This Deck Of Cards Amped Up The Intimacy With My S.O.

Photo: Courtesy of Karina Hoshikawa
With how #rough the dating scene is in the post-COVID-era of numerous apps and swipeable strangers, I'm not exactly envious of the single life right now. But, speaking as someone who's in a long-term relationship, being boo'd up isn't 24/7 bliss. Although I'm incredibly grateful to have found a partner who I'm head over heels for, after 6+ years, any couple can start to settle into a comfort-first routine when the chills and thrills of new love wear off. Since keeping the proverbial passion flame lit post-honeymoon phase is a dynamic pursuit, I'm constantly on the hunt for joint activities that will strengthen our bond and bring us closer. (Can you tell that I'm a Virgo who takes self-improvement maybe a little too seriously?) Luckily, my day job grants me the perks to test out some pretty awesome stuff — like when BestSelf Co's Intimacy Deck popped onto my radar and I was offered the chance to test it out IRL with my S.O.

You may remember BestSelf from fellow Shopping Team star Mercedes' review of the brand's 2022 journal-planner hybrid. With their glowing endorsement, I was even more amped up when the brand graciously sent me both its Intimacy and Relationship Decks — aka card games featuring 150 prompts that are designed to spark meaningful conversations with your partner. (There's also a 50-question Date Deck, which looks très fun for mingling singles.) Keep reading for my full review of both decks. Spoiler alert: they could be the best couples gift ever — second to a romantic vacation, of course. Oh, and we also scored you 20% off both card collections with our exclusive promo code REFINERY.
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Photo: Courtesy of Karina Hoshikawa

BestSelf's Intimacy Deck features deep, introspective questions that really made me and my partner think about our bond.

Similar to popular couples' card games like We're Not Really Strangers and Belgian psychotherapist (and modern-day relationship whisperer) Esther Perel's Where Should We Begin, BestSelf's Intimacy Deck features deep, introspective questions that really made me and my partner think about our bond. ("This isn't a sex dice thing, right?" he said before we got started.)

Anyway, we opened a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (not by any means required, but made for a fun night in) and got to work. It began with us taking turns randomly picking a card for each other from a chosen category. All of the categories were so good, it genuinely made it fun to choose a different one each time; "Random" brought the most laughs, but even I learned some new things about him with the "About You" prompts: "When you experience stress or overwhelm, how do you like to be supported?" An hour flew by with us asking questions, and by the end of the night, I felt closer to him than in a long time. The feels!
Photo: Courtesy of Karina Hoshikawa

Compared to the Intimacy Deck, my experience of the Relationship Deck covered more pragmatic facets of coupledom.

Compared to the Intimacy Deck, my experience of the Relationship Deck covered more pragmatic facets of coupledom; topics included "Finances," "Work," and "Health" alongside ones like "Mindfulness" and "Personal Development." What I really liked about this deck is that it felt perfect for us, as a couple that shares an apartment and rescue pup. A couple of cards made us reconsider our dynamics personally and professionally in a way we hadn't before; like "How do you envision the best version of yourself?" or "Does it matter if one person earns more than the other in our relationship?".
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Final Thoughts

Depending on your partner, the act of talking about the relationship itself might not be something that comes easily. While these decks are ultimately supposed to be a fun, modern way to spark meaningful conversations, the truth is that it can be very vulnerable to answer these — especially if there is past trauma in the relationship. That's not to say that there aren't any fun, sexy questions in the mix — "Describe our first kiss" brought some of the best memories we've shared — but it's definitely something to keep in mind before diving in. As an avid journaler and professional over-sharer, I've always felt comfortable expressing my emotions. My more mercurial partner, on the other hand, is generally more guarded with his feelings — and, therefore, can struggle with being candid. In the end, playing both card games encouraged him to come out of his intimacy shell in a way that was both surprising and very meaningful.

At $25 per deck, this is already something I'm planning on gifting to my friends in various stages of coupledom — I bet the Date Deck would be perfect via FaceTime and Zoom, or for keeping on a coffee table to get to know someone new IRL.
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