Written by Raechel Russo, LMFT-C
If you’re in a committed relationship, it is likely that you have had some uncomfortable conversations with your partner. It is an inevitable fact of relationships that partners will disagree at times. When you do need to have these difficult talks, how can you start them in a way that sets you up for a productive conversation? The goal is to resolve the issue rather than have a heated fight that leaves you feeling worse than you did before.
Here are a few steps to follow: 1) establish a good time to talk, 2) use an I-statement to express how you are feeling and 3) state what you need.
- Establish a good time to talk
Timing is everything. If you catch your partner during a stressful time, it could be difficult for them to focus on what you have to say or respond in a compassionate manner. Try to start the conversation by letting them know that you have something you would like to discuss and ask if this is a good time for them to listen. If it is not a good time, respect their wishes and try to set a time that would work better for both of you. However, be careful not to let this be a way for conversations to be avoided. Setting a specific and reasonable time to come back to the subject is a crucial part of this step.
- Use an I-statement to express how you are feeling.
Instead of beginning with an accusation, express how you are feeling using an I-statement such as “I have been feeling overwhelmed lately trying to get all the household responsibilities done.” or “I have been feeling very lonely lately and I feel like it has been difficult for us to connect.” This allows your partner to see into your world and understand more about why the issue at hand is important to you.
- State what you need.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming that your partner knows what you need. However, this is often not the case. In order to get what you are looking for out of the conversation, it is important to be clear about what you need from your partner. Examples of this might be “I would really appreciate it if you took responsibility over getting the dishes done.” or “I would like to go on more consistent dates so we can spend more time together.” This helps establish a clearer direction for the conversation and provides a solution that you can try as a couple.
All together, these steps might look something like this: “Hey, I have something I want to talk about, is this a good time for you? (partner agrees). I have been feeling very lonely lately and I feel like it has been difficult for us to connect. I would like to go on more consistent dates so we can spend more time together. What are your thoughts?”.
How you start a conversation greatly influences how it will go. It helps set the tone for the conversation. Establishing a good time to talk, using I-statements and stating a need can help you give yourself the best chance of having a productive conversation with your partner. Give these steps a try and see how it goes!
If you and your partner need more expert help in your relationship, reach out to us at www.legacycounselingservices.com to connect with me, or another marriage and family therapist to set up couples counseling. Or check out our 8-week Couples Enhancement Workshop for even more in-depth worth that is specific to you and your partner.
Raechel Russo, LMFT-C
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. Harmony.
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