The One Question Experiment

Could asking your spouse just one question every day for one month transform your marriage?

Tim and I would both readily admit that communication isn’t a strong suit in our marriage. A goal? Yes. A strength? Not so much. I was tired of letting conflict and misunderstandings be the impetus for improvement, so I decided to get intentional about bettering our communication. And I decided to do it without telling Tim. (The irony of that is not lost on me…)

I’m easily overwhelmed these days, and I also have a tendency to make a production out of the smallest project. With that in mind, I dismissed grand ideas like finding a communication curriculum of some sort or forcing Tim into deep, emotionally driven conversations every evening after James went to sleep.

Instead, I opted for a simple addition to our daily routine – one question. One question seemed doable. It was intentional, but not overwhelming. It was small, but had the potential to make a big impact. For me, one of the hardest parts about communication is opening the dialogue. Tim and I talk throughout the day of course, but I often feel silly and awkward starting a conversation about my feelings, whether it’s a relationship frustration that’s been niggling or a spiritual insight I had that morning. Asking questions seemed like a good means of practicing “the start” of communication in a non-threatening way.

One Question Experiment

Here’s how I organized this little One Question Experiment:

  • I created a master list of 31 open-ended questions.
  • The list remained hidden from Tim. I would refer to the list every morning to familiarize myself with that day’s question.
  • I would ask the question during dinner, except for Wednesdays when Tim generally eats dinner on the fly before youth group.

I culled various blog posts to curate my list of questions, which ran the gamut of lighthearted and random to serious and introspective. I added extra questions as I thought of them because sometimes I couldn’t help but ask the next day’s question, too. It was challenging for me to be inconspicuous about my question asking. I’m sure those with more skill in the art of conversation would find a better question segue than, “So…”

The goal was for Tim to remain in the dark about my intentional question asking until the experiment was over. I had visions of a big reveal at the end of the month. Something that involved shock, dimmed lights, communication breakthroughs, and a few tears of admiration. However, like you’ll find out in my recap, Tim caught on to my question experiment pretty early. (Probably all those so’s.)

The similarities between my One Question Experiment and a spiritual discipline struck me as I was preparing to add this new habit to our daily lives. Spiritual disciplines are practices that help us connect with God. They take time and effort but result in deeper, stronger faith. Communication is a practice, a marriage discipline if you will, that helps us connect with our spouse. It takes time and effort but results in a deeper, stronger marriage.

The One Question Experiment is over, and I can’t make any “become a master communicator in 31 days” claims. One question doesn’t make a great communicator, but one question might lead to another question or might make you feel more comfortable talking about that tough situation going on at work or might just give you good old fashioned practice in the art of conversation.

Did asking Tim one question every day for a month transform our marriage? Yes, I think it did. Not in the splashy, snap your fingers and we’re a whole new couple kind of way. Our transformation was a matter of habit and ease. We were reminded how fun it is to get to know each other like when we were dating. We were reminded to talk about the small stuff as well as the big things. We were reminded that communication gets easier the more you do it.

The One Question Experiment Questions

  1. What makes you most fulfilled or happiest as a father?
  2. What is your dream destination and why?
  3. What area of your spiritual walk do you want to improve?
  4. Bungee jump or jump out of a plane?
  5. Who’s one person in your life who inspires you to be a better person?
  6. If you could have witnessed one biblical event, what would it be and why?
  7. Are you more like Fred or Ricky? (We’ve been watching I Love Lucy…)
  8. What’s one personal quality you’d like to improve? How can I help?
  9. What are your top five favorite foods? (Bonus: Put one on next week’s menu.)
  10. What was your very first impression of me?
  11. What makes you the most fulfilled or happiest as a husband?
  12. What is the best way to encourage you when you’re down?
  13. What kind of gifts do you like?
  14. If you could only go on one ride at Disneyland, what would it be?
  15. What makes you the most fulfilled or happiest as a man?
  16. What’s your favorite hymn and why?
  17. How would you like to celebrate our tenth anniversary?
  18. What do you fear the most?
  19. How have you changed since we got married?
  20. Judging from my actions and words, what are my priorities?
  21. What’s the best way to communicate respect?
  22. What’s your favorite memory of our wedding day?
  23. What is one thing you must do before you die?
  24. What have you been learning about God lately?
  25. What’s the best part of each season?
  26. What are the strengths of our marriage?
  27. What 3 things would you tell your 16 year old self?
  28. How would you spend a day without your phone?
  29. What are 3 of your favorite things about our family?
  30. What have you learned this week?
  31. If you weren’t a youth pastor (insert your spouse’s job here), what would you be?
  32. Who’s a couple you admire and why? (Bonus: If they live close, invite the over for dinner!)
  33. What big award would you like to win?
  34. How should we celebrate getting out of debt?

The One Question Experiment Recap

“What’s with all these questions?” says Tim on day ONE. I got that a lot before Tim figured out what I was up to, which happened on day twelve. Even though I had to come clean about my purposeful question asking, it was fun to have Tim in on the project as well. There was a new sense of expectation for the day’s question.

Be prepared to give your own answer. Tim never let me off the hook.

Involve dinner guests in the One Question Experiment. One of my favorite days was discussing question 27 with my siblings-in-law.

Curb your expectations. Some questions won’t turn into the scintillating conversation you were hoping for. That’s okay. Keep plugging along.

Questions can lead to healthy changes. My answer to question 3 led to a change in our prayer patterns.

Are you a good communicator? Give us some tips/encouragement/advice in the comments!

Other posts you’d probably be into:

8 thoughts on “The One Question Experiment

  1. This was great! I love your honesty. Questions are one of my favorite ways to begin a deep conversation with my hubby, but I have to admit, I’m a fellow lover of “So…” hehe! :)

  2. I LOVE this! Just last night I was telling Laszlo that we need to come up with a question jar to make our conversations more intentional when we have guests over. Stealing some of these questions!

    1. I will be updating the post to include this resource, but 201 Great Questions by Jerry Jones is a neat book of conversation starters (that aren’t lame.)

  3. Emily,

    This is beautiful! I love how you so diligently think of ways to pursue your husband and deepen your relationships. Beautiful friend, just beautiful!

  4. I’ve been getting more on the offense with our communication over here, too-tired of conflict being the only thing that gets us face to face about important stuff. A friend gave me a book that is literally transforming our marriage this year. “Keep your love on” is teaching me healthy communicating and we’re having some great dialogue. Highly recommended.

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