Committing to your loved one and trusting each other enough to be completely vulnerable, open and honest is no small feat. Nearly every couple has at least a few subjects that make them uncomfortable to talk about with each other; or worse…there may be subjects that one or both of you refuse to talk about completely.
Learning to talk about the hard stuff is not always easy; and often gets avoided. Over time, however, having unspoken conversations leads to misunderstandings that have the tendency to spread and grow into resentments that damage your connection and intimacy. Nobody wants that!
Choosing the Conversations
As with most things that seem daunting to do, the hardest part can be starting. So, exactly how do you tell your loved one something that may be along the same subject of the last big argument you had where nothing really got resolved? Wouldn’t it be better just to be quiet about it and figure out how to just live with such a blaring imperfection (so blaring to you, but they seem to be blind to it?)? Um, maybe, but likely No. Before having ANY potentially volatile conversation, the first and most important question to ask is “is it necessary”? If you want to know about past lovers just because you are curious but it serves no immediate purpose (and agitates your partner), then why create drama? (note: if you have suddenly turned up with a sexually transmitted disease, it is a conversation that is no longer optional).
Hard conversations are easier to ignore, but it is healthier to make that full commitment and summon up the bravery (and love) to address it. Hard conversations, done right, can deepen your connection and bring you closer; but you want to be prepared and get yourself in the right mindset first. This is not the time to just “go with your gut” and say whatever is on your mind. It is time to call in the champions of Emotional Intelligence to help you figure this one out.
Identify What You Feel
First, get real with yourself on what you are feeling. When you don’t have sex often enough, do you feel rejected? When your partner doesn’t share financial information, do you feel unimportant, ignored, vulnerable, not trusted, less than a partner? When your partner comes to bed still smelly from the day and doesn’t shower first, do you feel unimportant? How do you want to feel instead? Get really clear on how you are feeling and what you want to feel in its place.
Second, raise your awareness of your own behaviors to a higher than normal level. What is your body language saying? Are you avoiding eye contact? Is your tone of voice sharper? Does your body feel stiff when you hug your partner? Are you making small talk in order to avoid any harder conversations?
Third, get out of your own head into their world. What is your partner experiencing around this subject? What is their circumstance that is apart from you? Did they come to bed stinky because they were so exhausted that they couldn’t do one more thing (shower)? Is there big stuff going on at their job that is making them feel distracted or overwhelmed? Did they have a previous relationship where their former partner yelled at them, called them names, or cleaned them out financially? What is happening with them when this hard subject needs to be talked about?
How the Conversations End
Now, take all three of those pieces of information and add one more; how do you want this conversation to end? Do you want complete agreement or do you just need to be heard? Do you need your partner, or both of you, to do something different than you have been doing? What exactly is that? What outcome are you hoping for? Do you want to bridge the gap between you and end up closer at the end? Are you looking for a fight or a resolution? (Hey, let’s be honest, sometimes people look for a fight, so if that is how you are feeling, fess up to yourself before it starts – I am not judging you, just wanting you to be clear).
Once you have all of this information clear, figuring out what to say or what to do next gets much easier. Approach with love and care. Talk honestly with your partner about the outcome you are hoping to find; to be closer, to understand each other better, to support your relationship and each other, to be stronger. Tell them that you don’t want there to be anything between you that is hard or scary to talk about. Resolve to stay calm and keep love guiding your conversation throughout (no matter what they do – remember, they didn’t get a chance to prepare first!).
If you are having trouble getting through the hard stuff without creating an unresolved argument, get some help to support your relationship (not your argument). There are few things more empowering than being vulnerable and real in the safety of a loving, strong relationship.