Today, I wanna answer a question that somebody sent through on my Instagram stories:
“Any tips on how to handle tough conversations with your partner?“
I’m gonna be going through what foundations my husband and I personally set for tough conversations and how we work through disagreements without fighting.
If we haven’t met yet, my name is Lucy. I am your married, AF relationship coach, and I’m here to help you prioritise your marriage.
I think life is way too short for mediocre marriages, so every week I’m sharing tips and advice on how to build long lasting, emotional intimacy and connection with your husband.
Let’s go through four ways you can make tough conversations easier in your marriage.
Your marriage isn’t broken
Firstly, it’s so important to reiterate that tough conversations are always going to come up and it’s not a reflection of how much you and your husband love each other.
It’s what you do next that actually matters.
Now, when I think about what makes my marriage so epic- and I say that completely not ironically- I absolutely am obsessed with my marriage.
It’s not that we go on trips.
It’s not that we have this house and we are doing it up.
It’s not that we are an exceptionally good looking Instagram couple.
We don’t have fancier cars or careers than people our age.
It’s that we are 100% open and 100% reciprocal in our energy. We hold nothing back from each other. We don’t edit our love when other people are around and we are all over each other all the time, regardless of who happens to be there.
And there’s no deep dark corner of my heart that he doesn’t know about and vice versa.
Learning how to be this open and vulnerable is the foundation for tough conversations and all of that other amazing life building stuff that I mentioned.
So rather than working together to build all of these things like the career, the trips, the whatever, we start with communication and openness, and then everything else just kind of falls into place around it.
And this means learning to have tough conversations before they come up.
Psst! You can watch this topic on Youtube as well 👇
How to have difficult conversations with your husband without fighting
So here we go, here is how me and my husband personally work through tough conversations.
1. Prime each other
So firstly, Carl and I prime each other when we have something difficult that we want to talk about.
We usually say something like,
“Hey, real talk”,
which translates to,
“Hey, I need your attention. This is important. I need you to hear what I’m about to say.”
Which usually means, you know, put down your phone, I need you to hear this.
Or we’ll ask to set up a date night and like go out for a drink to talk about something, like we do this with money chats a lot because money chats are always better with a glass of wine in your hand.
By priming each other or setting up a specific time to talk about something, both of us have time to collect our thoughts and feelings.
And neither of us feel jumped or attacked when the other person wants to say something, we very rarely have tough conversations in real time. And it’s kind of an ongoing trope that when somebody says, “Hey, we need to talk” that the other person spends the whole day freaking out and like, oh my gosh, something’s about to go really wrong.
So we also usually give each other the heads up on the topic of the conversation like,
Hey, can we talk about X, specific thing later? You know, when we have more time or mental space for each other and not just hitting them with this foreboding, Hey, we need to talk.
That is some sitcom level B.S. That I don’t have time for.
Just say what you want to say.
2. Give them permission to not talk right away
Next, we usually give each other permission to not talk about something. We are not “never go to bed angry” people.
If one of us isn’t ready to talk about something- We don’t talk about it yet.
So if, for example, I notice that Carl is a bit more closed off. He’s a little bit more distant. And I ask, Hey, what’s up? He would normally say something like,
“yep, this is what I’m thinking. I’m not ready to talk about it yet. Let’s meet back tomorrow, later, after work, over a drink, like I’m just trying to figure out my own thoughts and feelings before I bring it up to you.”
That way I know that A, the conversation is coming, which is that priming I was talking about.
And B I know that he is not withholding love and affection in the meantime.
I know that he’s not being purposefully distant from me.
And this is actually a healthy parenting tip! Learning how to have difficult conversations or like disciplining a child without withholding love and basic needs can be applied to adults as well.
So giving your partner permission to not speak if they aren’t ready also means that conversations very rarely end in an explosive fight because we are waiting until we have more of an emotional energy reserve.
Disclaimer: this only works if you and your partner have reciprocal communication. Like if your husband or your wife is especially closed off And doesn’t like to talk about things this is a completely different video that I could talk about forever.
Like you have to backtrack a little bit and open up communication and find questions that actually open that door rather than the person intentionally holding onto things.
3. Set ground rules for disagreements
So I asked Carl his thoughts on this question as well.
And he said it’s important to make the conversation about what’s actually wrong.
So rather than it being about your spouse not being good enough, or there being something wrong with your spouse. This has the same energy as being together against the problem, not the person.
And this is a big reason why we use the first two techniques I just went through because if you give your partner time and space to collect their thoughts, they can identify what’s actually bothering them.
For example, your partner spends money out of the joint expenses account without discussing it first. And you have a baseline rule that for big expenses, you talk to the other person before spending it.
If you’re working against the problem and you give yourself a couple of days to think about it instead of getting really angry that they’ve done it and letting yourself be super triggered by that.
In this example, “it’s not angry that you spent that money without asking me, I’m not trying to control everything, I don’t need to be in control of every single dollar.
In reality, it’s that I feel financially unstable right this second. And you spending that makes me feel like we are not financially stable.
So what I actually need is for us to put more money into savings this week so that I feel more comfortable financially. “
You can see that this is a completely different outcome to that tough conversation.
4. Tell them what you need to feel loved and safe
Lastly, I would always remind you how important it is to know what you personally need to feel loved and safe in a difficult conversation and set ground rules in advance.
It seems kind of unsexy and little bit “meta” to discuss how you’re going to discuss things, but saying this stuff out loud means you’re both on the same page when the time comes.
This is what I mean about having reciprocal energy for each other. As an example, Carl and I would never bring up past hurts or arguments in a current argument.
We move through things as they happen for as long as it takes and then let it go so it can’t be held over somebody’s head in a future conversation.
You’ve either let it go or you haven’t. So we work through it until we’ve let it go.
We also have the ground rule that anything is up for discussion or negotiation in the right setting. Either of us can talk about anything without judgment.
Need help communicating with your husband more openly?
let’s work together! I help married women to prioritize their marriage and communicate openly with their husbands so that they feel like lovers instead of roommates.
You can email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org or DM on Instagram @lucybekker_ to talk more about 1:1 coaching.