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Life Lessons

Are You The “What?” Person In Your Relationship?

Triple Wedding
(Photo by Henry Miller News Picture Service/FPG/Getty Images)

During a recent conversation with some friends, we came to the conclusion that most adult, romantic relationships can be defined by a simple but revelatory dynamic: one person in the relationship is the “What?” Person.

Imagine a hypothetical relationship between two adults in their 30s. At some point, they may have a conversation like this:

Person A: Do you think we should finally get a bigger bed? It’s kind of silly that we’re 32 and still sleep on a full-size mattress.

Person B: What?

As you have probably surmised, Person B is the “What?” Person.

What’s important to understand about this hypothetical exchange is that the specifics are interchangeable. Person A could be asking the “What?” Person if now is the time to, after many years of living in a crappy apartment, finally think about moving into a different one; they could be asking if maybe it would make sense to start doing some research about how to qualify for a home loan; they could be idly wondering about how various stains appeared on the couch. The question Person A is actually asking in all of these hypotheticals is: “Is there something we could do to meaningfully improve our lives?”

And when the “What?” Person replies, “What?” it is not necessarily because they have misunderstood the question. It is because they tend to just take life as it comes to them, and therefore have not spent much time considering what’s lacking about their overall situation. What the “What?” Person is actually asking in reply is, “Wait, there’s something wrong with this?”

So, are you the “What?” Person?

I ask the question not to pass any judgment. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a “What?” Person. I just think it would be genuinely useful for you to know the answer.