You and your #bae are supposed to be trusting and willing to share with each other, so why is it so hard to discuss the real issues we have in our relationships? Whether it’s leaving the toilet seat up for the 10,000th time this week, or a suspicion of infidelity, here are APN’s tips for successfully discussing relationship problems.
Define the issue
Everyone knows communication is the key to all healthy relationships, but it can be tough to communicate what’s bothering you when you don’t know exactly what that thing is. You know you are having a problem, now it’s time to define and clarify it. According to Dr. Jacqueliene Oertel, a marriage and relationship counselor of 40 years, as well as a professor of human development and family relations at SUNY Plattsburgh in Plattsburgh, N.Y., “Women tend to want to talk about things all the time, and men tend to not want to talk at all. It’s important to organize what you really want to talk about.” Define your problem, and then refine it to the specific details you’d like to change.
Find the right place and time
Oertel said that when and where you should talk depends on what you’re talking about. So, if you’re discussing something trivial like whether to buy your next ceiling fan at IKEA or Ashley Furniture Home Store, go ahead, do it while waiting in the drive-thru at Wendy’s. On the other hand, if you’re discussing something more serious, do it in a place you’re both comfortable in and where you won’t be interrupted.
Respect each other
It can be tempting, but don’t just dive in and say, “I want to punch you in the face when you (insert annoying habit here).” Remember, you probably have quirks that annoy your partner as well. It’s important to respect each other’s feelings. Communication is the biggest issue Oertel sees in couples, but it’s also the key to solving relationship problems. “Communicating with your partner can solve almost every problem in a relationship,” Oertel said. Gently say what’s bothering you: “I feel really disrespected when you leave the toilet seat up after I’ve asked you not to.” Staying calm opens up the floor for more discussion. If the conversation seems like it’s headed for an argument, take a break and resume later.
We’re all guilty of half listening, thinking you know what someone is going to say before they say it, and this is a huge problem in relationships. “Sometimes we’re thinking about what we’re going to say next instead of actually listening to our partner,” Oertel said. When having your conversation, really focus on what your partner is saying and don’t assume you know what they’re thinking or feeling. Considering your actions from their point of view may help to understand why your partner is unhappy.
Devise a plan
OK, so you’ve successfully begun a discussion about your problems, what now? Instead of making empty promises about “trying harder,” actually come up with a strategy to solve the problem. To make sure you and your partner understand each other completely, Oertel recommends verbally repeating your partner’s feelings to assure you understand the issue. Now it’s solution time. If you’re having money issues, maybe make a budget. Having trouble communicating? See a counselor. Intimacy issues? See a sex therapist. There are routes to solve almost every relationship problem.
Starting a conversation about relationship problems can be intimidating, but the most important thing is that each partner attempts to change in order to make their significant other happy.