Creating Time to Talk About Sensitive or Reoccurring Relationship Issues
When you and your spouse or partner argue or have a disagreement, is it typically around the same type of issues? Many couples have the same arguments over and over. And some start to lose hope that these issues will ever get resolved. Leaving them hopeless and wondering what to do next.
One helpful tip for addressing these issues, when you both can really be present for each other, is to ask each other when a good time to talk would be.
What this is not, is an opportunity for one parter to stonewall and say something like: “tomorrow!” “or, after I finish this work project next week!”
What this is – is – an opportunity for both partners to set aside a time. Within the same day (if possible)! To talk about what the other is requesting.
This is important for a few reasons.
- It allows the partner to know you care and that you want to hear what they have to say. That they matter to you.
- It allows you to be able to be present for this conversation between the both of you. So that you aren’t distracted. And focused on other things while also trying to listen and talk with your spouse or partner.
How to! Create Time to Talk About Sensitive/Reoccurring Relationship Issues
When you are in the heat of an argument or disagreement. It’s very difficult to stop and say, can we talk about this at a different time? An antidote to this is to get a little distance from the argument.
Maybe that’s a few minutes afterward, the next day, or whenever you are at a place where you can approach your partner from a de-escalated perspective.
This will help create a non-confrontational atmosphere. It will help you to feel heard. And will help your partner relax his/her defenses to hear your request.
Example! How to Create Time to Talk About Sensitive/Reoccurring Relationship Issues
When you want to create a time to talk with your spouse or partner about reoccurring arguments, it’s important to be aware of your intention.
- If your intention is to truly reach out and seek your partner for a time that can be dedicated to just the both of you, then this approach may be helpful.
- When you approach your spouse, it’s important to be in a calmer mood. Often this occurs when you can get a little more distant from the onset of the argument. Meaning a little more time has passed that has allowed you (and hopefully both partners) to self sooth and calm.
- In this more calm state, tone and non-verbal facial expressions is important. If you can approach with a friendlier tone (friendlier than when you are escalating). This can help relax defenses when one partner can hear the voice of their partner has changed. Changed to one that’s more interpersonal. One that sounds like you both are friends and wanting to work together through a together problem.
I like using the wording “a together problem.” Because it is. You are in partnership with each other and it’s impacting the both of you. So, it’s important to recognize that this is about a “we” an “us.” Not about what you did wrong, and how you need to change. Or how they did wrong, disappointed you, and needs to change.
One partner is working in the other room and is approached by their spouse.
“Honey,” (it’s a good idea to use any softer names for each other that you typically use. This can help keep both of you calm and connected. “Honey, I’d like to talk to you about something that has been bothering me since our last argument.” “Is this a good time.”
If it’s not a good time, the response can be: “I can’t right now but I can at 8pm after we put the kiddos to bed.” Would that be ok with you?”
“Yes, let’s plan on meeting on the couch then.”
Agreed Upon Meeting Time & Location
Once you’ve got your agreed upon time – ideally within the same day – and the place where you’ll sit to talk and listen. Next is to continue with your day, trying to not think about all the evidence of how you are right and they are wrong. Use this time to get you connected to yourself. Do things you enjoy – or have to do like work, tend to house things, children, etc. – and try to have your thoughts focused on being more present with those activities. To allow yourself to self-sooth. To calm into a non-reactive state.
When you do join in union again, this is a time to continue with the intention you set earlier. The intention to be heard and to hear. To talk and to listen. And vice versa for your partner.
When you greet each other upon your joining back up again – actually DO GREET each other. Say hi or glad we can have this time together – something along those lines.
Then you can start the talking listening process.
Talking and Listening TOGETHER Process
One partner will be the talker.
The other will be the listener.
The role of the talker is:
- To talk about what’s on their mind and heart in a way that’s focused on their own needs.
- Not from a place of what the other is doing wrong.
- But from how certain interactional patterns have actions that happen that make you feel a certain way and have thoughts that accompany it. And it’s from this feeling and these thoughts that you are sharing.
- You’re letting your partner in on your personal inner feelings and what the messages are that you have when certain things happen or don’t happen in your relationship. (Often our minds can take us into negative beliefs such as: this is never going to work, they don’t care about me, I might need to leave to be able to get what I want, etc)
- When in the talking role, your intention is to talk from your perspective about your needs and try to be as concise and direct as you can so the other can truly hear your needs and what is needed. The conciseness is to help you both when your partner – who is listening – can reflect back what you said. If it’s too much coming at them at one time, reflection will then be very difficult and nearly impossible to do in a manner that helps you know you’re heard.
The role of the listener is:
- To listen without judgement. Just listen. Hear what your partner is saying to you.
- Reflect back your partner’s words – after they can completed a few concise sentences, you will reflect back – USING AS MANY OF YOUR PARTNER’S WORDS – as you can.
- Then, you will ask (after reflecting what you heard them say) – is that right?
- *This is an opportunity for your partner to say Yes or No. This is NOT a time to start criticizing your partner because they missed something or all of it completely! No. This is simply a time that’s for you to repeat your needs again so that your partner can truly hear you. They might need it repeated once or twice, but remember the intention is to be heard and listened to. Repeating gives you this opportunity.
- When you do get it right, the next question is” “Is there more about that?” – This is coming from an open and curious stance – so tone and facial expressions are important. Soft tones/welcoming voice tones and soft facial expressions/welcoming facial expressions.
- Then, when the talker comes to the end of what they need to have you hear, it’s now the listeners turn to become the talker. – Roles switch! And you repeat the process.
Sometimes couples can master this after several attempts on there own. But sometimes this can be difficult and find that they might need the help of a trained therapist. If this is you, please reach out. Marriage counseling can help you have these intentional and important conversations in a safe and productively healthy space. A space that’s dedicated toward helping you both work toward succeeding in your relationship and in your marriage!
If you DO want help, but you DON’T want marriage counseling. I also offer coaching. This is different from therapy in that coaching will be focused more toward solutions. Coaching, unlike therapy, won’t be grounded in therapeutic therapy approaches. So that could be an options if you’d like to work together but are wanting coaching instead of marriage counseling.