Recently, a friend was in town from London with a very tight work schedule, which meant we had minimal time to meet up. Still, our long-distance relationship is a priority, so we got creative. “I’ve got Thursday from 9 to 9:30 open—we could grab a coffee as we walk to my next meeting?” she asked half-joking. Given her logistics intersected my own commute to the office, I accepted the invitation.
The resulting meet-up was a boost in the middle of a busy work week. It also meant we had to succinct and specifics with the topics we chose to chat about.
That’s when my friend surprised me with a three-word question: “How’s your marriage?”
She could have said “how are you?” and left it up to chance that we’d have time to cover the important things (work, kids, our relationships), but time was of the essence. Instead, she got straight to the point. I loved it.
The result was a heartfelt conversation about the sacrifices required when you’re a working parent, but also how we handle our needs for “me time” within our marriage—something each of us struggle with as it turns out, but felt cathartic to discuss.
I was stunned by the commonality we shared, but also the fact that even if we had three hours during her jaunt to New York City, we may not have uncovered this shared experience due to lack of specificity. What struck me as even more interesting is that our friendship isn’t at the level where we’re regularly in touch, which meant the question could have come off as a little too probing.
Yet somehow it didn’t. She wasn’t asking about my marriage with a tone but rather genuine interest in an area of my life that one would assume is vast and affecting. I left our catch-up feeling not just closer to my long-distance pal, but also enlightened and more connected knowing we shared similar feelings.
It’s true that you have to feel your way through any conversation—the circumstances have to be right. (I recently caught up with another friend for coffee and thought about posing this Q, but we were so busily discussing other topics that I felt asking it would have required blurting it out, so I skipped.)
Still, I love the idea that with true and authentic friendship, you don’t have to beat around the bush. Instead, the mantra should be to ask, engage and support. The resulting connection is a win-win for all.