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The Only Relationship Question You Need to Ask–and Answer

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Before my husband asked me to marry him, he took me to a beach in Florida and asked me fifty questions he had scribbled in a notebook. I don’t remember a single one. I remember the salty ocean air and call of seagulls and the warm sand beneath our feet, and I remember being thrilled that I’d finally found someone who seemed patient enough to live with me, and who came with the bonus blue eyes and dark hair. For that, I was willing to sit and think up some good answers.

I know it might seem rigid, all those questions. But we were different, Dave and I. We had different backgrounds and ideas, and he was not going to make a mistake. I don’t know if I gave a satisfactory answer to any of those questions or not, but he married me anyway.

Maybe that’s because of my answer to one question that stood out from the rest; it wasn’t even on the list. Maybe my answers to the other questions were so bad he needed to add this one:

Are you teachable?

Dave asked me that several times from the night he proposed until the day we met at the altar. It was the only thing that mattered as he tried to figure me out. I’d say and do things that bewildered him, but time and time again he’d scratch his head, sigh and say, “Just tell me this. Are you teachable?”

Each time I assured him I was. I told him through tears and through laughter that this dog could learn new tricks.

Twenty-eight blissful years later, I still reflect on that crash course in flexibility for both of us. Dave had to learn some things too. We each have drastically changed our thinking in some areas, thank God. It was the only way to thrive.

The question that saved us from merely surviving each other comes to mind often as I encounter the same situations we all face in our daily interactions with people: each one of us knows someone in an agonizing situation that we feel could so easily and obviously be helped if only that person were teachable.

We’ve all encountered this, and it hurts to see someone continue through a difficulty for which there is a tried-and-true solution, but we are scared spitless to tell them. Why is that?

Are they so unteachable–so easily offended, defensive, sensitive and threatened by the thought that they might need to go as far as overturning their entire philosophy in an area in order to finally find a solution to their problem?

And would suggesting they do so destroy our relationship and thus ruin any chances of ever being able to offer hope again?

Pondering these things, I am left with but one comforting thought about teachability and the lack thereof:

Others may not be teachable, but I can be. And I can begin by pointing the proverbial finger back toward my face and asking myself,

Are people scared spitless to “care-front” me as well? And why?

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