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Communicating in any relationship is challenging, but marriage offers a special challenge because it is a constant requirement.
There is no rest for either spouse as you juggle the complexities of family, career and everything else, as a team.
Maybe that is why we often fall into a shallow, 1-inch deep, style of communication in marriage.
Why We need Marriage IQ
This shallow style of conversation is where we trade information about what’s going on with a “transactional” approach.
It looks like this. I keep you up-to-date and you keep me up-to-date. And this style of communication can work for a while. But over a few weeks we begin to find ourselves living in a growing state of isolation.
We are no longer sharing our lives, but making do.
It’s obvious that these types of discussions seem to dominate the conversations between many couples. And when they end there is a lot of silence between them both.
Do these sound familiar?
- Who is taking Jillian to practice tomorrow?
- Will you pick up a meal on the way home?
- Do you think we should get the dog groomed?
- Do you think we should reset the sprinkler to start at 2am?
- When are we going to see your parents?
These shallow conversations are part of life, but if they are the primary conversations we have, then that can be dangerous for the relationship.
Shallow conversations lead to a boring relationship in marriage. With shallow conversations our brains relax and get lazy.
We think we know generally what our spouse is going to say. So we get disinterested in talking and turn away to the phone or TV or computer or book.
I’m a poster child for this. At least once a week, Lou Ann will mention something and I will be surprised because I didn’t remember it. But it is something she did communicate and I wasn’t paying attention.
Conversation Types in Marriage
I’ve thought about this and can see several TYPES of conversations couples have.
There is the Information Conversation where we tell our spouse something they need to know or maybe we just complain about situations.
Then there is the Transactional Conversation where we negotiate with our spouse about doing something.
Or there is the Directive Conversation where we try to direct them to do something.
But the one we must continue to include is the Connecting Conversation.
It is where we maintain our spiritual and emotional bonds.
If all of your conversations are the first 3 types, you are already in a “ditch” leading to isolation, the killer bee of relationships.
So, how do you and I protect these Connecting Conversations and avoid the isolation ditch?
That’s where IQ comes into play. But this IQ isn’t about intelligence. It’s about intentionality.
What is Marriage IQ?
Marriage IQ is an acronym for “Intentional Questions“.
An Intentional Question is when we ask our spouse a deliberate and meaningful question to understand more about them.
We aren’t seeking to get their agreement, direct their actions, express our emotions or inform them of something.
We are asking an Intentional Question to open the door and connect with our spouse at a deeper and meaningful level.
I like to think of it as part of the “cleaving” that we see in Genesis. It is the unseen connection between a wife and husband that sets them apart from good friends and relatives.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:
and they shall be one flesh.
When we use an IQ in our conversation we are doing what some marriage experts call “BIDS”. A BID is where one partner is “bidding” for attention and connection with their spouse.
And it is critically important for us to recognize and respond to these BIDS so that our relationship is strengthened!
That’s why an IQ is a great approach…
How IQ Works
Intentional Questions are not routine. Instead they lead to interesting responses, unexpected insight and deepen our relationship.
Intentional Questions have several unique characteristics.
Intentional Questions help us learn something new about our spouse.
Intentional Questions are open-ended and cannot be answered YES or NO.
Intentional Questions may require some time and thought to answer.
Intentional Questions draw us out and then toward each other.
Intentional Questions deepen our understanding/appreciation for each other.
Intentional Questions most often start with Who, What, When, and How.
IQ in Your Past
If you think back, Intentional Questions were once a major part of your conversations. They were most of what happened when you first met.
You were curious about each other. You asked lots of questions because this new person fascinated you! But over time that changed.
Slowly everyday life dominated your conversations and you assumed you knew everything about your spouse.
IQ is Powerful
Intentional Questions never stop working. If you have quit using them, you can start again.
Don’t assume the answer. Your spouse is always changing and there is always something new to learn about them.
I was with a couple who have been married for 50 years. I asked an IQ. Out of it one spouse shared a meaningful story, from their past, that their spouse had never heard.
But wait! There’s more.
There is a powerful thing you need to do after you ask the IQ.
You need to have a good follow-up question.
Great follow-up questions open the door wider. Like these:
- How did you feel about that?
- Why was that important to you?
- What did that mean to you?
- How did that affect you?
A good follow-up question doesn’t critique or judge. It releases your spouse to reveal more about their thoughts, interests, memories and feelings.
Examples of IQ
- What new thing did you learn about yourself today?
- Where did you see God working in the situation?
- What was your high point/ low point today?
- If you could change one thing in yourself, what would it be?
- What one thing would make your job more satisfying?
- Who would you consider your closest friend at work?
- Who can you most trust in your extended family?
Raising our IQ in Marriage
So how do you raise the level of IQ in your relationship?
1. Come up with one good open-ended question.
2. Wait for the answer. Don’t critique or interrupt. Instead, listen and be silent.
3. Think about their response and add a follow-up question that you are curious about.
4. Continue thoughtfully until there is no more to understand.
5. Add coffee (or a Frappuccino).
6. Repeat and take turns with another IQ.
If you ask several IQ’s a week, you will improve the richness of your conversations, deepen your connection and get some surprising answers from your spouse.
Out of ideas? Check out the QUESTIONS-4-US page on our website. We have a list of questions there.
Let me know how you use IQ’s and what you feel are the best ones you have asked your spouse!
Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5
- How would you rate the quantity of IQ in your marriage?
- What percentage of your questions are NOT IQ?
Quotes on Intentional Questions
It’s not that I’m so smart, but I stay with the questions much longer.
Whoever questions much,
shall learn much and retain much.