The Essential Role Curiosity Plays In Enhancing Intimate Relationships
Relationships are consistently dynamic and changing throughout our lives. With change, however, we can often experience anxiety and other uncomfortable emotions. As humans, we crave homeostasis – or balance – because the “norm” feels comfortable and safe, even if change would be helpful and positively impact our relationships. The draw to homeostasis leads to individuals “fighting” against change.
For example, let’s consider a couple in which one partner (Partner A) has recently become sober. While Partner B is happy for Partner A and things at home are less tumultuous, it feels different. Partner B is used to the chaos of the situation and having to rescue Partner A, so Partner B begins to feel resentful that Partner A now has outside support from his 12-Step Group. Partner B accuses Partner A that they don’t love him anymore. The level of conflict feels comfortable
Enter curiosity. While navigating the ebbs and flows of change in relationships, curiosity is a powerful tool for approaching conflict, deepening communication, and fostering connection.
It may sound simple, but curiosity involves spending more time listening – I mean really listening – and without formulating a response or waiting to speak. Get curious about how your partner is feeling and how they like to be communicated with as well as your own preferences. By listening, we flex our empathy muscles, and “I hear you” can be just as meaningful as “I love you.” Both you and your partner have room in your relationship, and though it is easy to get stuck in your own head, it’s important to consider how the situation may be affecting your partner and how they are feeling, too.
Let’s take the previous example into consideration. It could be that you just have different ways of approaching domestic chores, not that your partner’s intent is to make you feel uncared for. So when you’re upset about the dryer situation, what might your partner be feeling? Ask. Maybe this conflict has them feeling incompetent or like they’re not good enough. Maybe they just hadn’t considered how the action affected you. There’s only one way to find out – by communicating. And though making you feel uncared for may not be their intent, you can then talk about the impact it is having on you.
Without approaching communication with a sense of curiosity, we may fall into the habit of making assumptions about what our partner is thinking or their intentions, which could be inaccurate. Instead, open a dialogue. “How are you feeling?” “How can I support you when you’re feeling stressed out?” “Is this a crucial issue? If so, what solutions can we try out?” Remember that you’re a team, and addressing conflict may feel less like confrontation and more like collaboration.
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