At some point in any relationship, we all have to face conversations that are difficult. How to have difficult conversations is critical to the long term success of your relationships and are usually the ones that get us really emotional. We might get emotional because the topic is hard for us personally, because of something that’s happened to us in a past relationship, or it might be just something we feel really passionately about. It could even be something that you disagree with as a couple. Every relationship has these topics that we know that if we bring them up, it’s going to be hard to talk about.
Do Not Keep Things Unresolved.
Why should we even have difficult conversations? For many couples that are in relationships the discomfort of having difficult conversations can often lead to us avoiding the issue at hand altogether. Avoidance is the wrong direction because nothing is just ignored. You might be ignoring it on the surface, but it is festering. It doesn’t just sit still underneath. Often, especially if it’s something that’s important to us, or our partner, then it’s something that’s firing up our emotions. So if that’s the case and we ignore it, then we’ll often just allow it to fester and then it will show up in other ways. Whether it’s resentment or bitterness, it starts taxing our emotions and the relationship starts to deplete. We might think that we’re saving ourselves in the moment by not talking about the issue, but really we are likely causing a more issues and asking for bigger problems down the road.
Identifying The Problem.
Even if you feel silly, even if you feel in the moment that you’re not even sure what is reality or what is not reality, what is important to keep in mind is this: any emotion that is yours still matters to you. However, it is finding the appropriate way and time to communicate your emotions. The difference here is that you need to make sure you can remain balanced and not allow your emotions to get the best of you and hijack the conversation. Keeping in mind that the reason for your emotions may not be immediately obvious, but oftentimes if we sit back, give ourselves a little bit of space to do some self reflection, and say “Okay, what is it about this situation that’s really making me anxious or making me frustrated?” Once you can identify that for yourself, then at least you can start to have the conversation. After this time of reflection we will know the topic that is troubling us (things like: your intimate life, your in-laws or even about money). While those are bigger and more general topics, identifying the problem is about getting more specific about what is making us emotional and why you’re struggling with or feeling a lot of anxiety about that matter.
3 Reasons We Do Not Talk About Our Emotions.
Once we identify the specific issue is, we have to be willing to actually have the conversation and unfortunately a lot of couples don’t do this. One of the big reasons why we don’t have these types of conversations is fear. We have a lot of fear about what’s going to happen if I approach my partner and try to have these hard conversations. The research suggests there’s at least three kind of major fears that we can have that lead us to maybe not have these conversations.
- The Fear of Rejection. The first one is fear of rejection. What if my partner doesn’t like me anymore based on this? What will they think if I share this about myself? What if I disclose these feelings? What if I want to have this conversation and it makes them think negatively about me? That’s one of the biggest barriers in couples relationships. We fear that rejection. That can be a major reason why we don’t have those conversations because we are worried that they are going to reject me.
- The Fear of Instability. Another big fear that we see in research is fear of instability. What if we fight? What if this makes our relationship weaker? Maybe those thoughts are based on a previous experience where you’ll say things to yourself like “I’ve tried to bring this up. We’ve had this talk before and we just fight. It always ends poorly”. That fear of instability in the relationship where everything is going great, except when we talk about (intimacy, parenting differences, or whatever it is…) that is when things get bad. Again, that feeling of instability stops us from being able to express important matters.
- The Fear of Being Misunderstood. The last one is the fear of being misunderstood. What if I can’t say it the right way? What if I can’t express what I feel? What if I say something wrong or I don’t say it the right way? We don’t feel like we have the skills or the tools to really come across in a positive way, or maybe we’re worried that if I start talking about this I’m just going to get mad and then I’m going to say the wrong thing. This common fear tells us that we are inadequate, and maybe even dumb because expressing how we feel in words is a challenge.
What You Can Do.
- Clear Your Mind. Take some time to really gain control of your emotions that you can clearly identify the root of the problem. Really whittle it down to its finest point. “I feel sad when this happens”, or “It makes me upset when this gets said”, or “I desire this in our relationship”. Is it something that you just need to vent, or is it a difficult conversation that you need to have.
- Write Down Your Answer. If so, then consider writing down exactly how you feel and either read that note aloud to your partner, or have them read it aloud with you present.
- Do Not Personally Escalate. Make sure you do not take your partner’s response (or lack of response) personally and escalate the conversation from sharing your thoughts and turning it into an argument. Remind your partner that your emotions may not be based in reality, but that it is what you are feeling, and that it is important to get it out into the open.
Relationships are worth the work it takes to be successful, and learning how to have difficult conversations will ultimately help lead you to a fruitful and joy-filled relationship!