We took a trip several years ago in October. If our marriage was in rough shape before we left, it was gasping for air when we returned home. Some deal-breakers happened on that trip, to both of us, by both of us. What should have been a lovely week away was in reality the unraveling of anything good we still had left.
My bruised and confused heart cracked in two that week. On our way back from the airport I was trying with all that was in me to recover what I loved about my husband. I reached into the rock bottom of my barrel and all I could come up with was, “What’s your favorite sandwich?”
I know it was lame. But it was all I had left.
And his response was the nail in my coffin.
“That’s stupid. You know what my favorite sandwich is.”
I’m not saying the sandwich question would have saved anything. It surely wouldn’t have. But I would have gone to sleep a little less heartbroken and a little more hopeful.
Perhaps if we had started asking sandwich questions long before that night, and answering them thoughtfully, we would have stayed connected in small ways. Because small connections, enough of them entwined together, grow into a bond that can’t be broken.
In the aftermath, we took another trip. We drove across the country this time with our children in tow. You could cut the tension with a knife and the silence was deafening. This was about our lowest point in recovery and we weren’t speaking to each other much at all, so the thought of 18 hours in the car (twice) and a whole week in a hotel room together was painful. Ironically, Jack had printed out a multiple lists of get-to-know-you questions that he asked me the whole. way. there. And the whole. way. home.
Not ONE of those questions was about a sandwich. But they did give us safe and fluffy and seemingly inconsequential things to talk about to simply keep the conversation going.
Three months later we reconciled and the rest – so far – is history.
We joke about these crazy question lists because they are reminders of our most desperate selves. Two people who were so hurt, so broken, so angry, that we couldn’t even drum up our own conversations. They gave us an easy place to start on days that felt like the world’s most awkward blind date (a scary one where you actually hate each other a little bit).
Since then we’ve come so far from “what’s your favorite sandwich” to tastier things we can really sink our teeth into: hard questions about our history, and questions about our future that we get to dream about together. Those questions are even sweeter now because we almost didn’t get to ask them of each other. Thank God we had the strength, stubbornness, and faith-however-shaky to stay the course.
Because that was progression was fun to reflect upon, I made a question list of our own. Not the fluffy questions – you can find those anywhere online. What I made for us is a list of really good questions. Questions I wish we had asked each other long ago, and the answers of which I wish we had listened for more carefully.
Because believe it or not, when you are paying good attention, normal everyday conversations present opportunities to ask better questions to unlock sweet secrets in your partner. Simply take the time to listen and respond in a thoughtful way. I’ve learned more in the last 3 years about who my husband really is than I feel like I knew in the entirety of our relationship up to that point. Simply because I learned the very hard way:
The person you’re paying the most attention to is the person your heart will grow to love.
If you’d like to have a copy of my favorite 20 Questions Worth Asking, just enter your email address here and I’ll send it right to your inbox. Current Happy Mail Club members – you should have received yours already!
Whether the opportunity to ask these questions presents itself at at coffee club or a brief passing moment in your day, tuck this little list of great questions into your pocket (maybe literally!) and enjoy getting to know your spouse even better.
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.