alking to your partner about serious issues can be tough, but with a few techniques and some hard work, these conversations can make your relationship even stronger.
The state of the world has been less than ideal lately; a pandemic, wildfires, climate change, world hunger, the list of catastrophes could go on. All of these can have serious effects on our mental health, as people tend to internalize issues, causing them to translate into daily home life. Sometimes chaos can arise at home just like that of the world around us, and it’s important to effectively address these issues without adding any additional stress to your lives.
Sometimes, discussing issues with your partner can be difficult and even scary. If you aren’t used to opening up about how you feel, the thought of any disagreement can be intimidating. Especially with young people, navigating an adult relationship isn't easy if you haven't had much practice.
This is when conversation techniques such as active listening can come in handy, and turning something that could have been an argument into a productive discussion.
Why Active Listening is So Important
- Active listening allows your partner to really feel heard, and to turn a simple conversation into a vital tool in your relationship.
- It makes for a stronger bond, where both people are fully present and being considerate of each other.
- It can eliminate the frustration and resentment that comes from not feeling understood or taken seriously, especially when people are distracted or not giving their partner their undivided attention.
- Being present with the possibility of humility gives the one person a chance to tell their side of the story, and have it be received by the other without influence.
- Sometimes active listening is about what is not said, and what your partner is trying to say may not be easily interpreted, so active listening comes in handy when trying to read between the lines and help them get their message across.
Taking Ownership of Your Emotions
When it comes to relationships, it can be easy to become codependent and put your emotions onto your partner.
During disagreements, it’s important to take ownership over your emotions. It’s like letting down your emotional guard, and allowing yourself to be fully vulnerable. It can be scary to even the most confident people. It’s easy to get defensive when you feel vulnerable, but remember that your partner is someone who is meant to be there for you, and accept you for who you are. Taking ownership is more than an apology, it’s about not putting your emotions onto others. When we do this, it eliminates the feeling of blame that can come with thinking someone else made us feel a certain way. At the end of the day, we cannot control what other people do, but we can control how it makes us feel.
We can choose not to internalize something that is simply another person’s perspective. According to the Guardian, a way to practice owning your emotions is to simply let go. If your partner, for example, has an irritating habit that you cannot seem to get past, take a step back and realize that it may not even be affecting you, and that it’s important not to put your emotions onto that person. Unless it is something that truly does affect you, try not to let it cause you unnecessary irritation. According to Linda Blair at the Guardian, “You can do this if you will accept that your partner’s behavior is not the problem; the real problem is that you allow yourself to become irritated by that behavior.”
How to Avoid an Argument
Arguments can seem inevitable sometimes, especially when it comes to a major topic of conversation, such as someone’s feelings. If not expressed correctly, one could interpret someone expressing their feelings as a personal attack. It’s important to remember that you and your partner are on the same team, and that you share two things in common above all else: love and respect. Especially when it comes to a disagreement, things can get heated, and it can be easy to impulsively say things you don’t truly mean.
When you feel tensions running high, it’s important to take a moment to pause and breathe. This is a great time to reflect on your standpoint and gather your thoughts. Have respect for a difference of opinion, and remember that there will be other things you both disagree on, as humans do. We are all different people with different sets of opinions and interests, and as long as two individuals share the same values and morals, everything else can be sorted out in a respectful, loving manner.
Things You Can Do to Make These Conversations Easier
1. Write down what is on your mind
Making lists can help you to outline exactly what you want to discuss, to ensure everything is said, and is received in the way you want.
2. Let your partner know if you’re feeling stressed
Anticipating these conversations can be tough, and your partner should be someone you seek comfort in. If you’re feeling stressed about having a serious discussion, express that. It will probably lower the tension in the room and create a better environment for both parties.
3. Decide what your end goal is
When you are getting ready to have a serious conversation, think about your expectations, and set intentions. What do you hope will come of this discussion? Are you open to things not going your way? Be careful not to put too much pressure on yourself to fix a problem right then and there, because more often than not, you and your partner will see things a little differently.
Even though discussing serious issues with your partner can be scary, it’s something every couple has to go through. No two people are so perfect that they will never have a disagreement; it’s what makes us human. According to Psychology Today, some additional things that may help are to stay on topic, avoid assumptions, and try a “brain dump”.
In order to have an effective conversation and reach a goal, you must stay on topic. Nothing is going to get accomplished if you change the subject or bring up another issue. If you feel yourself or your partner doing this, it’s important to take a breath and reel yourself back in.
Avoiding assumptions is something that will help the two of you misinterpret what the other is saying, or worse, assume the worst in someone. This is where active listening is crucial. Avoiding assumptions is something that can make or break a discussion, because everyone wants to feel heard and understood. In the long run, it will make you feel better, too, because you won’t make yourself think something that isn’t true. Once you’ve actively listened, give your partner feedback to ensure they know you understood what they said.
A “brain dump,” suggested by April Eldemire, is where you both write down everything that’s on your mind. Even if it seems miniscule, it’s important to get it on paper so you don’t miss anything you want to discuss. Eldemire recommends swapping notes with your partner and beginning your conversation there.
Heavy or stressful conversations aren’t always easy, but they are crucial in a serious relationship, and it’s important to practice having them so that you and your partner know how to communicate effectively, which will only strengthen your bond.