How to Resolve Difficult Issues with your Partner

By Kerry Hart

We’ve all been there: You’re enjoying a wonderful day with your significant other, and just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any better, an issue arises. The butterflies and rainbows turn sour, and you are faced with taking one of two paths: to argue or not to argue. It’s inevitable. Couples argue from time to time, which is a healthy behavior as long as both parties meet a productive conclusion. In the moment, it may seem more productive to ignore issues for the sake of not arguing, but rest assured those difficult conversations are worth it. Avoiding the issues altogether can be all the more troublesome to long-term relationships as the uncomfortable feelings may turn to anger, and even resentment, over time.

Use “I” Statements

Hearing the word “you” can often put people on the defensive as it can often come off as an attack. Once your partner feels attacked, it’s unlikely they will hear the actual words and even the message you are trying to communicate. If you say, “I am feeling as though I am not being heard,” as opposed to, “You never pay attention to me,” you will be more likely to have a productive conversation. Your partner will think about how you are feeling and abstractly consider how they may be able to help you.

Keep it Positive

When raising an issue from a positive place, your partner will be more likely to respond positively toward it. Instead of saying “Do NOT put the baby down like that,” try, “I would love for you to try putting the baby down like this.” The positive suggestion can avoid a heated confrontation that may end up in calamity.

Make an Appointment

Some people will go on the defensive if they are surprised with an issue their partner has had time to consider. Instead of raising an issue out of the blue, tell your partner that you would like to discuss something that has been bothering you; for it to be as productive as possible, you would like to present the issue today, and perhaps have the discussion tomorrow. Your partner won’t feel ambushed and will be more likely to hear your concern and seek a positive solution.

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

Attacking the problem with a team approach will strengthen your relationship. Discuss any previous attempts that were made to solve a problem and examine why they were unsuccessful. Use this time to agree upon possible solutions; as a team, you can choose to implement one of the solutions and give it an honest try for at least a month. If the things don’t improve, go back to your list of possible resolutions for another option.

Look for Non-Verbal Cues

There may be times when you pick up on the fact that your partner is saying one thing while meaning another. Perhaps you are tipped off by a look in their eyes or telltale body language. Regardless of your partner’s signal, don’t ignore them. Gently touch your partner on the arm so as to gain their attention and let them know you are concerned that they are not entirely happy with what is being discussed and that you would love to hear what they might be feeling in that moment.

Feelings Can’t Be Wrong

Bear in mind that these difficult conversations will bring up some hard emotions, and that is OK.  Everyone is entitled to their feelings, even if you don’t agree with them. Even though you are in a partnership, you will likely have different feelings about various issues. A healthy relationship is marked by the way a couple resolves these varying emotions.

Remember, you love your partner, and the goal of raising difficult issues is to reach a solution that will work for both of you. Stay on topic and keep any and all hurtful words out of the conversation. If the discussion becomes too heated, take a break! It’s perfectly alright to sleep on an issue and revisit it at a later date.


KerryHartOnline
Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a couple and family therapist in private practice. For more information visit kerryhartcounseling.com


 

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