Ever need to have a “conversation” with your loved one, but just don’t know how to do it. You just know they are going to shut down and not really talk with you about re-solving the issue when you bring it up. You are not alone. I see many clients who choose not tell their spouse or partner how they feel or that they are having a problem with something that is going on within the relationship.
So let’s look at some specifics as to how to talk to your sweetheart when you are upset or have a concern that will help keep them engaged and not withdraw.
How to Talk About A Problem Keeping Your Loved One Engaged And Without Withdrawing
- Share your feelings when they are low-level enough that you can talk without overpowering emotion. The longer you wait to share your feelings of upset, the more intense the discussion will be when you do have it. The more chance you will have of saying something in a way that you do not want to. When your feelings are manageable, so will the following discussion.
- On the other hand, let go of very small things that really do not matter that you can be ok with. Pointing out every small thing that occurs that you may not like or feels a bit irritating can lead your partner to feeling overwhelmed, which leads to them checking out or “feeling flooded” with too much.
- One thing at a time helps. Avoid a stream of upset. This helps with your loved one staying in the conversation and not leaving or withdrawing (either physically or emotionally). Not being engaged can be a sign of being flooded or overwhelmed. This is a basic form of protection. When we over share, it normally means we have just let things pile up instead of addressing things as we go. Or it could mean we are clumping our upset with something else into the relationship issue. This could be other stress going on in our life.
- Know your partner’s sensitivities or wounds and consider how they filter information. If you know that your husband was highly criticized growing up, then he will be sensitive to comments that have any feel of criticism. So you may choose to keep that in mind when you have an issue to address. It does not mean you do not share, it just means you are aware and use language that they can hear without being triggered.
- Use a “Gentle Startup” as the Gottman Institute would suggest. A harsh start-up or a highly charged, critical approach will not lead to a productive conversation.
- Admit your part in the issue at hand. By taking responsibility for what you have done that has not helped with this situation, you create a less accusatory conversation.
- Consider when you approach with a problem or concern. Most of us do not do well with facing a problem at the end of the day as we walk in the door. That is normally when we are tired and hungry and want to decompress from the day. This is not always easy as to finding a “good” time. It may be what is the best from what is available. One possibility is to set up a time to discuss an issue.
- Keep your voice at a low-level and avoid accusing. Instead voice your need and ask how you might work on this together. This would mean both of you offering up ways you can shift or adapt to makes things better.
I think one of the biggest keys to resolving issues is to keep everyone engaged and not going into “shut down” mode. This comes with engaging some of the suggestions above. I wish you the best as you engage your loved one in positive communication, one of the foundations for a good relationship.