How to Talk About A Problem Keeping Your Loved One Engaged And Without Withdrawing

communicating simba and lion king look of overwhelm

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.



4 Deep Breaths Can Change YOUR Life

Profile of Face with Swirls

So how can 4 deep breaths change your life? It can give you the time to calm your brain and react in the way you most want or desire. We hear a lot today about meditation and breath work and the wonderful benefits of being able to lessen our anxiety and really clear the chatter and chaos from our brain. In this application, I am talking about doing something that we all can do with minimal effort. This is not an hour meditation, not to say that this would not be incredibly helpful for us. This is simply using what we have accessible in our everyday life to calm our mind and body – OUR BREATH. It is a way to allow us to be more in charge of creating the life we want.

I might add if you can combine this with a question of what do I need or want OR a positive “self talk” statement this will further aid you in creating the life and relationships you so desire.  This is a powerful combination for sure. I hope you will try it for yourself.

There are different strategies that can be used when doing breath work. From very simple to more complex. Here are some beginning possibilities to consider.

  1. To begin breath work you may want to just do a simple slow deep breath in and a slow deep breath out. 4 cycles of breath is a good goal. But it does not have to be exact.
  2. The next may be a  simple slow 4 count of breath coming in and a slow 4 count of breath coming out. Again 4 cycles being the approximate goal to calm yourself.
  3. In some yoga circles, the 4 square breath is used  This is a 4 count breath in, a holding of breath for 4 counts, 4 count breath out and then a holding of the breath for 4 counts. And then a continuation up to 4 breath cycles.
  4. Dr. Andrew Weil has a 4-7-8 breath exercise that can be used with some practice. You can check out the video below if you want to see his demonstration of this method that he teaches all of his patients. First blow out all of your air through your mouth. Then breath in through your nose to a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and then breath out of your mouth to a count of eight. Do for 4 cycles, but no more.

Please Note: For some situations the most simple can be the most fitting. This is for you to decide what best fits for you and the situation in front of you Perfectionism is not the goal but learning something simple you can access easily where your breath becomes slower, deeper and quieter. I might also note this can also be used with children as well, especially  the simpler versions.

I am listing some examples of how this might be used in everyday life below for your consideration. You will find this can be applied to most any situation in which you are having upset or confused feelings about or having feelings of wanting something that is not healthy for you.

  • Situation: You are arguing with your spouse and you find it escalating and not nice things are being said to one another.
  • You Take 4 Deep Breaths: Your mind and body calms.
  • You Ask Yourself: “How can I say what I want to say respectfully?” OR “How do I say this without hurting _______?” OR “What can I do to lower this escalation?”
  • You Tell Your Self: “I am calming down, I can think more clearly.” OR “We can work this out.” OR “We need to take a break and come back.”

woman and man with wall between but holding hands and heads against wall

  • Situation: You are trying to lose weight. You are hungry and want something to eat and it is mid afternoon. You REALLY need something to eat.
  • You Take 4 Deep Breaths: Your mind and body calms.
  • You Ask Yourself:  “What does my body need right now?”
  • You Tell Your Self: “I am calm and can choose what is best for me.” OR “It feels good to choose what my body really needs.”

 woman with apple on her bicep arm

  • Situation: You are feeling anxious. You are in a job interview and feeling nervous.
  • You Take 4 Deep Breaths: “Your mind and body calms.”
  • You Ask Yourself:  “What can I say that is most helpful for me?”
  • You Tell Your Self: “I am calm. I can think clearly and show my best self.”

 woman interview with calm face at at table


So when you feel upset, mad, anxious or feel yourself getting ready to do something not good for you, TAKE 4 DEEP BREATHS. It is worth your time to calm yourself and do what you really desire to do.  Your body is a beautiful creation designed to help you. So use your breath, it could just possibly change your life!


Negative to Positive Talk with Your Loved Ones

happy_face_wwwDo you ever catch yourself feeling like you are being really negative and you don’t know how to turn it around? Most of us have had this kind of experience and it can be frustrating. We want to tell someone about our upset feelings, yet still be positive. I am proposing two different techniques for your consideration. These are both very simple one and two sentence statements.

Consider the use of the phrase “Even though . . . ” 

This would involve first of all acknowledging your feelings of upset and then ending the statement with what positive way you are going to handle this upset feeling. Here are some examples:

Even though I am so mad I could scream,  I am going to choose to take a deep breath and ask you what happened. ”

Even though my feelings are hurt, I want to try to understand why you did this.”

Even though I am unhappy with what you did, I am choosing to ask that we sit down and talk about this.

Even though I am feeling  anxious about what you are saying, I am going to stay calm and listen to all you have to say.

These statements respect and acknowledge your feelings and at the same time leave a door open for positive discussion and dialog.

These are of course the beginning of a dialog. But they set the tone for positive communication and potential joint problem solving.

Consider the use of the use of the dual words, UNFORTUNATELY, FORTUNATELY

UNFORTUNATELY, I am very stressed out and everything feels like too much. FORTUNATELY, I  know that I just need a bit of time by myself to feel ok again.

UNFORTUNATELY, I got so upset I yelled at you when I should not have. FORTUNATELY, I  know when to admit I was wrong and apologize.”

UNFORTUNATELY, I was so mad that I said some things that I really did not mean. FORTUNATELY, I have calmed down and can think more clearly and tell you want I need to say respectfully.

UNFORTUNATELY, I have been really depressed about our son’s behavior and I know that is all I talk about. FORTUNATELY, I have come to the realization that we need to talk about other things too that are positive.

This technique can be used for yourself personally to help you change negative thoughts to positive ones.  And as I have shown this  can also be used as a way to shift more negative thoughts and feelings to more positive ones with your relationship talk. 

I like both of these techniques as they are a nice balance of being able to be respectful of our upset feelings and at the same time offers a way to turn them into positive, hopeful statements. Try them and see what you think!