Couples often come to see me mired in conflict and destructive patterns of communication. Breaking free from these cyclical and insane interactions requires one, if not both, partners to have the courage to take a risk and do something other than bring up every past failure of their spouse. I often attempt to steer a couple in another difficult direction, only difficult because looking at ourselves and our mistakes is hard enough and only made harder when our spouse, the person we want to be most vulnerable with, is pointing out our failures in what seems like a daily routine while we do the same.
Well, if you dare to be different and change things up from the cyclical dysfunction, whether you are mired in conflict or not, then I have a way to focus your energy towards change. Consider asking your spouse these two questions and commit to doing so daily for 10 days at least, if not longer. Here are the questions and a little explanation.
Question 1: How are you?
Simple enough, right? In fact, I would bet most of you believe you ask your spouse this question everyday. However, you probably ask something closer to “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” The big difference in the subject- your spouse vs. the day. The day does not have feelings or a being, but your spouse does and knowing how your spouse is feeling (sad, angry, lonely, afraid, hurt, glad, guilty, shameful) versus how what they did (went here, then here, did this) or their state of being (frustrated, tired, depressed, happy) does not tell you anything about the heart. So, my challenge to you is to be on a black ops type of mission for your spouse’s heart. Now, on to the follow up question….
Question 2: What can I do to help you today?
Another simple question and another one we may think we often do, but instead, we get tripped up because we ask our slightly off question above “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” followed by complaint, which we meet with solution because we desire to “fix” the problem. Rather, when we are willing to give up control to ask about our spouse’s heart and to let them, by the nature of this question, “point to where it hurts”, then we can actually be helpful and love our spouse well. This prevents us from doing acts of service that go unnoticed because we do not know what our spouse’s deepest need. It also prevents us from shutting down our spouse by trying to fix something we perceive to be their problem that may not be the problem. For example, the boss at work may be a jerk, but your unsolicited opinion about what to do or worse, taking the matter into your hands, will usually not address the real issue.
Bottom line, we try so hard to fix, modify, and adjust our spouse, and often times very little to hear the heart of our spouse to know what we can actually do improve the relationship and to stop the prosecution of our spouse about their marital failures.
Don’t believe it will work? Well, I cannot convince you, but here is at least one person’s testimony as to how asking a simple question can change the marital dynamic. And if your marriage needs help putting this into practice, I would love to help. See more here.