How to Have a Difficult Conversation With Your Partner

How to Have a Difficult Conversation With Your Partner

Expert Author Susan Leigh
There are times in any relationship when disagreements occur; issues about the time spent with other friends, money and expenditure, household chores, family responsibilities are all areas that can lead to disharmony and friction. The additional problem with areas of conflict is they often mask other, more significant issues.
At times like this it is important to consider how to have a difficult conversation with your partner in the most effective way:
- Avoid waiting for days or weeks whilst you mull over a 'what if' scenario. Issues can become more and more scary if they are left to fester and are played out in our minds. And often when we do bring difficult topics into our conversation the reaction is nothing like we originally anticipated.
- Be careful of using contentious language. An important consideration in how to have a difficult conversation with your partner is to avoid accusations, instructions as in a 'you should' or 'you must' tone of voice, or blame. It is more respectful to acknowledge your own feelings; that you are distressed, uneasy, unhappy, insecure about a particular situation and ask for their help and support to address the matter.
- What is the conflict really about? We may say that we feel resentful about some obvious aspect of our partner's behaviour but often when we examine it in more detail the reality is that we are upset about something else. We may say that we object to them working such long hours but it may be that we feel neglected, jealous of their relationship with their colleagues, upset that we're taken for granted, resentful because we feel unable to pursue our own career and independence.
- Once you've thought about the real reasons for having a difficult conversation with your partner, set aside time when you're both ready and willing to commit to it. Say in advance the you need to have a chat about something of importance to you. This is a useful action because it alerts your partner to the fact that this is serious and cannot be ignored and also because it prevents you from avoiding the conversation out of fear or apprehension.
- Stay on topic. Often difficult conversations can get lost in a myriad of examples, explanations and justifications of the 'I only said that because you did this' variety. Try to avoid getting side-tracked or else the conversation will resolve nothing and merely go round in circles.
- Listen to what your partner has to say. Avoid second guessing, completing their sentences, presuming what they are wanting to say. This is a priceless opportunity to really converse and clear up misconceptions, misunderstandings and underlying issues. If there is a silence whilst your partner is thinking, wait and let them find their words. They will come eventually and it may be the first time that they have really processed their thoughts and gained insight into how they feel about certain areas of the relationship.
- Be prepared to compromise. A good relationship requires give and take, understanding, tolerance and a sense of humour. Sometimes we have to do things, meet people, go to places we don't want to go. A relationship survives because two people choose to stay together. Sometimes being flexible allows your partner to see you in a different light, to really appreciate how good you are to them and to value you even more than before.
Difficult conversations can provide opportunities for real growth and understanding in your relationship. They're the times when you learn the most about each other and provide an arena in which to enhance the quality of your life together.
Susan Leigh is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist who works with stressed individuals to promote confidence and self belief, with couples in crisis to improve communications and understanding and with business clients to support the health and motivation levels of individuals and teams.

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