Discussing Your Relationship Woes without Making Them Worse

Some problems are difficult to talk about, but discussing relationship issues is the only way to deal with the situation head-on.

You may have a difficult conversation with your partner, and you may be dreading it. You’re thinking about everything you want to say, what he might say, and how he’ll react to what you tell him. Who knows, by the end of the tough conversation, he may do the ultimate break up with you.

Discussing relationship problems with your partner is a daunting task that can sometimes feel scary because you don’t know how they’ll react. You’re not even sure how you’ll respond. However, learning how to do it is vital if you want to keep your relationship intact.

We all have a little life coach inside of us, and mine is telling me that while a person’s concerns are valid, you can take many approaches that will allow for a successful discussion, no matter how challenging the issue. You can have a conversation where both of you walk away with the best possible solution while limiting negative emotions. Here are five surefire tips on how to make discussing relationship issues easier for you both.

1.  Pick a Good Time and Place

This idea works best for children and adults alike. For instance, as a parent, if you have something difficult to discuss with your kids, it’s best to do it in a place that’s comforting to them. This may be in the car or while on a hike. Some people feel more comfortable discussing complex topics side-by-side rather than face-to-face.

When you face someone and look directly into their eyes, it can sometimes be more unsettling for the person with whom you’re speaking. However, being side-by-side, your eyes aren’t on them, so it can make you feel more comfortable talking and them more comfortable listening. In other words, both parties are less vulnerable, giving each person more time to react. Your eyes can “speak” faster than words, which may cause the discussion to devolve quickly.

Always decide on a time that isn’t stressful. For example, you don’t want to have a difficult conversation while waiting in line at the DMV. Pick a time when you both are more relaxed, like when they come over for Taco Tuesday. They’ll be in a good mood, and then you can gently begin your conversation.

2.  Release Any Assumptions

The problem with assumptions is that, most times, they’re incorrect. You can spend the entire day imagining what the discussion will be like, and even visualizing all sorts of reactions your partner may or may not have. What will he say? How will he act?

You imagine him being calm, then angry. Some visualizations involve tears and resentment. By the time you have the actual discussion, you’re already stressed out thinking about all the possible outcomes.

If you want to make the complicated discussion easier, release all those projected outcomes first. You have no idea how your partner will react, so when you spend even one second wondering what might happen, you’re wasting your time and energy.

Start accepting that whatever happens will happen and that there’s nothing you can do to control the outcome. And when you find yourself inadvertently assuming again, quickly release those thoughts and return to the present moment. Once you do that, you’ll go into the discussion much more relaxed. If you don’t plan to have the discussion for several hours, keep active and stay busy with things that will help you get your mind off the topic. Working out is an excellent way to tire your mind and body out. This way, you’ll be too exhausted mentally to give energy to the impending conversation.

3. Be a Good Listener

This is one of the most critical elements to keeping the situation calm. You should be very careful and listen to what you’re hearing back from the person you’re talking with. You can get some helpful information by letting them know you’ve been paying attention. You’ll also be more likely to get the positive outcome you’re looking for.

Have you ever tried reflective listening? Some find it challenging, but if you’re successful, it works. After they speak, say, “So, what I hear is that….and I get it.” These words make them feel heard, empathized with, and validated.

Sometimes, it’s all about being heard. People want to know that someone is listening and get frustrated when they think others are overlooking them. When you don’t feel listened to, it can make an individual shut down, become angry, or storm off. Again, that’s not your end goal.

Tips on Being an Active Listener

Active listening is an essential social and conversational skill. It involves listening to the speaker attentively, taking time to understand what they’re saying, reflecting on what they’ve said, and responding, but only when necessary. Doing these things help build a stronger relationship and mutual trust. Here are 5 strategies to become an active listener:

Man and Woman Talking By Water
  • Listen closely: Communicating effectively only happens when the listener focuses completely on listening. Don’t interrupt or cut them off while they’re still talking. Don’t fixate on what you’re going to say next. Just go with the flow of the conversation.
  • Be patient: Sometimes, the person speaking may take a while to make their point, but if you’re actively listening, you can help move the conversation along by asking clarifying questions about the details of their story. The speaker will appreciate your patience, plus your tolerance helps to avoid missing out on important details.
  • No judgment: We all have different life experiences, points of view, and opinions. Keep an open mind to avoid unnecessary conflict. Instead of jumping to conclusions, give them time to explain their side. Doing so will help you grow and learn a perspective other than your own.
  • Watch body language: When you have face-to-face conversations, it requires both verbal and nonverbal communication. Things like facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, and posture help you better understand the speaker’s emotional state and thoughts so you can respond accordingly.For example, if you have a client who is fidgety while speaking, you can verbally reassure them that they’re doing a good job and shouldn’t be nervous. Non-verbally, to let them know they are doing a good job, you can give them eye contact, smile, or offer a slight nod of approval.As the person doing the listening, body language is just as important. When someone is talking, you never want to do things like fidget, avoid eye contact or keep checking your watch for the time. Doing so shows disinterest in what they’re saying and, quite frankly, makes you seem rude.
  • Silence is okay: At times, silence may seem very awkward, so of course, you want to fill it. But it’s rarely helpful to talk just for the sake of saying something. Sometimes silence helps people be more thoughtful with what they plan to say next. When you encounter periods of stillness, take the time to think about the conversation thus far and notice the other person’s body language so you can get an idea of how they’re feeling during the discussion.

4. Do Not Be Confrontational.

Your goal is to have an effective conversation and create a positive outcome for both parties, not antagonize until you’re both frustrated. To do this, you mustn’t verbally attack your partner. Don’t say things like, “You do this and that’s wrong!” or “You are the one that made this mess, so you fix it..” Instead, use “I statements” to get your point across. “I think we can resolve the situation by doing this.”

When one partner struggles with a few things in a relationship, ask them how happy they are on a scale of 1-10. When you do this, it will allow him to open up about the issue gradually. From there, you can ask him more in-depth questions that can lead you to talk about how to move ahead through the relationship issues.

Don’t say, “Why are you constantly doing stupid things?” The only thing that will do is make them shut down and want to leave, and that’s definitely not the end goal.

6 Ways to Avoid Being Confrontational

  1. Pick your battles: Can you imagine if you confronted everything that got on your nerves? You wouldn’t have time to work, sleep, eat, or anything else. Not everything needs to be a confrontation. Instead, take some time to consider the things that make you angry. Determine which of those you simply cannot stay quiet about. If you’re genuinely passionate about it, it may be worth the conflict.
  2. Avoid issues that make you angry: Have you ever heard the saying that says something like “In polite company, never discuss matters of politics, religion, or money?” The reason is that discussions on these sensitive topics never go anywhere and, in fact, can make you angry when you discuss them. No matter how much argue someone’s point of view on these topics, they will never change their perception. In other words, you’re arguing just for the sake of arguing because you’ll never come to any resolution.
  3. See them as imperfect rather than malicious: We are all human beings, and that means NO ONE is perfect. We make mistakes and sometimes do stupid things, and not one of us is exempt. Often, we end up in conflicts because of misconceptions, miscommunications, or unmet expectations. So don’t take every screw-up personally. It’s not always a malicious attack on you. For example, if someone cuts in front of you in traffic, you think that person has it in for you, and maybe they are just being an asshole. Or, perhaps, they have a medical emergency that they need to deal with quickly.
  4. Search for a mutually beneficial solution: Sometimes, all it takes to resolve a conflict is finding a middle ground and compromise. Most reasonable adults are willing to come to some agreement that benefits both parties since they aren’t going to always get their way. Of course, that’s typically easier said than done. Not all people are reasonable. But still, if you can’t find the middle ground where both parties benefit, it’s a better option than arguing about it.
  5. Let go of petty disagreements: We have never seen someone get their way 100% of the time. So sometimes, you’ll never be able to find common ground with another person, and that’s fine. What matters is that you learn not to continue fighting when clearly there is no resolution in sight. It’s a waste of time and emotional energy to bother.
  6. Try mindfulness to comprehend your emotions: Mindfulness is all about being aware of your feelings instead of making moves on autopilot. Many people don’t think about how they feel in the moment.

Instead, they just feel whatever emotions pull them along. When you’re mindful of your present feelings, you can attempt to interrupt the emotional process instead of allowing it to take over.

5. Understand That Everything Will Be Okay

Even though you may be nervous about an impending difficult conversation, understand that it’s not the end of the world. It may be easier said than done at the moment, but really, no matter what it is, everything will be okay. Whether the conversation goes as intended or it veers off course, the situation will work itself out. Just stay calm, and you’ll see. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

It may help if you wonder about the worst possible thing (the death of a loved one) and know that regardless of what happens in your difficult conversation, at least that won’t happen—anything else you can handle.

You will never find anyone in a perfect relationship ever! We all go through our ups and downs, and some relationships last while others don’t. Don’t think that if you put off the conversation, everything will work itself out because it won’t.

Take control and talk about your issues. Any loving and supportive partner will take the time to work through the tough times and come out better on the other side.