Curiosity: One Skill That Will Save Your Marriage

You may be thinking, “How can curiosity save a marriage?”

BINGO.  Just that one question can kick the pre-frontal cortex of your brain into gear to find better answers and solutions to any challenge you may face in your relationship.

The challenge is that most of us have not been trained to ask good questions.  And so, its not a natural way of communicating.  At least not any more.

I invite you to think of your kids when they were young.  Or if you don’t have kids, I invite you to think about your young nieces, nephews, or neighbours’ kids. How good are they at asking questions?  Most kids are soaking up information like sponges, so they continually ask questions. It is natural for them because:

Curiosity builds capability

I remember how Jamie and Brad (our sons) asked questions when they were youngsters. These are farm kids and there was a continual barrage of:

  • Why is it dark?
  • What is that machine for?
  • Why are those 2 dogs stuck together?
  • How does the spider make that string?
  • How does that work?
  • Why does the egg come out of there?

These were fabulous questions because the boys did not know the answers. When Carol and I were paying attention, we’d take the time to give them a good answer, which often had some additional questions for them.  This started a curious conversation where we all learned things.  Or if we were at the kitchen table during our daily family meals, one of us would run for the encyclopedias for answers. Even though we didn’t understand it at the time, these conversations increased trust and solidified our relationships.  We were there to support each other to learn and succeed.

Curiosity builds capability

However, we also “told” them a lot of things, rather than allowing them choice, or to learn on their own.

  • Sit down now.
  • Don’t spill your milk.
  • Put those clothes on.
  • Be quiet!

Unfortunately, this “telling” often led to them shutting down and the curious conversation stopped.

Curiosity builds capability

That brings us to the purpose of this article.  It works the same way in your relationship with your partner at home (and others in your family, workplace, and community).

As kids, many of us did a great job of learning how to be grown-ups.  When we finally get there, we know how to be in control and assert power.  Our job is to tell others what to do, how to think, what to say, how to act, and even how to feel. One of the most demeaning things we learned is to tell others they are wrong and stupid.

Oh, we ask questions.  However, they are usually ones to which we already know the “right” answer. May times, we preface our questions with “Why,” which tends to put the other person on the defensive, whereby they must counter-attack to prove their rightness and your wrongness.  Or they shut down. The conversation ends. Trust and rapport are depleted.

Curiosity builds capability

How, then, can curiosity save your marriage?

As a coach, I’m not going to tell you what to do.  Instead, here are some questions to ponder as you search for insights about how you can use your curiosity to enhance your marriage capability.

First, some Guidelines for genuine curiosity

I invite you to keep in mind that good questions:

  • work best when they are open-ended, which means they invite thought and a dialogue, rather than a “yes” or “no.”
  • are only valuable if you don’t know the answer.
  • can be made more powerful when you ensure your body language, tone of voice, and facial expression are kind, respectful, and … curious.
  • build trust and rapport ONLY if you LISTEN to the answer – listen to understand.

Questions for you to ponder:

  • What questions could you ask to learn about your partner’s dreams and desires for the future (i.e. way of living, work/career, family, community, location, relationships, etc.)?
  • What words might you use to gain additional clarification and even go deeper and further?
  • How might you find out where you fit in the picture and how you can support him/her?
  • How can you learn about working together toward a shared vision?
  • In what ways will these conversations strengthen your relationship?
  • What might be left behind as you focus on what you both are wanting to be, do, and have in the future?
  • How will it feel to have curiosity as a natural way of communicating?
  • How will you celebrate your capability growth?

Curiosity builds capability

Can curiosity save a marriage?  If done with conscious intention and accountability, absolutely it can.  With genuine curiosity, the capability, trust, and love continue to grow every day.  It’s fun too, but don’t let that deter you.

What are you going to do now?  I’m just curious.

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