/operator) and I am always “on” throughout the day, so when I get home I often need to recharge by reading a book or doing something quiet on my own. And if that’s the case, making sure to tell my partner how I’m feeling has helped a lot. But I do want to make sure that I help her wind down when she needs it as well, and she likes to talk to me to wind down after a hard day. Meeting in the middle is helpful, and I can often answer the “What made you laugh out loud” question pretty easily 🙂 All I want to say is that I feel you on a personal level here, and I believe that there are days when this will be impossible and days when this will be a breath of fresh air. God bless!

  2. These are great. I think they depend on who the spouses are individually and together.

    One thought is that three of them take a level of analysis that a worn-out spouse may not be ready to provide (or that a rambling spouse like myself might take a good long while to get around to answering). For my and my wife, we usually discuss what the evening will look like. We might have something funny to share (but not think to share it) – So I like that question. But the other questions are somewhat intellectually abstract and (since we are so different in our abstract thinking) would probably mire us in over-analysis – either of what to say in response, or of how to understand what is said.

    One question that works similarly to, “what made you laugh out loud today,” without requiring laughter in the day to answer it is simply, “what did you do today?” It is easy to begin to answer it, just retracing the steps of the day, but a lot can come from this. Often thoughts about what happened in the day will be told along with the narrative of the day. The key is to really listen when your spouse begins to answer. The more you carefully listen (and they know it), the more they may open up and tell you about their day. And listen reflectively. And when they are done, perhaps ask follow-up questions.

    There’s my thought for a penny. And I’ve proved my point about my own lengthy answers to simple questions.

  3. Yes very interesting. Very easy just to say “fine”but more difficult to stop and listen to the response. It would make your partner feel important.

  4. I like how these questions are getting couples to think beyond the typical ”How was your day” question. It is easy to get in the routine of ”Hey how are you” “Fine” conversation and that is so boring! You could even ask something like, “What was different today than yesterday?” or “What was the best part of your day?” I ask my kids these questions, but I could certainly ask my husband them too. Just be sure to stop, look, and listen when they are answering.

  5. This is just my reaction but I’ve just retired but had a stressful job dealing with people in tricky situations all day long. When I got home I wanted low key chat not to be asked deep questions about my day; it was much later in the evening when I might be ready to talk about the day.. I think I might have snapped at my husband if he asked me 2, 3 or 5. 1 and 4 would have been ok. But as I say that’s just how I react

    1. I think the key is that these probably shouldn’t be the type of question asked the moment your spouse walks in the door from a busy day. We all need time to unwind from the day and do that in different ways. With two boys at home, these are the types of questions that I might try to ask after they have gone to bed.

    2. I can understand the perspective of not wanting to get involved in deep, thought-provoking dialogue after a long day. Something I’ve practiced for years in my own home is the concept of “Me Time” – for the first 30 minutes of a person’s arrival home, he/she is allowed private alone time to decompress (after a simple greeting, of course). During this time, the person who is “decompressing” is also not permitted to interrupt anyone who’s already been home – this allows everyone to adjust and acclimate better for the upcoming evening. I think allowing “Me Time” prior to any in depth conversation may better set the stage for the connection we’d all appreciate.

  6. As this pandemic drags on, my husband and I are both home all day with me working remotely in our home office and him being the primary caregiver to our son. He’s in the midst of a making a career transition, so at times, an innocent question can become him feeling like he has to justify what he’s been working on. Most of the time though we’re able to launch into a really good discussion and share a few laughs. I like the question on “what did you learn today” as he’s taking online courses and practicing new skills, so there’s usually something he’s excited to share. Praying that we’ll continue to communicate clearly and affirm each other in our efforts to continue learning and growing during this very weird and disorienting time.

  7. Very interesting perspective on how to connect in conversation on a deeper level at the end of a long day. I think one and four are safe questions to begin with if you’re not in the habit of diving deep with your spouse already.

  8. I RECOMMEND A DIFFERENT APPROACH: BE THE ONE TO INITIATE MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS WITH YOUR SPOUSE! Instead of putting the burden on them by “asking” one of these questions, after reading this article yesterday I decided to be the one to “STRIKE UP THE CONVERSATION”. I started by mentioning that there are usually things that come up during the week that can either make a positive or a negative impression on us, and then I proceeded to share 2 comments that I had recently read on social media. He was extremely talkative and engaged, WOOHOO! Then I also mentioned that I had read THIS ARTICLE about having more meaningful conversations, He liked some of the ideas that were mentioned, and I felt that I had “passed the test”. WIN-WIN! HOWEVER if I had “put the ball in his court” to get the conversation started, it may have never happened. Trying to “solicit a response” from your spouse may result in hurt feelings if they’re not ready to engage in conversation. So let’s make life simpler by being the one to “model the behaviors” that we would like to see in our marriages and relationships. I’m very encouraged, and hopefully there won’t be too many more conversations in our home that start with “How was your day” and simply ending with “Fine” without really knowing how to take it a step further. Thanks and many blessings!

  9. Interesting questions. I feel like it might depend on the person as to whether these questions would be good to use or not. I do like 1 and 4 though 🙂 Some other questions that I’ve heard my sister-in-law ask her kids which we could probably ask our spouses too are:
    What was your favourite thing about today? and
    What are you thankful for?

  10. Thank you for the wonderful ideas of new questions and a different way to talk about the day!

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