It doesn’t matter if you’re a rule-follower or a rule-breaker, whether we want to admit it or not, every marriage has it’s rules….or lack thereof. Whether you and your spouse have intentionally put pen to paper to openly agree upon and declare these mandates, or if they are the result of chance – patterns and principles that have developed over the course of doing life together - every marriage has it's own "do's" and "don'ts." Whatever the method, the results are spoken, as well as unspoken, rules that shape and form how we go about everything from putting toilet paper on the roll (Seriously, over the top is the only way), or how we navigate through disagreements, stressors, and social interactions among ourselves, as well as those outside of our household.
"Rules,” for lack of a better word, bring a bit of security to our individual lives, as well as our marriage. They help us know what to expect of the other person, giving us ways of doing things that bring a sense of order and sometimes predictability to our world. Mine and Stan’s rules range from everything from keeping cabinet drawers closed (I'm the guilty offender on that one), to asking the other’s opinion and advice about major purchases and social commitments, to never being alone with anyone else of the opposite sex. These principals and guidelines have served us well over the years, for sure.
But one of our absolutely greatest and you-die-if-you-break-it rules is as follows – “Ask me, don’t tell me.” This simple principle has bestowed both dignity and courtesy to one other in the 33 years that we’ve been married. Stan will jokingly (or maybe he’s serious) say the reason this rule is so important, is because I hate being told what to do. Although there is some truth in that statement, this simple five word proclamation has brought both harmony and unity to our marriage and our home. Trust me – there’s a huge difference between “Get me a glass of water!" and “Would you please get me a glass of water?” The result of the latter being a glass of water; the result of the former being a death glance, possibly accompanied by afore-mentioned glass being thrown across the room (which may or may not have happened in our first year of marriage).
Over these past weeks I’ve thought a great deal about asking questions…whether it be of Stan, those I work with, my adult children, or the checker at the grocery store. Why don’t we ask more questions? Why do we tell others what to do or assume we know what they are thinking, feeling, or their true motives regarding the issue at hand? Why don’t we take the time to understand, learn, and genuinely connect at a deeper level in the form of a question or two?
Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers (one of my all-time favorite leadership books) speaks of the power of the question whether it be in parenting, marriage, or leadership. Once, when faced with the dilemma of getting her kids to bed at night without encountering sibling fights, threatening and begging (we’ve all been there!), she decided to forbid herself to tell them what to do, but instead only ask them questions – for the ENTIRE evening. Instead of “It’s time to get ready for bed!” she asked, “What time is it?” The kids answered, “Bedtime!” Instead of begging them to brush their teeth and change their clothes, she asked, “What do we do before we go to our bedrooms?” “We brush our teeth!” “And what do we do next?” “We put on our pajamas!” She was amazed! There were no tears, melt-downs or idle threats!
In thinking about transferring this principle to other relationships…once again, I ask…what could happen if we asked more questions? What could transpire if we took a moment, asked the Holy Spirit for guidance, then asked a thoughtful, courteous question, instead of barking a command or making a wrong assumption? What would happen if we vulnerably asked, instead of brutally demanded? Something to think about.
As you go about your week, I invite you to test this concept. Would you be willing to share your insights with me? I’d love to hear them!
Have a fantastic, hope-filled, peaceful, QUESTION ASKING week!