Are You Asking the Wrong Questions?

I had a daughter who taught me the importance of asking the right questions. When she was a teen, If I asked how she did on an exam, she would say, “Good.” But if I asked her what grade she made on the exam…that was another story! It was important for me to ask the right questions.

It’s true in parenting, but it’s especially true in marriage. If you ask the wrong questions you’ll wind up looking in the wrong places and getting the wrong answers.

What are the Wrong Questions

So often, in marriage counseling, I find that couples are stuck because spouses are asking the wrong questions. Here are some examples of the wrong questions spouses ask:

  • Why can’t you see what I need you to do?
  • What keeps you from doing what I need you to do?
  • Why are you acting that way?
  • What’s it going to take to get you to see?
  • When are you going to let it go?
  • Why can’t you put things where they belong?
  • Why are you doing it that way?
  • What’s wrong with you?

Why Are These Questions Wrong?

These questions are not wrong in and of themselves. They can be excellent questions when you and your spouse both feel loved and appreciated. But typically we ask questions like these when we’re upset with our spouse.

If you’ll notice, the questions have one thing in common…the word “you.” These questions are all aimed like arrows at the heart and character of your spouse. And they’re usually delivered with a bit of a bite, frustration, or anger. These questions back your spouse into a corner, leaving them with only two options: fight back or knuckle under. And neither of these responses is good for your marriage.

What Are Some Better Questions?

If you’ve been asking the wrong questions, I want to encourage you to start asking better questions. Rather than focusing your questions on your spouse, focus them on yourself by asking yourself things like:

  • Why can’t I see what my spouse needs me to do?
  • What keeps me from doing what I need to do for my spouse?
  • Why am I acting this way?
  • What’s it going to take for me to see what I need to see?
  • When am I going to let some things go?
  • Why do I need things to be where I think they belong?
  • Why am I doing things a certain way?
  • What are the things that are wrong with me?

Why are These Questions Better?

Before we go any further, let me say, I don’t believe you’re the main problem in your marriage. Nor do I think your spouse is the main problem in your marriage. When there’s a problem in marriage, both spouses usually contribute to the problem. It may not be a 50/50 split. Sometimes it may be 60/40 or 80/20. But however it shakes out, you still have some contribution. And your contribution is the only thing you have any direct control over.

I can hear someone thinking, “That’s not fair! They get to keep doing what they’re doing while I’m the one who has to make all the changes?”

Not necessarily. First of all, “fair” is not always a realistic approach to things. I use to tell my children things like, “the world’s not fair,” and “fair is that place with Ferris wheels and cotton candy.” Sometimes in life, to get where you want to be, you have to focus on doing what you need to do, even when things don’t seem fair.

Secondly, when you change yourself, it can indirectly and positively affect your spouse. Maybe in doing what you should do, even when it’s not fair, your spouse will feel more loved, more appreciated, more seen, or more heard. And as a result, it will be easier for them to feel safe, let down their guard, and love your back.

A Final Word…

When you stop asking the wrong questions and start asking the right questions, it can be life-changing for your marriage. Can I guarantee that doing this will turn your marriage around? No. Marriage is a dance between two people, and sometimes your dance partner is too set in their hurtful ways to change. But, if asking the wrong questions is not getting you anywhere, It won’t hurt to try asking better questions.

2 Chronicles 11-12 – The Fine Line Between Responsibility and Self-Reliance

There’s a fine line between being responsible and being self-reliant. You may think they both sound similar and admirable, but confusing the two can be a problem.

In 2 Chronicles chapters 11-12, King Rehoboam confuses being responsible with self-reliance. After the northern tribes desert him and establish their own kingdom, Rehoboam sets out to strengthen what’s left of his kingdom. He fortifies cities, stores weapons, stockpiles food, and stations troops. Seems like a responsible thing to do, right?

But, after Rehoboam feels safe behind his efforts and stockpiles, he doesn’t feel the need to rely on God anymore. He becomes lax and turns away from God, doing his own thing. (2 Chron. 12:1) Because of this, God allows the king of Egypt to over-run the cities Rehoboam had fortified and trusted for protection.

Rehoboam then retreats to Jerusalem where he confesses his sin and humbles himself before God. So, God protects Jerusalem from being overrun and destroyed. But, God allows Jerusalem to fall under Egyptian rule to teach them how much better it is to be under God’s rule than their own.

As we said, there’s a fine line between being responsible and being self-reliant. Being responsible refers to working hard while acknowledging that God is in charge of the outcomes. Being self-reliant refers to working hard while believing we are in charge of the outcomes. In other words, being responsible keeps God in the picture while being self-reliant cuts God out of the picture.

Are you responsible or self-reliant? Don’t forget the words of Psalm 127:1...“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is useless. Unless the Lord protects the city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” (NLT)

Be responsible, and keep God in the equation.

2 Chronicles 6-7 – Lord Fix THEM!

When a couple goes to marriage counseling, one spouse is often trying to blame the other for the problem. But, for a marriage to be better, each spouse must take responsibility for their own faults and contributions.

This is where it gets difficult.

We’re good at seeing others’ faults, and we tend to believe that things would be better if they just got their act together. But, if we keep that other-focused mindset, things rarely get better.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 6, Solomon is praying to God about the people of Israel. He asks God to forgive them and take them back when they stray from Him and then ask for forgiveness. It’s as if Solomon is saying, “You know how they are God. They’re prone to mess up.”

Well, God responds favorably to Solomon’s prayer and agrees to forgive the people if they will turn from their sin, humble themselves, and return to Him. (2 Chron. 7:14)

But then, God turns the focus onto Solomon. God starts by saying, “As for you, if you follow me…” (2 Chron. 7:17) Then, God says, “But if you abandon me…” (2 Chron. 7:19) Its as if God is telling Solomon, “Don’t just focus on their faults. Start with your own personal responsibility to follow Me and do what’s right.

Whether it’s a team, a marriage, or a society…improvement comes when each person takes responsibility for their own faults. This is what Jesus was getting at when He said, “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have log in your own. (Luke 6:41)

This week…”Where do I need to take responsibility rather than hand out blame?” If you’re not sure, ask God to show you. Then do your best to deal with whatever he shows you.

The List – Let Your Personality Override Your Responsibility

Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records and marriage failures.

Has there ever been a time when your spouse was wanting you to change in some way and you thought, “This is just the way I am. You knew this when you married me.”?

The question is…does your inherent personality relieve you of a responsibility to change?


There is no doubt that spouses can have different personalities. Personality differences between spouses are common…

  • One spouse can be an introvert, while the other’s an extrovert.
  • One spouse can pay attention to details, while the other ignores the details.
  • One spouse can be a saver, while the other is a spender.
  • One spouse can be very cautious, while the other is full-steam-ahead.
  • One spouse can be quiet and reserved, while the other is boisterous and fun-loving.

It’s all a part of marriage.


Now, there’s nothing wrong with such personality differences. In fact, personality differences serve three purposes in a relationship:

  1. They draw us together. – Many couples feel they were attracted to one another because they were so much alike. But actually, it’s our differences, more than our similarities, that attract us to one another. When we’re dating, those differences feel refreshing and add spice to the relationship.
  2. They round us out. – Because our spouse is different than us, they help to provide what is lacking in our personality. Introverts need extroverts to get them out of their cave, while extroverts need introverts to help them learn how to be still and content with themselves. Spenders need savers. The cautious need the bold. Detail people need broad brush stroke people. You get the picture. Our personality differences help to round out the relationship.
  3. They grow us up. – Our spouse’s differences force us to approach things differently. An organized spouse can help a disorganized spouse learn to better organize their life. A spender can help a penny-pincher learn they can loosen their grip on money without being irresponsible. Our spouse’s personality serves as a tool to grow us in ways we might be deficient.


But it’s this last reason that can aggravate us. Typically, we don’t want to change. It’s too much effort. Besides, we think we’re fine the way we are. So we say something like: “This is just the way I am. You knew this when you married me.” But, there are two problems with these statements…

Just because you were this way when you were dating doesn’t mean you were showing it.

When we’re dating, we tend to show our best selves. We try hard to be what we think the other will like and want. Consequently, we reign in the parts of ourselves we feel might be undesirable.

But after we’re married, we stop trying so hard. We relax, and more of our true self begins to leak out. Consequently, as our spouse starts to see this, they try to get us to go back to the way we use to be. When that doesn’t happen, our spouse feels like they’ve experienced a bait-and-switch in the relationship and they get frustrated with us.

Just because this is the way you are doesn’t mean you should stay that way.

The statement, “This is just the way I am” confuses a right to be who you are with a responsibility to change for your spouse.

If our children were being unkind or unhelpful we would not let them get away with it because “it’s just the way they are.” We would fully expect them to tweak and change who they are and grow into something better. The same should be true for us as spouses.


It’s true that we all have a personality that is God-given, genetically based, and family influenced. And at its core, that personality will be fairly fixed. But, that doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to that personality. Just because you have a certain personality bent doesn’t mean that personality can’t be bent in a different direction. Everyone can make changes in who they are and how they act. It’s failing to do so that increases the odds of losing your marriage.

So the question is…how can you keep your personality from overriding your responsibility to love your spouse…and still be you?

Elevate their needs.

If you want to keep your personality from overriding your responsibility to love your spouse, elevate their needs ahead of yours. Note: I didn’t say in place of your needs. Your needs are important also. Just treat theirs as a little more important.

Some are afraid that if they do this, their spouse will take advantage of them. That is a possibility. But more often than not, your spouse will feel so special by you putting them first, they will want to make sure your needs are met also.

Subjugate your rights.

We each have rights in marriage. But too often, we spend more time fighting for our rights than we do fighting for our spouse’s rights. It is only when we sacrificially subjugate our rights for the sake of our spouse’s rights that we understand and demonstrate true and deep love.

But…I’m not suggesting you need to be a doormat. Nor am I suggesting that you have no rights in the marriage and your spouse can treat you however they want to. A marriage that is abusive, dismissive, and demeaning should never be tolerated.

Redefine a win.

In times of conflicting wants and needs, spouses tend to act like they’re on opposing teams and they easily fall into a win/lose mindset, where either their spouse wins and they lose or they win and their spouse loses.

Don’t forget that you and your spouse are on the same team. If you can facilitate a win for your spouse, you win also. The team wins! Is this always possible? No. But it’s more possible than you think. So help your spouse win and you will win in the process.


All of this is summarized in the words of the New Testament from Philippians chapter 2, verses 3-4…

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

Did you hear it? “Look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” It’s a “both/and” approach. This is extremely important because if you let your personality override your responsibility to love your spouse, you stand a chance of losing your marriage. It’s one of the things “on the list.”

How Parents Can Bring Out the Best in Their Teenagers

In my last post, How Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents, I talked abut the very difficult job of raising teenagers, and how it can effect parents.

In this post, let’s talk about how parents can bring out the best in their teens. It starts when you’re aware of your own issues of control, self-esteem, memory loss, fears, and aspirations. (Check out the previous post for more on this.)

Once you have addressed those things in yourself, there are some things you can do to bring out the best in those opinionated, strong-willed, hormonally challenged aliens we refer to as teenagers:

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How to Better Live With Your In-Law – The Bottom Line

Portrait of happy couple with parentsHave you ever been listening to someone talk about something and thought to yourself, “Come on! Just get to the point! What’s the bottom line?!” Well, for the last 3 posts we’ve been talking about how to better live with your in-laws and now it’s time to get to the point. What’s the bottom line on how to better live with your in-laws?  Believe it or not, it really all boils down to one principle, one practice, and one parting thought.

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