|Curiosity might kill the cat. But it won't kill you.|
Other times we broach tougher topics and then he says something...stupid. Wrong. Woefully uninformed. Or at least that's my assessment of it. My heart beats faster. My voice goes up a pitch. I wonder, briefly, what I'm doing with this idiot.
It might have been about how to manage our daughter's struggles at school. It might have been about a bathroom renovation we're planning. It might have been about something on this site that I mentioned in order to get his input.
Whatever it was, he gave me a stupid answer.
Or was it?
When others present me with information that differs from my own views of things, I become curious instead of angry. In fact, I make my living as a journalist and I'm often confronted with people who hold different opinions than I. I don't immediately write them off as losers. Instead, I ask questions. "Why do you think that?" I might ask. "How did you reach that conclusion?" I might ask. "Where do you get your information?" I might probe. "That's interesting," I might say. "Tell me more."
I began to wonder if that approach might work with my husband. I wanted to be able to talk with him about things – all things – without the immediate impulse to call a divorce lawyer.
It was hard at first. I had to bite my tongue. Hard.
But the more I learned about his thinking, the more I realized that those "stupid" opinions he had weren't so stupid because I understood how he'd reached them. His "dumb" response to problems wasn't so dumb when I discovered that he was struggling too, that he didn't have all the answers and he was just searching in the dark like the rest of us.
And when I was able to just be curious with him, I gave him the freedom to not have all the answers, which has always been his own issue. He has trouble saying "I don't know" so he rarely does. With my probing, he sometimes had to own up to the truth that he didn't know. That he couldn't know because he didn't have all the information he needed. We began to collaborate more on solutions. I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he said something "stupid" and gave him the opportunity to explain his point of view.
And...whattaya know? Turns out he's a decent, smart, open-minded guy with some great ideas, something I had sometimes forgotten about him.
Whether you're staying together or moving on separately after betrayal, chances are there are going to be some tough conversations in your future. It can feel like a minefield. You lay your heart on the line and he says something "stupid". You share your pain and he shuts you down. Our knee jerk response is to withdraw. Or to lash out. Or to put a divorce lawyer on speed dial.
But what if you tried curiosity? Do your best to detach and not take it so personally (I know, I know. It takes a lot of practice!) "Why do you say that?" you might say. "What makes you think that?" you might say. "Why is it hard for you to hear that?" you might ask. "What is you need from me right now?" Even "can we set a time to talk about this later? I think it's important."
He might not have the answers. But you've opened the door to them.
And if his responses reveal a decent guy who's confused, then that's good to know. Even if they reveal a not-so-decent guy who isn't the least bit interested in learning more, that's good information to have. Get the lawyer on speed dial.
But no matter how it turns out, you'll have more information than you started with. And you can use that information to help you navigate your path through this pain.