No matter how much you and your partner are in love, you’re still two separate people with your thoughts and feelings. You may occasionally clash with differences of opinion. Learning how to have tough conversations with them is one of the keys to healthy, lasting relationships.
Do you and your mate have subjects you won’t discuss because you know it will lead to an argument? Unfortunately, the issue isn’t resolved because you both refuse to address the elephant in the room. It’s probably a case where one of you isn’t being true to their feelings and opinions.
When you’re effectively communicating with your partner, it includes both positive and negative subjects—loving someone requires listening to their point of view and validating their feelings. Sometimes, you make compromises or agree to disagree.
Avoiding the topic may keep peace on the surface, but it causes internal conflict. You may both be smiling, but the resentment will chisel away at your bond of love. Such avoidance leads to more problems as you find yourself drifting apart.
Ten Secrets to Having Tough Conversations
Are you tired of sweeping all your issues under the rug? Avoiding the problem won’t make it go away. Instead, consider these ten suggestions for having a challenging conversation with your partner, even if it’s an argument:
If you want to have a challenging conversation with your person, timing is of the essence. You’ve been with them long enough to know when they’re in the mood to chat. Knowing that mood can make all the difference in settling an issue or causing an impasse.
Avoid bringing up contentious subjects when you or your partner are tired or feeling grumpy. Voicing your concerns right after work or during dinner probably will backfire on you. Instead, wait for a time when you’re both at ease and are open to discussion.
2. Use the Sandwich Method to Facilitate Tough Conversations
Setting the mood for a difficult conversation is easier when you preface it with something positive. If you go into the discussion with a good attitude, you will have better solutions. It’s called the Sandwich method: positive, negative, positive.
For example, maybe you’re having issues with your combined finances. You could begin by saying, “Hey, you’ve done an excellent job by reducing some of our expenses.” This positive layer is non-confrontational and doesn’t accuse.
The second layer addresses the negative issue: “But we are still struggling to pay our bills each month.” Notice how the negative issue remains neutral. The third layer of the sandwich is a positive conversation: “How can we make a plan to save more money?”
3. Stay Focused on the Problem
Some people make the mistake of going off into left field during a tough conversation. Try your best to stay on the subject and don’t go off into a tangent. Not only will it confuse your partner, but it’s easier to forget what you’re discussing.
Focusing makes the difference between a direct conversation and an argument. This isn’t the time to mention other subjects or dabble in past shortcomings. You’ll just put your mate on the defense, and they’ll shut down or explode in anger.
If you feel like your tough conversations are veering off-topic, gently bring it back in line. It’s better to tackle one issue at a time rather than ramble about them all. A focused discussion is more likely to bring solutions to the problem.
4. Tough Conversations Require Active Listening
When you’re talking heart to heart, remember that a conversation is a two-way street. You’re talking “with” and not “to” each other. After you have your partner’s complete attention and you’ve opened with a positive statement, then listen to what they have to say.
You may miss some of their critical points if you’re too busy anticipating what you’ll say next. According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, active listening helps you understand the other’s viewpoint during a tough conversation. It can cultivate trust and help you reflect on past experiences.
Maintain eye contact and neutral body language. Even if you disagree with the statement, don’t interrupt. Nod your head and mirror their emotion. Pause a few seconds to reflect on what they’ve said before you respond.
5. Minimize Distractions
How can you possibly be attentive to each other during a tough conversation if you’re overwhelmed with distractions? Modern technology is a lifesaver, but it’s not so great when it monopolizes your attention. A quiet, peaceful setting makes it easier to listen actively and respond accordingly.
For the moment, silence your smartphone and set aside video games and other mobile devices. Turn off the tv and forget about checking your email and social media pages. It’s also a wise idea to talk privately away from your kids or other prying ears.
6. Be a Fair Fighter
If you don’t want these tough conversations to go south, you must be fair to each other. One of the worst things you can do is to start flinging accusations and insults. It’s going to end up like a night at the fights.
It’s not helpful to shift the blame to your partner or press buttons you know will flare their temper. Such a verbal attack may lead to a counterattack, and you’re fighting over everything except the critical issue. How can you fight fairly?
Stay calm, and don’t raise your voice or let your emotions fly. Instead of using the accusatory “you always” or “you never,” try to make the discussion about both of you. For example, “When you laugh at my ideas, I feel like you don’t take me seriously, and it hurts me.”
7. Find Common Ground When Having Tough Conversations
Even if you must have tough conversations with your love, you can agree on some things. When you can find common ground, it may be easier to work out issues of contention. It makes both partners feel like they’ve contributed toward an agreeable solution.
Here’s an example: “I know you’d rather go to relatives for the holidays and it’s a lovely idea. We could split the holiday weekend between home and with family, so we get both experiences.”
8. How to Respectfully Disagree
In a perfect world, you and your mate can solve every problem and live happily ever after. However, life isn’t a Grimm’s fairytale, and couples must overcome situations every day. Not every conflict between you and your lover can be solved in one tough conversation.
Sometimes, you must agree to disagree. An article published by First Things First explains that there’s not always a right and wrong opinion. In some instances, both people’s views could be correct but are from a distinct perspective.
You’re within your rights to disagree and keep your opinion respectfully. Be sure to hear each other out and empathize. If you come to an impasse, be respectful of your partner and revisit the topic later.
If you feel your temperature rising, pause even longer between statements. Count to ten, hold your breath, and stay silent. Instead of yelling, lowering your voice can help calm you and the situation.
Resorting to cursing and name-calling doesn’t make you more powerful. It only suggests a lack of respect and conversational skills. Plus, it throws gas on the fire and may drive a wedge between a couple that can’t be fixed.
9. It’s Not About Who Wins the Tough Conversations
You’re not doing yourself any favors if all you care about is winning a tough conversation. If your attitude comes across as arrogant and offensive, your partner may give in to keep you quiet. In this case, the only thing you’ve won is their bitterness and resentment.
When you approach tough conversations as a team, you care about each other’s feelings. Finding resolutions for the situations make you both winners. Couples who respect their partners learn how to compromise and explore issues together.
10. Forever Issues
At some point, you and your person may have problems with no resolutions. For example, you might never be close to your in-laws. One of you may prefer the country and the other the city and never be swayed. These conflicts may not have solutions, but you learn to accept them and stick with what’s most important.
Word to the Wise About Having These Tough Conversations
While it’s perfectly normal to have arguments with your mate, it’s not okay when they become abusive. There’s no compromise or excuse for physical, mental, or emotional abuse. If your disagreements become violent and entangled with substance abuse, you deserve better and should leave.
Final Thoughts on Having Tough Conversations with Your Partner
Wouldn’t it be grand if all your conversations in your relationship were champagne and roses? In real life, you’ll lock horns with your mate countless times. Using these suggestions for heartfelt discussions may help you find solutions that will make your relationship stronger overall. Using positive communication for those difficult conversations is the key to getting a resolution.