Consequence Question #3 – Two Types

If you want to help couples to improve their marriage satisfaction, master consequence questions.

I’ve watched a number of mentors struggle with this skill. They tend to jump from identifying a problem into recommending a solution. If the person isn’t bought in to the need for change, they may not work on changing.

Your couples will have patterns of behaviors that are hurting their relationship. Part of changing the pattern of their relationship is to understand the impact upon each other. Consequence questions help.

There are two types of consequence questions: the effect of the negative and the effect of the positive.

Effect of the Negative

We can become motivated by understanding the impact of our negative actions. This is part of understanding our unhealthy patterns.

I’m a competitive guy. I also like to debate. I like to win arguments.

For years, I took this approach with my wife. I would argue and she would shut down. I felt like I won. She felt like she couldn’t talk to me.

I was winning the battle and losing the war. This was not acting in a loving way. When I realized the impact of my actions on my wife, I started to work on listening instead of arguing.

It took me a while to recognize the consequences that my actions had on her.

There are consequence questions that about the immediate pattern. There are also questions that extend the impact into other areas, such as the impact on their kids. You can also extend the consequences into the future.

Examples of questions:

Will that tear down your bond or build it up?

Does it cause you to nag?

How does it impact you when your spouse criticizes you?

Does it cause you to stonewall?

How does that impact your kids?

What will happen if you continue criticizing your spouse?

Effect of the Positive

Understanding the positive impact is also motivating. If I can understand the good things that come from a behavior, I’m more likely to change.

I did come to realize that debating and arguing with my wife was shutting her down. I also came to understand that listening to her would open her up. I would rather have a wife that is safe to express her opinion. She is also more likely to listen with an open mind to my opinion when I show I valued her.

If you asked me, “Would you like to have your wife listen to your opinion?” I would have said, “Yes!” Of course, I needed to understand why it wasn’t safe for her.

Examples of questions:

What would happen if, instead of criticizing, you would validate your spouse?

Would that build your connection?

If you felt more connected, what would be the impact?

Would you enjoy each other more?

Would you fight less?

Would your kids notice?

If you continue to validate your spouse, what will happen in the future?

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • Don’t jump from problem to solution — Unless someone is ready to change, remember to ask consequence questions.
  • Ask about the negative consequence – What’s the impact of your negative behavior? How does that contribute to your unhealthy pattern?
  • Ask about the positive consequence – What if you did a positive behavior? What would be the impact? What would you gain?

When I’m leading a small group or I’m speaking individually with a couple, I keep in mind the impact of both the negative and the positive effects of a behavior.

Other posts you might like:

Consequence Questions 1: How to Help a Couple Change

Consequence Questions 2: The Big Mistake

What challenges have you come across in asking consequence questions?