Stop dreading that talk with your partner. It may be the best thing to happen in your relationship.
There are some common topics, and some unusual, hot button topics couples that lack effective communication skills often dance around, or simply refuse to talk about because it's just too uncomfortable to do so. It may be something as mundane as your partner's tendency to chew with his mouth open, or something that feels bigger, like the question of whether or not you two will ever get married.
What's the same is the dread that comes from just thinking about having a conversation with your partner about this issue. And, if you're like many people, you do whatever you can to not talk about it. You hope the issue will resolve itself and you remain comfortable (sort of).
What you might not realize is that you're actually missing out on an opportunity to create a happier and closer relationship by remaining mum about a tough topic.
What author and marketing expert Tim Leberecht has to say about discomfort applies perfectly to love too. In a recent Psychology Today article, Leberecht makes the case for leaning in to what might impel you to run. He explains that the place of discomfort is actually where the magic of solving problems—even the stubbornest ones—happens. Discomfort "tells us that something needs to be addressed. It stretches us by forcing us to view our circumstances through a wholly different lens."
With fresh eyes, feeling awkward offers us the opportunity step outside of our usual ways of acting and reacting. We are propelled out of the comfort zone and, potentially, into a whole new way of being that can be amazing.
Truth be told, the majority of problems you and your partner face in your relationship won't just go away or fix themselves. Removing obstacles to happiness could be as simple as finding the courage to talk about that thing you've been inventing reasons to NOT talk about.
Yes, there is the possibility that you and your partner will not come away from an uncomfortable conversation with the perfect answer and yes, you may discover that you two are not on the same page, but that isn't necessarily bad for your relationship.
Continuing to avoid the issue that is building up misunderstanding, resentment, bitterness and distance between the two of you is bad for your relationship.
Use these 5 guidelines as you lean into discomfort with your partner:
1. Set yourself up for success.
Just because you're willing to go into an awkward discussion with your partner doesn't mean you have to go in unprepared. Set yourself up for a positively productive conversation by getting clear about your intentions in advance. Clarify to yourself what's most important to you about this issue so you're not solely focused on the petty stuff.
Pay attention to your expectations about what you think your partner wants and how you think he or she will react to what you want. This includes any expectations you have that this conversation will be emotionally painful or tense. You're better off letting those expectations go because they're probably inaccurate.
2. Remember your tools.
As you go into the "dreaded" talk with your partner, sure up the supports and practices you have that help you calm down and focus. Think about what works for you and then remember to use those tools as the conversation goes along.
One tool to use could be a specific phrase you tell yourself like, "What's most important to me is ___," or simply, "I love my partner and we can work this out." Another tool might be to pause and breathe when you feel overwhelmed or upset.
3. Avoid "this means that."
Instead of avoiding the tense topic of sex, money, commitment or anything else, avoid three simple words: "This means that." When you start attributing YOUR meaning to a word, tone of voice, or gesture from your partner, you're straying into dangerous territory. You'll also be better off if you stop telling yourself that discomfort, disagreement or tension in your relationship is a bad thing.
Stick with the facts and, when in doubt, follow tip #4.
4. Get curious.
As all adept problem-solvers know, curiosity is a wonderful way to break down limits and barriers. Set aside your judgments, criticisms and your stubbornness too and just get curious. Ask questions to find out more about what your partner thinks and what he or she wants. Use follow up queries to make sure you're understanding what you think you're hearing. And by all means, get curious about your own convictions and desires too.
5. Develop a plan.
Even if the plan is to talk again about this issue in a day or a week, come away from the "dreaded" conversation with an agreement about what's next. Together, set up doable and specific action steps that will bring you two closer together.
Carefully choose the words you use to say what you need to say. Certain words and phrases can shut your partner down and insert even more tension into an uncomfortable conversation and other words and phrases can keep you both open and really listening to one another. We tell you what to say (and what not to say) in this free video.