Having a difficult conversation with anyone can be nerve-racking, but even more so with your spouse. A healthy marriage has open and honest communication, so while it might be daunting, it’s necessary. But some subjects can be touchy, like if you think your spouse might be having an affair. Or maybe you feel like you’ve fallen out of love with your spouse, and you think they should know. And so, on this episode of Relationship Radio, we’re going to discuss how to talk about difficult things in marriage.
Setting The Mood Isn’t Just For Romance
Receiving bad news is never a pleasant experience. There are things that can make it even worse, though. The environment is the first thing to consider when deciding how to talk about hard things with your spouse. So, when preparing for the conversation, you want to think about two Es, environment and emotions.
Choosing the right environment might be more challenging than it sounds. Don’t attempt to have serious conversations with your spouse in loud and crowded spaces. The environment should be private and peaceful where you won’t have interruptions or others staring at you. While a nice meal at a restaurant might feel secluded sometimes, conversations, especially difficult ones, can lead to arguments that you don’t want to be shared publicly. If you have children, be sure they’re not around to witness the talks. Instead, have a friend or relative watch them so you and your wife can speak candidly about the issue.
Understanding your emotions is just as important as the environment. If you’re having problems with money or other issues, tension will already be high. You also don’t want to start the conversation in the middle of another argument. If your spouse’s emotional state is already elevated, and you talk about something that you know they’re going to react negatively to, you’re adding more fuel to the fire.
Before starting this conversation, find the environment you’re comfortable in and be a non-anxious presence. Be strong and confident in what you’re going to say. Making a plan, so you don’t go off track, even if it’s just a few bullet points, can keep the conversation moving and more civil.
When Your Spouse Talks, Listen Completely
Human nature, when confronted with difficult conversations, is to push back. While this conversation with your spouse might involve asking tough questions like are they having an affair, be mindful of your tone. There are ways to ask these questions tactfully, but you want to ensure that you’re not attacking them. If your spouse feels you’re attacking them, they’ll get defensive, which will only lead to an argument that likely won’t solve anything.
The initial conversation you should be having is about understanding. Think of it more as a fact-finding mission. You may or may not have hard evidence of what you’re discussing, but you should be the one listening after asking your question. Give your spouse time to respond, even if you don’t like the response. Every story has two sides, and you might not honestly know all the details.
Beyond just the facts, try to understand the emotions. Reasons for infidelity are varied and many. They can quickly become very complicated as well. For instance, your spouse might have been pressured into the situation. They could be feeling shame or guilt for things possibly out of their control. Take this time in the conversation to listen to the facts and then ask them to explain what they were feeling. You won’t know the whole story until you do.
Bring Solutions To The Table
The only way to solve difficult problems in your marriage is through open and honest discussions. But your spouse isn’t the only person who needs to be transparent during this conversation. If you expect them to be honest and transparent, then they should expect you to be as well.
You’ve listened to their explanation and learned about what they were feeling, and now it’s time to let them know how you’re feeling. You might need some time to process what you’ve learned, but your spouse still deserves a response. Even if all you can tell them is thank you for being honest and that you need time to process it, that’s at least an honest response.
Come to the discussion prepared to offer some options going forward. Your spouse may have been blindsided by the conversation you just had. The goal of this conversation was to reconnect with your spouse, so be sure you’ve thought through how you can do that. Remember your PIES and develop ways you can start connecting again physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. For example, is there a lack of sex in your relationship? If so, you might discuss having sex more often or doing more romantic things together. Having a solution to the problem already prepared can help lessen the stress placed on your partner during this challenging conversation.
Don’t forget to include your spouse in these solutions as well. You might try telling them one of your ideas and then asking if they have any. Don’t lay out a long list of demands, but come up with a few solid ideas you can both agree on to bring you back together.
Working Through Problems Is Tough, But There Is Help Available
We mentioned it earlier, but honestly thank your spouse for taking the time to try and heal your marriage. The road to a healthy marriage can be long and complicated, but you’ve taken the first steps together. Show your appreciation to them through actions and words. That helps to reinforce those positive behaviors that you want to see repeated.
So what comes next? We at Marriage Helper are here to guide you. You can reach us in one of many ways. First, you can reach out to one of our wonderful Client Representatives by phone at 866-903-0900. The people you speak with are not therapists; they are people who have been through many of the same problems you are facing. They will listen and then direct you to the solutions we offer that fit your needs.
Contact us today to learn how to save your marriage through open and honest communication.
If you want to learn more about having effective communication in your marriage, check out our SMART Contact Toolkit here. We also have a free eBook called “SMART Communication” that you can get here!