How to Communicate Difficult Issues: Marriage and Relationships Issues

Throughout your marriage there will be times when you need to have “must have” conversations. These are the conversations that you both may not want to talk about. These are conversations about difficult issues and situations. These are the conversations that may make you both angry, defensive, sad, and hurt.

Pretending that there is nothing wrong will keep both of you walking on eggshells and will ultimately cause your marriage to fail. Having the difficult talk shows you care enough about your spouse and your marriage to have the conversation.

Furthermore, most relationships don’t make it six weeks. If you share deeply personal information too soon you increase the risk of new relationships ending before the sixth week (due to the added discomfort and pressure of your disclosure), but now you also have to worry about all the personal things they know about you. Here are ten top tips and strategies when you have to have that difficult talk.

10 Tips to Use During the Difficult Conversation:

  1. Open the lines of communication. Ask for input from your partner to help you best figure out a balanced solution to your issue. This will greatly reduce the other person’s defensiveness and make them more available to participate.
  2. Acknowledge your partner’s willingness to talk. Thank them for having the conversation with you both at the start and the end. It will make the discussion a team effort and make your partner feel they have given of themselves. It will also make having the next difficult conversation easier.
  3. Set a time limit. It’s important that you talk, but also that you don’t wear each other out. Thirty minutes to an hour is about the limit. If you need to continue the conversation, make an appointment to do so, that way things aren’t left hanging.
  4. Paraphrase each other’s comments. Telling each other what you heard your partner say will let them know that you really got or didn’t get how they were feeling.
  5. Work out a compromise. Relationships are all about compromise, and how you get there will determine your level of satisfaction with the relationship. Giving your partner what they need is not the same as giving up. Your attitude here is very important.
  6. Make a list of what questions you have and what you’d like your partner to do. It always makes it easier to remember and to stay on topic if you have something in writing. It also helps you make sure you complete the whole issue rather than just some of its parts.
  7. Be okay with being wrong. Difficult conversations don’t always end the way you’d like them to. Sometimes an apology or a change of mind is appropriate. Holding a grudge just because you didn’t get everything you thought you wanted will only cause more discord.
  8. Respect expert advice. If you go to a therapist or read something that defends or rebuts your opinions, take the time to consider it. No one knows everything.
  9. Understand the emotional component. Difficult conversation can bring up lots of feelings. Make sure you’re talking from your heart, but don’t let your emotions run you. Discuss your feelings and ask for theirs. Using I statements when sharing your feelings will minimize any feelings of guilt or anger.
  10. Consolidate the gains and recommit to each other. After you have had the conversation, review what you have decided to do (even if that is only to continue the talking at another time), agree upon the conclusion, and let your partner know that you still love them. Lastly, don’t punish them for bringing up a difficult issue.