Wonder, as I define it, is a state of mind where curiosity meets awareness, with phenomena perceived through a lens of beauty.  Emotionally, one is calm, content and engaged. In order to attain this state, one must transcend the mind’s common thought patterns and instead recognize the larger phenomena occurring both within and outside of oneself.  Wonder, therefore, offsets the mundane, offers a counterpoint to the ordinary and awakens the spirt.  It is an antidote to depression.  The calm, curious and clear state in which we wonder precludes anxiety.  We can’t always live in a state of wonder.  But, you can imagine how accessing this state can stave off mental health troubles and enhance your well-being.

As a Couples Therapist, I have seen first-hand what makes relationships thrive: each partner has a deep admiration and respect for the other; each partner has a zest for life, with accountability and interest in one’s own well-being; and each partner values the relationship.  

Simply stated, there is an ability to tend to and value the Self, the Partner and the Relationship.  Applying the state of Wonder to each of these domains elevates the experience even further.

How do you embrace wonder when approaching your Self?  First, assume all of you is beautiful.  Even the parts of you that you resent might have served you along the way.  As Richard Schwartz asserts in Internal Family Systems, there are no Bad Parts.  Second, take a step back, as you might when meditating, just observe.  Then, approach yourself with curiosity.  See what you might discover.  You will likely see something you haven’t seen before.  This approach enlivens the spirit, piques your interest in yourself and the world (and inadvertently also makes you more interesting, which comes in handy in keeping a relationship alive).

Now consider what happens when you embrace a state of Wonder when being with your partner.  Wonder assumes our partner is not fully known to us.  It sparks intrigue, which can in turn spark desire.  With its tone of reverence, wonder allows us to hold our partner in high regard, allowing us to see the beauty in our partner.  It also then allows our partner to take down their guard, to be both understood and inspired, a best version of themselves, both bold and intimate.  

How do you embrace wonder when approaching your partner?  Wonder about their inner experience.  What is it you don’t yet know about their world?  Wonder about how they came to be who they are.  How did they obtain the gifts that differ from yours?   Notice the intricacies of their bodies, divine and beautiful, and how grateful you are for it.  Wonder about their sexuality, their fantasies and desires, how they came to be, and how they might be satisfied.  

Now, together, each of you can apply wonder to the relationship.  Start with being curious about your relational dynamic.  In my couples work, I encourage couples to reflect in a tone of curiosity and kindness rather than shame or blame on the relational dynamic they fall into at their worst.  Then, I have them envision a better relational dynamic.  When one person slips into a lower functioning version of themselves and triggers the dysfunctional dynamic, one or both partners can name it and open the door to shifting into a more connected dynamic. 

Elevate this even more by layering in a state of wonder when approaching the relationship.  This would entail holding a sacred space for the relationship, the same way you might hold a sacred space for your child.  Approach the relationship with a gentleness, slow it down, flirt, frolic and revel in it, and above all, cherish it.  When tension arises, imagine how you might meet it, were you in a state of wonder.  Similarly, when a chance for intimacy arises, welcome it with wonder. 

Try this, and see how it goes.  And, if you can do all of this, and it still doesn’t elevate your relationship, I will be astonished.  So please contact me, and let me know. 


  • Ann O’Brien, LCSW, MSc, is a Psychotherapist who works with Adults and Couples in Private Practice in Los Angeles and via Telehealth.  She has 20 years clinical experience with training in the Gottman and Developmental Model for Couples Therapy and is a Certified Sex Therapy Informed Professional.  She is certified in EMDR, Grief Counseling and Integrative Medicine for Mental Health.  She has also served as Adjunct Faculty at USC’s Graduate School for Social Work.  She attended Yale University, London School of Economics (MSc) and University of Southern California (MSW).  Prior to being a Psychotherapist, Ann was a Researcher at UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs.

    Find her online at annobrientherapy.com.