Asking questions is a good way to find out more about a person, but not every question is easy to ask. Whether you’re in a relationship, just getting to know someone or are curious, finding out how many times someone has been married isn’t usually something you ask directly. Instead, a discreet and diplomatic approach can make this awkward question less so. Additionally, asking in a respectful way can help facilitate continued conversation instead of an abrupt end to the discussion.
Take an opportunity to ask questions during a discussion that includes the topic of marriage. The least awkward approach to finding out how many times someone has been married is to wait until the topic comes up in conversation naturally. If, for example, you are in the midst of discussing your respective thoughts on marriage, you can casually ask, “Have you been married?” If the answer is yes, you can then ask questions about their marriage and go from there to find out about any subsequent marriages.
Ask the person directly. This approach is appropriate for someone you are dating or with whom you have an established relationship. Choose a time and place that afford you some privacy and wait until you are in the midst of a lighthearted discussion. Avoid vague references to what you are asking and instead be direct. Implement skills of the therapeutic technique Active Listening, such as clarifying what has been said and repeating it in your own words. This approach can help reduce the risk of the other person taking a defensive stance, explains psychologist Carl Rogers in the online publication "Active Listening."
Ask family or friends who know the person well enough to answer the question. Choose the person you ask carefully, because the question could backfire on you and lead to animosity if you’re labeled a gossip. Wait for an appropriate time and place to ask, and avoid contacting people just to ask them how many times someone has been married. Instead, wait until a related topic comes up in conversation and ask in a way that fits.
Do some detective work by using an Internet search engine. Simply searching a person’s first and last name or their name and “marriage” may produce how many times they have been married as well as when and where. Alternatively, if you can find out where a person has resided, you can go to the local county clerk’s website to find out if they offer public records of marriages. Some states don’t allow public access, but you can find out which ones do by checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's online list of "Where to Write for Vital Records."
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