Conflict between romantic partners is normal. Discord only becomes a problem when you avoid confrontation. Letting issues fester creates anxiety and, ultimately, resentment. Plus, avoidance is self-defeating: If the complaint isn’t even on the table, it can’t get solved.
The initial discomfort of speaking up is worth the benefits that come post-conversation. Emotional discussions are a vehicle for growth. Once your partner better understands your needs, they can adjust to have them met. Solving relationship problems together makes you more bonded and confident as a couple.
If tough talks feel intimidating, follow these tried-and-true tips for a pinch of extra courage.
- Make an honesty pledge
Kick the convo off with a promise. Let your partner know that you’d like a fully honest relationship, in which you tell one another what’s on your mind, even when it’s not pretty. Tell them you promise to put the overall well-being of the relationship before the momentary dread of what will follow an uncomfortable conversation. Ask them to do the same.
- Obey the three-grumble rule
Laurie Gerber, head coach of HG Life, suggests a three-grumble rule: If you complain about your partner in your head more than three times, you must confront them. Doing so really opens up the lines of communication and keeps grumbles from becoming major grievances.
- Be direct
Once you’ve initiated a hard conversation, it’s important to actually say the hard stuff. Otherwise, you’ll leave wishing you’d said something you didn’t and your partner will leave guessing what you want from them. Say exactly how you feel and explain what’s going on in your head. Then be specific about what you need on their part moving forward.
- Mark the calendar
Michelle Garside, creator and founder of Soul Camp Creative, suggests scheduling hard conversations. When both partners are comfortable, focused and not in a rush, positive results are more likely. Garside advises to enter the discussion without expectations. She also says to check old baggage at the door and instead focus solely on the topic you’ve planned to tackle.
- Take a break
Hard conversations can bring up a lot of latent emotions. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell your partner you need a moment, Garside says. Step out—preferably to the outdoors—and take some deep breaths. Doing so will help you return to the chat with a clear head.
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