How well do you know your husband or wife? You may have thought you knew them quite well when you said “I do.” But there are things that have surprised you – both positive and negative. The things you’ve gone through in life have displayed parts of his/her character and heart you may never have suspected. Thoughtfully asking questions can be a fruitful way to understand your spouse better.
I’m not talking about a deposition-like Q&A session where you seek to “catch” your spouse in a self-incriminating disclosure. I’m talking instead about being truly interested in knowing him/her as a human being with a spirit of curiosity.
These questions are primarily to ponder in your heart, things to observe about your spouse. It’s about putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes and trying to see the world through his/her eyes. Some of these questions can also serve as a springboard for conversation where you both gain more understanding.
For example, a frustrated wife wrote to me about how alienated she felt when her husband never wanted to have sex. With further discussion it became clear he struggled with medication-related erectile dysfunction. When I pointed out to her how devastating such a problem might be to a man’s sense of masculinity, and how most men withdraw from pursuing something they believe they will fail at, the lightbulb went off in her mind. She could now approach him with understanding, and work together to optimize connection between them.
Whatever the state of your marriage, seeking to understand will make all the difference. Pondering these questions about your spouse can help you get there. Remember; it’s not about right or wrong; it’s about seeking to understand.
What makes him/her feel alive?
We each need certain kinds of fuel. When has your spouse seemed happiest? Does your spouse need calmness or excitement more? Do they enjoy large groups or intimate small gatherings? Do they flourish more in a crisis or during routine periods? What kinds of activities draw out their creativity?
What makes him/her feel empty or stressed?
Each person can become stressed or overwhelmed; what makes your spouse feel that way? Feeling out of control? Too many tasks on their plate? Being unappreciated at work? Not feeling challenged? Too much routine? Too much change? People (coworkers, children, customers, etc.) always asking for things?
What is he/she afraid of?
Such fears may be hidden or overt, but they likely direct much of your spouse’s behaviors. Are they afraid of missing out on things? Of broken relationships, or conflict? Not being successful in work/business? Getting more success than they can handle? Being disrespected? Failing health? Lack of money? An unknown future?
How does he/she see him/herself?
Self-concept begins early, long before you knew your spouse. But today, does your spouse see him/herself as capable? Successful? Smart? Dumb? Entitled? As a victim? Deserving of respect? Hopeless? Powerless? Powerful? As an imposter? Unappreciated? Loved? Unloved? Strong? Weak?
How does he/she see me?
This is not, at this point, about how you see yourself. But do you perceive that your spouse sees you as happy? Miserable? Encouraging? Moody? Angry? Manipulating? Safe? Unsafe? Needy? Demanding? Overly self-reliant? Distant? Encouraging? What would your spouse come to you for: insight? Companionship? Encouragement?
What does he/she want out of life?
This is not what you want for them, but your perception of what your spouse wants. Do they want to be understood? To be appreciated? Make a lot of money? Have a big family? Be left alone? Have an opportunity to truly create? To be famous? To have things set right? Or to make a difference?
What wounds does he/she carry?
Every human carries wounds. How has your spouse been wounded, and how have they dealt with those wounds? Were they neglected or abused as a child? Betrayed? Overlooked? Passed over for someone else? Pushed to grow up too fast? Overly controlled? What role did they play in their family of origin? What traumas have they experienced? And what are their addictions – healthy or unhealthy?
What helps him/her open up? Shut down?
Most people are more likely to open up when they are listened to, appreciated, and paid attention to. In addition to that, how does your spouse open up best? When doing things together? During quiet conversation? Before or after sex? Through engaging in a challenging discussion? On a date? At home?
What are his/her greatest strengths?
Why did God create your spouse the way He did? What do they bring to the world? Creativity? Spiritual understanding? Humor? Compassion? Persistence? Leadership? Understanding people? Resourcefulness? Organization? Spontaneity? Deep thinking? Communication skills? Innovation?
Where is God working in his/her life?
God’s not done with your spouse yet. Where can you see Him working? Is God helping your spouse understand themselves better? Experience healing for old wounds? Deal with a particular sin or destructive behavior? Gain strength for a particular mission or purpose? Find more joy and peace?
As you seek to understand your spouse, hopefully you will come to appreciate more about what makes them tick. Your communication can be healthier. You can help your spouse feel safer with you, and want to come closer to you.
And for the things you don’t have a good answer to right now, stay curious. Study your spouse more, and see where you can continue to understand them better.
Better understanding is a key to closer connection. It’s worth pursuing.
Your Turn: In considering these questions about your spouse, were there any that particularly surprised you? Which one(s) leave you wanting to ponder and understand more? Leave a comment below.
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