I used to ask him, “how was your day?”
Not that helpful.
When he seemed grumpy or withdrawn, I’d ask him, “What’s going on?”
He’d feel interrogated…. No matter how gentle I’d thought I had sounded.
A mentor taught me to ask him
“What do you want me to know?”
Most nights, we’ll go into the bathroom, swing open the big glass door, and step together onto the river rocks we had laid just for our nightly ablutions. There are two shower heads -- essential, I think, when one of you loves scalding water like I do and the other likes it (in my opinion) tepid -- and showering together is a nice start to a sensual ritual… Or just a few minutes together before we fall into bed on those too-tired-to-even-snuggle nights.). I’ll ask, “What do you want me to know?”
We might’ve talked about our day in the kitchen or over dinner. I might have heard the broad strokes. But this is when we’ll share the deeper turns of the inner wheels. This is where my relief map of his inner world gets its contours built up and carved down.
When I ask, “What do you want me to know?” it gives him room to say “just that I’m mulling some things over. I’ll be ready to tell you more tomorrow. And that I love you.”
Way better to hear than, “NO… Nothing’s WRONG!” or “Fine... how was yours?” And more often, I do get more, because there’s space in which he can pour it.
What I want to know, every time I’m asking, is “Is there a space in your heart you want to invite me into? May I be part of your world? May I know you… really know you?”
I know I’ve asked in a safe and inviting way
when the answer is “Yes.”
Certainly there are people in the world who don’t want to invite others into their hearts, don’t want to let their partners know them. But for me, and for very nearly everyone I’ve worked with, I recognize the same truth:
It’s not that your partner WANTS to shut you out.
I don’t mean to blame you (and I certainly didn’t want to hear this myself!) when I say this:
you’re more aggressive than you know.
Not just you. It’s all of us.
But there's a way forward. You can take this desire to hear more from your partner than you have been hearing, and turn it into a journey of self-discovery, of softening, and of skill-building. You can become a brighter, sweeter, softer invitation… one your partner can’t resist opening up in response.
By learning this simple question, you’ve already begun.