In relationships, cultivating the fine art of asking pertinent questions opens up communication. Our genuine questions show interest and that we value what our partner experiences.
It is a great antidote to mind-reading, which is dangerous and dysfunctional. If we are arrogant enough to believe that we already know that our partner thinks, feels, and what motivates them to do what they do, we are already in trouble. Expressing our assumptions to them is likely to invite resistance because of the arrogance that is present. When we take the more humble stance of asking, it invites openness.
When we hold too tightly to our beliefs, assuming that they are facts, there is little room for investigation and learning. The mind can become as hard as concrete. By cultivating the fine art of asking questions of others and ourselves, we open up a vast potential for learning. Humility allows us to let go of limiting beliefs, receive feedback from others, make changes, and learn new things.
We are wise to not take issue with what they’ve said or imply that what they are saying is wrong. We are all entitled to our point of view. When we feel judged, we are not as willing to risk speaking the truth. By asking questions, and being sincere in our intention to welcome the emotional honesty that comes forth, we enhance our relationship.
Not arguing with a position stated by our partner does not necessarily imply agreement. In other words, “Just because I am not actively disagreeing with you, doesn’t mean that I am in agreement with what you’ve said.” When statements are provocative, we have the choice of redirecting the focus from an exchange of opinions to a committed inquiry into a deeper truth.
Here are some juicy questions to choose from:
- Do you think we have always been happy together, or have there been difficult times of conflict, frustration, and disappointment?
- Have there been major challenges in our relationship?
- Do you think we dealt with them well?
- Did you ever consider ending our relationship?
- If so, why and why didn’t you?
- What do you consider to be the most important aspects of our relationship?
- How well do you feel you deal with differences and how did you learn how to do this?
- How do you define a fair fight?
- What have you learned from me and how has this relationship changed you?
- What life experiences have we shared that have played an important role in the deepening and strengthening of our relationship?
- Did your experiences in your own family growing up help to prepare you for marriage?
- What activities do you feel strengthen the bond of our relationship?
- What qualities or aspects of mine do you most treasure?
- How do you deal with those aspects of my personality that you find aggravating or displeasing to you?
- What are your areas of remorse and regret?
- What are you looking forward to?
- On a scale of 0 to 10, what number do each of us give the level of trust in our partnership?
- What would it take on each of our parts to raise the number?
- On a scale of 0 to 10, what number would each of us give our emotional intimacy?
- What would it take on each of our parts to bring the number up?
- On a scale of 0 to 10, what number would each of us give our sexual intimacy?
- What it would take on each of our parts to bring the number up?
- Are you willing to be confronted about a way that you are not living up to your potential?
- What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?
- What advice or words of wisdom do you have for young people who are just starting out?
- How do you define commitment?
- If we were ever to break up, what do you think the deal-breaker issue would be?
- How well do you think we share power?
- Are there things that you do not disclose to me?
- What is the purpose of our relationship?
We ask questions to look within ourselves, to our own deeper experience, and to more deeply understand our partner. Every time our partner shares their experience with us, it provides us with another opportunity to not only know them better but to demonstrate our trustworthiness and respect.
We are wise when we welcome all contributions from our partner, even those that may be difficult to hear. An attitude to cultivate is “Thank you, I appreciate your contribution to our relationship. I value what you are saying. Your honesty is important to me because it allows me to know you more deeply and feel closer to you.”