The dreaded three words “can we talk,” can immediately stir up defenses. Or maybe those words live on the tip of your tongue, but you just don’t feel like dealing with the spiral downward into the argument abyss, so you never say what is on your heart.
But then, what happens to those concerns, thoughts, worries, and requests that never get said? Do they fester, do you ruminate, and do you stuff them? …I am fairly certain they don’t magically disappear.
So what are you to do?
At some point, you must speak up. A healthy, happy and lasting relationship requires open communication where you can speak your mind so that these issues do not result in deep resentments that ultimately sabotage your relationship.
So here are some ideas of how to speak up in your relationship without ending up in a fight. To have a healthy relationship it is vital for both partners to speak up in a kind way; in a way we will most likely be heard, and in an assertive way where we own our statements and responses. Not speaking up or voicing our authentic thoughts and feelings in a relationship is one of the most common obstacles to healthy communication, and it can lead to a very unbalanced partnership
So why is it that we don’t just speak our minds? The answer is simple: fear. Fear we will hurt the other. Fear we will not be heard. Fear we can’t effectively put our thoughts and feelings into words. Here are the three tips that can help people address these fears and find their voices:
1) It is really “not speaking up” that will hurt the other person.
When thoughts and feelings go unspoken and are swept under the rug you may think you are letting them go but actually you are repressing them and storing up resentment. At some point, even the most non-assertive, quiet person will get to the last straw and may even explode. It is much healthier to address issues and feelings as they occur and have no lumps under the rug that you may trip over.
2) Ask yourself how you can communicate your authentic thoughts and feelings in a way they will most likely be heard.
We all receive information, thoughts, feelings, criticisms in our characteristics way. In other words, we all have an automatic style of responding we generally use. If you can determine your partner’s habitual way of responding, you may be able to figure out the best mode of communicating your message: talking, writing, emailing, and texting. One caution here is you don’t want to depend on writing, emailing or texting to continue the dialogue since you miss the tone and the body language that communicates so much more than just the words. Work towards in-person communication.
3) Think about what you want to say ahead of time and write it down.
When we are emotional it is hard to be logical. You may think you know what you are going to say but in the emotional moment you may go blank. Writing your thoughts and feelings down before the conversation helps you clarify and organize your points, allows you to make sure you are using “I” statements not “You” statements and supports you in creating a message that truly communicates what you need to say. It will also help you remember your points more clearly; some people even bring their notes to the discussion
1. Embrace an attitude of abnormal as normal
This one is a mentality shift, and something that may take some time. However, shifting your attitude can be huge in terms of normalizing the need to have conversations about your relationship.
The reality is that relationships are constantly being thrown out of balance. They are regularly in need of attention and adjustments. This is NORMAL.
So, when you need to talk to your partner about an issue, it doesn’t mean that he or she is a bad partner or that your partner is doing a bad job, it means that you are in a NORMAL relationship that requires some maintenance.
Try to talk with your partner about this mentality. Remind him or her at the beginning of a relationship conversation that it is normal to have to make adjustments in how we behave and treat each other
If you and your partner can get to a place where it is jointly accepted that it is normal to need to talk about your relationship, then these conversations will go more smoothly, and defenses will not be raised at the hint of a “relationship talk.”
2. Have regular relationship talks
It’s an opportunity to check in with one another. Hit on how things have been going well, and then what needs a bit more attention.
The more you do this, the less likely issues will grow and fester, and the less intimidating these conversations will become.
3. Strike when the iron is cold
So often we hold in issues until they ooze out of us because we can’t contain them anymore. And, more often than not, this happens at the worst times, like when your partner is about to head out of town, or they have an early morning commitment and it is 10:30 at night.
The tip here is to bring up an issue when things are going well. When you have some downtime together and are in a good place, say something like, “Hey, I’ve been wanting to talk with you about something, you think you’d be up for it?”
Trying to talk about issues when it’s tense, when you’re about to overflow with emotion or frustration, or when time is tight doesn’t go well. So get in there when all is good!
4. Stick to one issue at a talk
I’m certain this has happened to me. When you begin a relationship talk and suddenly you’re talking about all the issues you have been bottling up, giving examples, and trying to explain everything that has ever bothered you. And then you realize, you’ve lost your point. This is an example of “partner overload.” Seriously, who can hear all those things at once and not feel totally defeated or defensive.
Next time, choose one issue. One point you’d like to discuss and ONLY talk about that point. This will help you to keep it clear and it will also help your partner not to feel like you are attacking from all sides.