No one wants them. We try to avoid them. But if you’re married, you can’t avoid them. So we skirt them and try to spend as little time as possible with them.
I am not talking about in-laws. I’m talking about hard conversations.
If you’re married, there are going to be some hard conversations. You can’t avoid them. In fact, the more you try to avoid them, the worse they become.
WHAT MAKES CONVERSATIONS HARD AND WHAT YOU CAN DO
Hard conversations are just that…they’re hard. And there are some good reasons for that. Here are a few things that can make conversations hard…
There are some topics in marriage that are just hard to talk about. Some of the the more common hard topics are:
- Personal Habits.
These types of topics make for hard conversations because they feel personal and they highlight our differences and disagreements.
If a topic is uncomfortable for you, admit that to your spouse, upfront. Let them know why it’s uncomfortable for you, and ask them to be patient with you as you have the conversation.
Our temperaments also make certain conversations hard. We tend to avoid hard conversations if we are:
- Have low self-esteem.
- Feel insignificant.
These are traits that cause people to avoid, withdraw, or conceed; as well as to aggressively and angrily overpower the other person so as to silence the conversation.
If this is you, and a hard conversation is on the horizon, you need to:
- Take a moment to calm yourself. Get comfortable and breathe deeply and slowly until you’re more relaxed.
- Remind yourself you’re not adversaries. You’re just normal people who have different views and needs.
- Think of all the difficult things you’ve successfully worked through in the past. Tell yourself that this will eventually be another one of those things.
- Start the conversation by telling your spouse that you love them. Tell them you are committed to trying to meet their needs and having a marriage you both will enjoy.
- Agree to take a break if needed. If the conversation gets bogged down or negative, agree to take a break from it and return to it at a set time.
These steps will help you take control of your temperament.
Many conversations are made more difficult because of poor timing.
Sometimes we choose a poor time to have the conversation. Here are some examples of poor times to start a hard conversation:
- At bedtime, or late at night.
- When your spouse is busy or focused on something else.
- If your spouse is already upset or angry.
- When your spouse is exhausted.
You may feel these are the only times you have, but you would be able to find a good time to talk to your kids about something important, and you can do the same for your spouse.
Another problem with timing is that we procrastinate and wait too long to have the conversation.
We put off the conversation. We convince ourselves it’s too small of a thing to deal with. Or we hope it will get better on its own. But when we wait too long to have a hard conversation, two things happen:
- First, the problem builds up within us over time and we are too emotional when we finally bring up the subject.
- Second, so much time has passed between the incident that called for the conversation and the actual conversation that the other spouse feels blind-sided and wonders where it’s coming from.
Pick a time when things are relatively calm and good. Tell your spouse you would like to talk to them about something, and ask for a good time to do that. This might put them on high alert, but assure them it’s ok. Ask if you could go out for dinner or dessert to talk. If their curiosity can’t take the suspense, give them a very general idea of what you want to talk about, but don’t get into it right then and there.
Your spouse may try to keep putting you off, but stay lovingly persistent.
Here, I’m referring to talking too much or too little.
If you’re someone who handles hard conversations by talking a lot, then you need to talk less and listen more. This will communicate to your spouse that you care about what they think and feel.
If you’re someone who handles hard conversations by withdrawing and not saying anything, you need to open up more, so that your spouse knows what you’re thinking and feeling. When you open up, it keeps your spouse from feeling shut out.
Finally, conversations become hard when we twist what our spouse is trying to say. We do this when we get so defensive and caught up in our own emotions we don’t hear what our spouse is truly saying to us.
To keep from twisting what your spouse is saying, try the following…
- Listen without interrupting.
- If your spouse is going on and on, and you’re losing track of what they’re saying, then hold up your hand and tell them you really want to follow what they’re saying, but you’re starting to lose track.
- Then, tell them what you think they’re trying to say to you at that point.
- If your spouse agrees that you’ve heard them correctly, then take a moment to respond to that…and only that. Keep it short and don’t start adding other things to it. Stay on topic.
If the two of you will keep repeating this process, it will help to keep the two of you from twisting each other’s words. It will also make hard conversations less difficult and more productive.
A FINAL WORD
To sum it all up, you can’t avoid having hard conversations in marriage, but you can make those hard conversations a “TAD” easier by remembering the acronym T-A-D. Be careful with your Timing, your Attitude, and your Delivery.
So don’t be afraid of hard conversations, and don’t avoid them. You can do this. And when you do, you and your spouse will grow closer for it.