Openness and honesty are important parts of any relationship, romantic or otherwise. But it can feel hard to bring up things that make you unhappy. If you’re frustrated with your partner, want something different from your relationship, or are thinking of breaking up, you might not be sure where to start. Getting ready for a hard conversation where someone might feel hurt, afraid, or unhappy can help things go as smoothly as they can.
Setting aside time to talk
It can be tempting to send and email, a text, or a letter, but these can be easy to misinterpret. So it helps to have what could be a hard conversation in person, face-to-face. These talks can take a lot of time and energy, so it helps to find a time when you aren’t in a rush. Choosing a time when when neither of you are stressed about anything else also helps. Some people prefer to talk in a places with less distractions. You can make this kind of space by turning off the TV, muting your phones, and choosing a quiet place.
It’s common to get emotional, angry, and even exhausted in these conversations, so it’s OK to ask for a break. You can talk a walk, listen to music, or go in the other room if that’s what you need to do. It’s important to tell your partner why you think this might help. Let them know that you hope to come back to the conversation when you’re both ready.
While you are talking, communicate with your body language that you are really listening. Try to face your partner and make eye contact when speaking. It’s best not to take phone calls, texts, browse the internet, or play games while you are talking. These things can seem disrespectful and make your partner less likely to express themselves.
“I” statements: watch out for being on the attack
It’s easy to come across as harsh and have the other person feel attacked, even if you don’t intend it that way. Phrases like “you are…” can make your partner defensive and be less willing to have a conversation with you. Instead, you can try to communicate using “I” statements. For example, saying something like “I feel lonely” can be a better start than “You don’t spend enough time with me.”
It can also be helpful to communicate things as “desires” or “wishes”. Expressing things as “needs” can sometimes feel like a lot of pressure for your partner.
With a hard conversation, it’s helpful to say exactly what you’re feeling. Talking about something openly can feel really good, especially if it has been bottled up for a long time. If your partner does something that frustrates you, it’s helpful to talk about that thing directly, rather than saying something vague. For example, saying something like “you never listen to me” doesn’t address that you are upset that they interrupted you last Sunday.
This is just a general guide and you know your relationship better than anyone else. If you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, it can be helpful to talk to someone you trust or call a helpline before you attempt a conversation. If any of these tips could put you in danger, don’t try them.