The Question You Should be Asking Your Spouse

You know how little kids often go through that annoying stage where they will ask, "But why?!" to everything you say? Most of the time, they ask this because they want to buck authority and postpone bedtime by a few more minutes. At least, that was always my strategy. 

As an adult, I sometimes feel like I never outgrew the "but why" stage. Sure, I've learned to keep some of my questions to myself and not protest everything I disagree with, but when I face a frustrating situation or get my feelings hurt, my first question is always why, especially in marriage.

Why did you do that?

Why did you say that?

Why do you think that's a good idea?

I know I'm not alone in this because, as a woman, I hear the majority of my girl friends echo something along the lines of, "I just don't know why he did that!" What was he thinking?!" And then, everyone sits and talks about the inner-workings of the male brain, to no avail. But recently, I had a perspective shift about my immediate need to ask why to my spouse. 

You see, I've always believed that asking why is a good thing. I love knowing what makes other people tick, and I truly believe that you can never change your habits until you first understand them, in all areas of life. However, there is one big downfall in asking why to your spouse on a regular basis, and I believe that it causes more tension that it does harmony in the long run. 

Too often, we ask our spouse "why", but we already know the answer. 

If you've been married for any length of time, you probably know the other person pretty well. You've had time to learn their best moments and deep dark secrets, and you've observed their nuances and habits from a front row seat. It's one thing to analyze the people in your life through the lens of why when it's a new relationship, but when it's old hat, there's a strong chance that you know what caused them to forget to set the alarm or leave the Christmas party gift at home. 

When you ask "why" in an accusatory manner, you're not creating an environment that is going to produce a positive conversation or result. Instead, you're most likely trying to force the other person to become more emotionally aware.

We've heard it since we were kids; women are more emotionally mature than men. We self-analyze and doubt and decipher every little word and action. But men, they don't typically go as deep into the life chats, and while I'm a big believer that everyone should seek to improve their emotional intelligence, asking "why" in the middle of a fight isn't going to lead you to a resolution.

You're just bringing a power-play into your marriage; you're trying to force the other person to see what you already see before moving forward. 

The truth is, if you really want to move forward, it's not about bringing the other person into a state of understanding exactly what you think, though the hope would be that they come to know your perspective (and their own) eventually. Instead, you should be focusing on a common goal to get yourselves out of the situation, not just the issues that got you there. The question you should be asking your spouse is "how".

How do we create change? 

How do we move forward?

How do we do it differently? 

Two people don't have to believe the exact same thing in order to work together towards a resolution. If your biggest desire is to get your spouse to speak their thought process out loud, only to have you immediately criticize all the flaws in their plan, then you don't really want to create change. You just want to win. You want to debate and convert them to your side, rather than form your own team together. 

Instead of focusing on convoluted ways to fix your spouse, focus on this one clear way to check yourself in the middle of an argument or frustrating season. And maybe, just maybe, you might learn a little something about your own why along the way.