There are many well-known virtues or ‘good qualities’ that are to be cultivated in our path of becoming more fully human and finding fulfillment in our relationships – humility, generosity, gratitude, love etc. – but rarely does Curiosity get its due. For my money, it is right up there with the big guys, especially when it comes to relationships. It is the ingredient that is often most lacking and most called for in many of the couples I work with.
Picture this: Your partner does something, says something, doesn’t do something or doesn’t say something…and you feel upset. This can range all the way from showing up late for dinner to lying. As the belief that we are unsafe and unloved begins to fire in our nervous system, we contract and prepare to fight or run away depending on our default style of conflict.
Curiosity is one of the first things to go out the window as our nervous system heads into trigger mode. But it is also a very effective way to get out of the pattern of blame, which is always disempowered and never gets the results we want it to. Blame creates misery while curiosity opens the door to restoring intimacy.
Most likely, your partner is not acting maliciously or primarily to hurt you. (If they are and you are still in that relationship, call me today.) Instead, they are acting out of their own habits and tools to maintain equilibrium and create conditions for happiness. These tools are often clumsy and misguided until we do some real training and upgrading with someone who can help us gain facility with some new resources. But nevertheless our partner is usually acting in some way that makes sense given their belief system and skill set. And it is worth every penny to “get their world”, as one of my mentors calls it, because it creates the dynamic where your requests are much more likely to be heard.
So…be curious. You can retain the right to be furious, hurt, sad, and everything else that was going to happen anyway, but why not be curious to start with? It is one of the most alchemical tools to put in your relational toolbox. Pause, breathe, and ask some questions. Easy to say but hard to do, especially as the triggers escalate. But curiosity is a skill anybody can learn if you want to take your relationships to the next level.
This is the kind of art of communication material that I work with my clients on and the results are inspiring. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in diving into this kind of relationship alchemy and stay tuned for a new online class on Conscious Intimacy coming in the New Year.