When our middle child was around two years old, her favorite word was “Why?” She was not satisfied to learn what something was, she wanted to know more. She wanted to know why something was what it was. Looking back, she was asking the right question.
Working with couples, often their tendency is to want to figure out what happened in a past argument or story. However, in order to not repeat the same argument, it is more important to understand why something happened. Replaying “He said- she said” rarely goes well. After all, history is just “his story” versus “her story.” Understanding why something happened encourages us to look deeper. Asking, “Why did I respond that way? What was I feeling underneath when we argued? Why is that feeling significant to me?”
It’s easy to respond, “I was mad because he…. (or she….)”. The anger, hurt, frustration is not so much about what he or she said, but something deeper in you! Here’s where the why question is important. Why were you mad? What else were you feeling? Often there are common feelings underneath anger. Feelings of being controlled, unloved, devalued, not good enough, or abandoned are some of the common ones.
When Peter and I were talking about financial goals, he made a small comment about our house and immediately I was mad. However, before I responded in anger, I asked myself, “Why am I so mad right now? What am I feeling beneath the anger?” I realized that I was feeling blamed for purchasing our home. Why was this upsetting to me? I like to see us as partners.
We could have argued about what he said or what he really meant all day, but it would not have revealed why it was significant. It really didn’t matter what he said. I was feeling unfairly blamed when I want to be partner with Peter. When I stopped the conversation and shared this with him, he could see how I was feeling that way and was able to apologize and assure me he didn’t blame me for the purchase of our home.
Sometimes we see our kids angry and acting out. Instead of asking what caused them to be upset, help them discover why they are upset and the feelings under the anger. Understanding “the why” instead of “the what” will help you teach them how express their feelings in a safe and effective way.
How can you stop asking “what” and start asking yourself “why” instead?
What is causing all the quarrels and fights among you?
Isn’t it your desires battling inside you?
By Heather Larson, M.A.
Wife to Peter
Mom of three
1 Corinthians 13 Team Member
Associate Director of 10 Great Dates