Be Interested

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Dear Girlfriends,

The typical pressing questions posed to one spouse from the other in a given week:

How much did you spend?
Can you pick up the kids?
What do you want for dinner?
What time will you be home?
Are you OK?
What’s wrong?

These are good tactical questions, however, I think they could be at the root of a 50% failure rate in marriage, both here in the U.S. and the U.K. By the time some couples muddle through their marriage and get to the heart of the problem with an honest answer to the question, “What’s wrong?” the list is long and sometimes impossible to address.

Watching with the rest of the world, I saw a beautiful princess step into her carriage, turn to her prince, and—with the aid of a “lip reader”—learned that she asked him, “Are you pleased? Are you happy?” I was shocked. What a mature and lovely thing to ask your spouse. In my self-centered world, I was saddened to realize that in my 21+ years of marriage to my prince, I had never posed that question to him. Yes, of course we can read one-another’s reactions and mood, but what insight might I gain should I pose this question to him?

Friends (Gentlemen, who are among my “girlfriend” audience, this is for you, too), imagine the positive impact (via proactive, honest, and quiet communication) we could have on our marriage if, as a matter of course, we turn to one another and ask, “Are you pleased?” Rather than wait until we are in crisis to ask the “What’s wrong?” question, what if, throughout our life together, we periodically check in—if for no other reason than we’re interested in our spouse’s state of happiness.

To ask the question of course means that we must be open to hear the answer, especially when we’re not coming off a royal high. No defending; no debating; no drama. Just simply listening to what the other is pleased with and what has become a disappointment. Being interested today could alleviate our being concerned tomorrow. In the past month, I have had several friends and readers share with me confidentially that their marriage is either very strained or, in one case, has come to an end after 31 years.

How might things be different? To be a better lover to our spouse, we must be interested. One simple question could open the floodgates to a whole new level of understanding: “Are you pleased?”

Getting marriage advice from a bride with less than five minutes under her belt,
Ellen