“Try getting curious in your marriage,” she said to us. “Did you know that its been proven that you cannot be both curious AND angry at the same time?”
As our marriage and life coach shared this with us, something about it really resonated with me. Maybe the fact that curiosity is a lot more appealing than anger. And I will admit, I can struggle with anger.
“I want to be curious, not angry” I thought.
I have been practicing and it is NOT an easy task. More times than I’d like to admit, anger takes over and anger wins. But I can notice (and my husband can notice!) that the anger has GREATLY subsided and the kind of conflict that we now have is much more mature and much healthier. We actually get things accomplished now — and learn — through our conflict as I (as we) choose curiosity over anger.
Let me give an example:
For Caleb’s golden birthday this year, I wanted to do something really special for him. I had been thinking about it for months and months and in the spring, the idea finally came to me. A GOLD guitar for his GOLDEN birthday.
If you don’t know this about my husband, he loves guitars and he is actually very, very good at playing guitar. It is his stress reliever, a way to connect with God, a way to challenge himself, and a way to have fun. I have many memories of us being in guitar shops and him looking at the sparkly, gold, or “statement” guitars. He would always play them and comment on how beautiful they are.
So, while we NEVER spend this kind of money on gifts for each other (and because of the price tag, I would have to hide the purchase from him and borrow the money from my parents so he wouldn’t see the transaction come through in the bank account!), I knew that this birthday would be an exception — you only have ONE golden birthday and I hoped that this piece would be something that he would have for his lifetime on this earth and perhaps be able to pass down as an heirloom to our son (if we have one!) someday.
Despite feeling confident in purchasing this very special gift for him, I was a bit nervous about how he would react. If you don’t know, Caleb handles all our finances and he is very GOOD at what he does but also very particular (and a bit — okay, a LOT — on the frugal side) hehe : )
On the morning of his birthday, I gifted him the guitar. Can you guess what the first thing he said when he saw it was? ….
WHY did you by this?
I will admit that immediately I felt defeated. I felt as though I had made a huge mistake and my fear was a reality — he didn’t see the gift as special … he wished I wouldn’t have bought it … didn’t like it … all he cared about was the money aspect … My defeat then quickly turned to anger. Inside I felt myself getting angry at him for not liking the gift and not having the reaction that I wanted him to have or expected him to have.
“Get curious,” I heard.
I paused, took a deep breath and explained to him why I bought it and the story behind how I got it, etc. He still didn’t seem EXCITED. So I asked, “Do you like the gift, honestly? Or are you mad that I bought it? Your initial and immediate response of ‘Why did you by this?‘ has me confused and I am feeling a little bit defeated right now.” As I explained myself, I saw Caleb’s face soften and two things happened.
- He shared that he made the comment without thinking — that was it, there was nothing more to it — and he absolutely did not mean for his response to make me feel that way but he can see how it happened.
- He then shared that when he saw the gift, he was absolutely in shock (which led to his off the cuff response). As tears welled up in his eyes, he told me that he simply couldn’t believe that someone would think he was worthy enough of such a thoughtful and special gift; that he loved it, felt so loved by it, and he loved me so much.
Wow. What a learning experience this was for me and an example of how powerful curiosity is. An incredibly special moment that I could have ruined if I would have turned into my anger actually became a moment in which both Caleb and I felt SO much love for each other as I chose curiosity.
So what could this look like for you? I know for me, when the anger comes, I have to PAUSE and take a moment to regroup and calm down for a minute. THEN I can get curious. It is so easy to jump to conclusions about our spouse (or anyone for that matter!), thinking that we know them and we know what they are thinking and why they are acting a certain way. But what if we actually don’t? What if we chose to get curious more often? I can imagine that our lives would be filled with a lot more of those beautiful moments : )