Relationship journal prompts – 5 ways to use your journal to navigate love and relationships

Relationships are an integral part of life; relationship expert and psychotherapist Esther Perel says, “the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives”.

But relationships are seldom, if ever, straightforward.

Whether you are colleagues, teammates, friends, family, love interests, or long-time partners, your relationships are bound to go through ups and downs, and things can get quite complicated.

Here are five ways to use your journal to untangle the complex web of thoughts and emotions that build up in relationships, strengthen the relationships that matter most, and let go of those that no longer serve you. Relationship journal prompts can help you navigate relationships and contribute to personal growth.

Relationship journal prompts with couple standing on the beach at sunset

1. Capture and explore new relationships

Author and life-writing expert Amber Lee Starfire recommends journaling during every stage of your relationship, even at the start when everything seems to be rainbows and sunshine.

In her article, 10 journal writing prompts for new love, she explains that journaling allows you to express and clarify your feelings safely and privately, and it allows you to celebrate the newness of the connection.

Journaling can also help to give you a clearer picture of new relationships, what they mean to you, and whether or not to pursue them, emphasizing the importance of possibly maintaining an own journal to explore these personal experiences.

Take note of your first impressions

A great place to start is by writing down your first impressions of the person. Try to give evidence of the qualities you’ve noted. For example, He is kind. I know this because he takes good care of his elderly neighbor

Be as honest as possible. Along with the positives, try to include any qualities you don’t particularly like and those that might cause concern. This way, you’ll get a clearer picture of the person rather than simply viewing them through rose-colored glasses. And you’ll be better positioned to decide whether you want to pursue a relationship with them.

When you check back on this list in a few months or even years, you might be surprised at how accurate your initial observations were.

Plan your time together

Your journal is a great place to jot down ideas for outings and/or dates you’d like to go on and for making plans to ensure these go smoothly. 

You could also list the books, music, and movies you’d like to share with your new friend or partner.

Record the early days of your relationship

Use your journal to record the early days of your relationship and all the great times you’ve shared. Include notes and pictures that will remind you of the movies, books, songs and places you both love. You can look back at this record in years to come and relive those precious memories.

Love heart lights for relationship journal prompts
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Deepen emotional intimacy and strengthen existing relationships

You can use your journal to express gratitude, discover ways to nurture, strengthen, and heal existing relationships, and deepen emotional intimacy to foster a healthy relationship.

  • Review your relationships: Reflect on your connections with others. Consider what you love about each relationship, focusing on emotional intimacy, shared values, and mutual support.

Review your relationships

By reviewing your existing relationships in your journal, you’ll be able to clarify what’s truly important to you, what you enjoy about the relationship, your struggles, how you can overcome these, and how you can build on the relationship. 

Start by answering the following questions(aka relationship journal prompts):

  • What do I love about the relationship?

  • What would I like to change about it?

  • Do I feel valued/seen/heard?

  • Does this person take an interest in my life? 

  • Do I take an interest in their life?

  • What am I grateful for about this relationship?

  • Do we share the same values?

  • What are our shared values?

  • What do I want from the relationship moving forward?

  • Do we want the same things from the relationship?

  • What can I do to grow and nurture this relationship?

Vent anger and frustration

As parenting coach and bestselling author, Christine Marion-Jolicoeur says in her HuffPost article, using your journal to rant or vent when you’re angry is an excellent alternative form of release, rather than shouting at the person concerned. Plus, with your anger well and truly vented in your journal, you’ll be free to discuss the issue calmly and compassionately that won’t jeopardize your relationship.

So, next time you’re angry or upset, reach for your journal and do some stream-of-consciousness writing to let it all out – write whatever comes to mind, no matter how childish, angry, or nonsensical it may be. Keep going until you’ve got a clear picture of the situation, the emotions it stirred up, and what you can do about it. 

Once you’ve got it all on the page, take some time to figure out what’s at the heart of the issue. Explore the following in your journal:

  • What made you so upset? 

  • Why do you think this upset you so much? 

  • Is this a one-off thing, or has it been happening a lot?

  • How do you feel about the way you responded to the situation? 

  • What can you do in the future to handle things better if this happens again? 

  • What would you like the other person to do differently in the future?

  • Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Is there a reason that they are behaving like this? Should you try to find out what that reason is?

  • How can you tell them not to do this in a way that won’t upset or offend them?

Accentuate the positive

Another powerful way to use your journal is to focus on the positive things about your relationships.

A 2020 study by Dizon showed that using a journal to record positive attributes and express gratitude for your partner mindfully significantly increased positive problem-solving, cultivated healthier patterns of conflict resolutions, facilitated dialogue, and improved interpersonal relationships. 

Go ahead and give it a try. Use your journal to write down the following:

  • The things you love about your partner/friends/family members. For example:

    • Three things I admire about my friend are…

    • I love it when my partner does…

    • My sister is great because she…

  • Express your gratitude for who they are and what they do. For example:

    • I am grateful for the way my partner always helps with the housework.

    • I am grateful for my friend picking the kids up from school when I was sick.

    • I am grateful for the support of my family when I was studying for my exam.

  • Ideas for spending time with the people you love and care about. For example, outings, dates, movie nights, and catch-ups.

Start a couple’s journal

Relationship therapists, such as Janae Munday, LCSW, recommend journal writing with your partner to deepen romantic relationships. Your couple’s journal provides a shared space where both partners can express their feelings, make plans, send love and encouragement to each other, and much more.

Get together to write in and read your journal daily, weekly, or whenever you decide is right for you. Some fun and rewarding ways to use your couple’s journal include:

  • Capturing your first year together. Bullet journals are great for this, allowing you to get creative by adding pictures, coasters, love notes, keepsakes and more.

  • Give each other compliments and state what you’re grateful for about each other.

  • Writing love letters to each other.

  • Write down your plans for the future. For example:

  • Holidays you want to take

  • Adventures you’d like to share

  • Things you’d like to accomplish together

  • Wedding plans

  • Honeymoon ideas

  • House-buying plans

  • Family plans.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to maintain a couple’s journal. It’s all about fostering open communication, mutual understanding, and respecting each other’s thoughts and feelings.

Keeping the spark alive

In Esther Perel’s excellent and candid TED talk, The Secret to desire in long-term relationships, she points out how getting a clear picture of your personal needs when it comes to desire, helps you to understand how to have a more satisfying long-term intimate relationship with your partner. 

When using your journal to discover what desire means to you, you could start by exploring the following:

  • I shut myself off/ turn off my desires when…

  • I turn myself on when…

You’ll notice that these are very different from “you” focussed statements (e.g., ‘you turn me on/off when…’)  that place the responsibility for our lack of desire on the other person. Here, we’re taking responsibility for our own feelings and desires.

To ensure that your relationship continues to meet both partners’ needs for intimacy, you could use your couple’s journal to share these needs and desires. 

Your couple’s journal will also be useful when planning intimate moments. As odd as it may sound, planning is important for perpetuating intimate relationships over the long term. 

Esther points out that, if you want to keep the flame of desire burning over the long term, it’s important to accept that ‘committed sex is premeditated (rather than spontaneous) sex’. 

By planning intimate moments and taking time to build up intimacy over longer periods (days or weeks rather than hours or minutes), instead of waiting around expecting desire to appear suddenly, you’ll be cultivating a sexual relationship that satisfies the needs of both individuals, deepening your connection.

Deciding whether to stay or leave a relationship considering past relationships

Self-reflection is crucial when contemplating whether to stay in or leave a relationship, as it aids in processing feelings, understanding oneself better, and fostering communication. Your journal can be a great place to work through your thoughts, feelings, and emotions when deciding whether to end a relationship.

In some cases, it’s clear that relationships should be severed – particularly if they have been abusive, manipulative, or controlling. (If you think you might be in this type of relationship, please do seek help from a professional relationship counselor.)

Nevertheless, it’s all too easy to get stuck in agonizing indecision. In her Psychology Today article, Dr Kathy McCoy states that, even under the worst circumstances, it isn’t easy to decide to leave an unhappy, dysfunctional relationship.

Staying in the relationship might mean making some changes and working out the issues. This can be really challenging. On the other hand, letting go can be painful, especially when you have formed a strong attachment to the person and/or invested a great deal in the relationship.

Journaling is a great way to break through your indecision by clarifying your thoughts and feelings and working through any doubts, fears, and anxiety you might be experiencing.

If you’re unsure about whether a relationship is worth saving, take out your journal and try answering these questions based on Dr McCoy’s piece:

  • Is my health and/or safety at risk?

  • Are my children in jeopardy?

  • Is my partner/spouse willing to consider changes that would make it possible to continue the relationship?

  • Am I prepared to make changes, too?

  • Have patterns developed that indicate volatile and controlling behavior?

  • Does my partner violate boundaries (e.g., by reading my emails or texts)?

  • Is my partner trying to isolate me from my friends and/or family?

  • Do apologies and olive branches come mostly from me?

  • Do periods of calm almost always follow times of conflict?

  • Does my partner see this behavior as problematic?

4. Getting over a break-up

According to this article in the New York Times, writing about your feelings is not just for teenagers and song writers. In fact, studies show that expressing your feelings in stream-of-consciousness (expressive) writing can help to mend a broken heart no matter what your age or occupation.  

Researchers have shown that writing allows you to get a clearer picture of who you are as an individual, what you do, and how you spend your time outside of the relationship. This restores your sense of self and reduces feelings of loneliness and emotional intrusion.

So, whether you’re mourning the end of a friendship or a love affair, it’s worth getting out your journal and writing down all the varied, and at times conflicting, thoughts and emotions that bubble up during the grief process.

Here are a few ways you can use your journal to get over a breakup:

  • Express your rage, anger, disappointment and pain

  • Work through your hurt

  • Unearth the lessons learned during the relationship and through the breakup

  • Make a list of friends and family you can turn to for help

  • Explore what’s really important to you in a relationship and as an individual

  • Make plans for your future (that don’t include revenge 😊).

Woman sitting in a chair on a verandah and writing in a notebook

5. Nurturing your relationship with yourself

Journaling can help strengthen the most important relationship you have with yourself, including setting personal ‘relationship goals’ to nurture this vital connection. We’ve examined the many mental health benefits of journaling before. Here, we’ll focus on just a few ways that you can use your journal to help deepen your relationship with yourself.

Appreciate your positive attributes

Remind yourself of your positive qualities, the good things you do, and your good intentions toward others by writing them down in your journal each day. Celebrate who you are and the things you’ve achieved. In this way, your journal will help to build and strengthen your feelings of self-worth and self-love. 

Plan times to recharge

Grab your journal and plan to spend quality time alone, doing the things you enjoy. These outings will replenish your inner well and help you feel more energized, creative, and grounded. They can take many forms, such as solo walks, visits to art galleries, or simply time spent alone in a park on a blanket with a sketchpad, book, or even your journal – whatever brings you joy or inspires you!

Evaluate and change the stories you live by

Psychologists in this New York Times article agree on the value of writing as a way of reframing our negative experiences, exposing the stories we tell ourselves, and reconstructing them to uncover the personal truths we’ve been wilfully or otherwise ignoring. 

In the article, James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas and thought leader in expressive writing, says, ‘The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go. I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.’

In addition to the narrative/stream-of-consciousness writing that will help to uncover your narrative, you can use your journal to dig deep into your world by asking and answering these questions:

  • What are my values?

  • What inspires me? 

  • What do I enjoy most in life?

  • What do I want from life? 

  • What do I want to achieve?

  • What does success mean to me?

  • What would I do if I could do anything at all?

  • What is holding me back? How can I change or overcome these things?

  • What am I grateful for?

  • What does love mean to me?

  • What am I looking for from my relationships:

    • With my family?

    • With my friends?

    • With a romantic partner?

  • What frightens me about relationships?

  • What are my deal breakers (boundaries) when it comes to relationships?

How Journaling Can Help Strengthen Your Relationship

Personal journal practices can assist you in understanding your emotions better. It’s considered to be able to improve and enhance your ability to think independently. It is used during long-lasting relationships to improve communication, deepen understanding, and reinforce bonds.

The study found that most couples define healthy relationships through communication and journalling. Through journaling with one another, you will learn how to explore feelings and express thoughts better.

Deepen Emotional Intimacy and Connection

If people are interested in building relationships, their main focus can always be fixing something wrong. A healthy relationship requires a healthy focus to address weaknesses, but remembering what a person loves and appreciates is also crucial.

Using journaling, you explore how you were first attracted to someone. Writing about what you admire about a person or company might put things in perspective and help you focus on other important things. Sharing these thoughts with a partner can strengthen an emotional relationship and build confidence.

FAQs

What are relationship journal prompts?

Relationship journal prompts are simply writing down thoughts around your relationship. The act of writing things down, can help you process thoughts and emotions of how you might be feeling about the relationships in your life.

What are love journal prompts?

Journaling is an activity that focuses on reflecting on your relationships with your partner. This prompt may be useful to you for exploring different aspects of your relationship, such as communication, appreciation challenges, and plans for the future.

What is the 3-year hump in a relationship?

This three-year itch describes challenges in relationships with third-party vendors. It argues that relationships usually end in the third year despite the initial beginning of conflict.

What is the 5-year relationship problem?

It’s been called the five-year fizzle, and the cause can sometimes be related to relationship pain points such as the breakdown of trust and communication. We identified the reasons for this rift within the relationship, including —the need for cash and the financial burden of—psychological Issues.

In Summary

Journaling about your relationship can be an incredibly valuable tool for building self-awareness, improving communication, and deepening your connection with your partner. By reflecting on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences through these relationship journal prompts, you invite greater mindfulness into your partnership.

Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to journal – the process is highly personal. Don’t judge yourself or put pressure on reaching profound insights every time you write. Show up with an open mind and heart, and let the words flow freely.

Over time, you may notice patterns emerging, both positive and negative, that shed light on the dynamics within your relationship. Use this awareness as a catalyst for having open, honest dialogues with your partner about your needs, boundaries, hopes, and aspirations as a couple.

Embrace the journey of learning, growing, and evolving together through the power of the written word.

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