One of the reasons the beginning stage of a relationship is so exhilarating is that it is typically marked by curiosity and wonder about the person that has just entered your life. Attraction starts to develop as you learn more about their background, interests, and weird quirks. It can feel like there are endless things to learn, and curiosity about the unknown often feels exciting and intriguing.
However, as relationships develop, that curiosity tends to diminish. You might start adopting a fixed mindset about who your partner is and what motivates their behavior. You’re likely to assume you have learned all there is to know and can stop being as inquisitive and open minded as you once were. This approach to a relationship can be quite damaging to its overall health. Now, curiosity might have killed the cat, but it can save your relationship.
When you stop being curious, you make yourself susceptible to making assumptions or judgements about your partner. When an individual feels they are being judged, the natural response is to get defensive. Thus begins a very typical and toxic cycle. Partner A feels judged so they defend themselves. Partner B then feels hurt by Partners A’s defense and gets defensive as well. This cycle continues with both partners feeling judged and vulnerable; inevitably, they continue triggering one another until a big fight implodes. The best way to avoid or break this cycle is to be mindful of the assumptions or judgements you are making about others.
When you find yourself judging, ask yourself, “what can I be curious about instead?” For example, let’s say you are frustrated with your partner because they keep avoiding an important topic you want to talk about. Instead of thinking, “he is such a jerk, he won’t ever talk to me about this,” try adopting a curious stance by asking yourself or him directly, “what makes talking to me about this hard? What vulnerabilities might this conversation bring up? How can I approach this conversation in a better way?” Through this inquiry, you’ll begin to notice that it is quite difficult to be judgmental and curious at the same time. Furthermore, it is equally as challenging to be defensive and curious at the same time. Curiosity is a great way to slow down an exchange in order to allow space for both partners to respond from a more open and empathetic place.
Expressing curiosity by asking questions and seeking to understand your partner will create a much healthier cycle; one in which you both feel comfortable opening up and engaging authentically. Increase your mindfulness of others by questioning the assumptions you hold about them and how they function. Adopting a curious mindset will not only serve you in your romantic relationships, but in your platonic and professional ones as well. As Maya Angelou once said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Taking the time to engage with others in a curious and open manner is a great way to make them feel seen, respected, and valued.
If you need a place to explore this curiosity, please contact us today to start couples counseling.
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