Do you struggle with talking about difficult topics with your spouse because you’re worried about how it will go? Or maybe it’s a conversation you’ve had before that keeps on turning into an argument? We all know that difficult conversations can be stressful, but they really don’t have to be.
How to Have Hard Conversations with your Spouse
Step one is to plan for it. Decide in advance what exactly it is you want to talk about. Ask yourself these questions before you have your chat; “What is it I want my spouse to understand?” and “What am I hoping the outcome of this conversation will be and am I willing to allow it to look differently than I’d like?”. By having a plan it is less likely for you to experience a blindside that will trigger you to avoid or to lash out.
Next, choose your timing. Having a hard conversation when your spouse just got home from work, is tired, already bothered, or hungry, will rarely produce a positive outcome. Oftentimes we try to have these conversations when emotions are already elevated because something happened to remind us of them. Don’t take the bait on that one. Instead, pick a time to talk when it’s calm, when the kids aren’t around, and when both of you are in decent moods. The least number of interruptions you can have, the better.
You also don’t want to forget to set the tone. Be clear before you begin by saying something like,”I want to share this with you and my intention is to not argue, but instead to have a good conversation.” Have open and positive body language and tone of voice. You want to come across as sincere and non-accusatory. A shift in your body such as crossed arms or an eye roll can change the entire direction of a conversation.
Next, you want to be sure to stay on track. It’s easy to get baited into getting off topic. Remember to address one issue at a time and mentally decide in advance to stay on topic. This should be part of your planning process too.
Finally, invite grace and understanding to the conversation. Be intentional about listening to your spouse and offering lots of grace as they absorb and process the conversation. Remember, you planned for this, they didn’t. Make room for their reactions and allow them to have their own feelings, thoughts, and opinions.
At the end of the day, if you want to get good at having hard conversations, you will need to make a lot of room for pausing, listening, and understanding, and last of all practice. Be willing to fail your way forward with this. Keep trying and you’ll get there!
If you need more communication tips, be sure to check out the Expedition Marriage podcast and their series on Communication Killers and their Kryptonite. You can find it here.