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.



Five Ways to Show Your Loved One YOU Are Really Listening

couple not communicatng with laptops open in restaurant

“Are you listening?” Does this sound familiar?  So are we really listening to our loved ones? We probably think we are. Most of us don’t on purpose not listen. We just don’t always listen in a way that our loved one feels really heard. 

When I work with couples in my practice I find this is a common communication issue that brings distress to the relationship. So what are some things we can do to make sure we are REALLY listening to our loved ones?

Five Ways to Let Your Loved One Know YOU are Really Listening

  1. Stop what you are doing. This may mean putting your phone or computer down to rest. Or turning off the TV or whatever you may be doing. And making eye contact with your partner or spouse. You are setting the FOUNDATION for a meaningful interaction.
  2. Listen with the intent of hearing and reflecting what your loved one is saying so they can feel you have REALLY and truly heard them. This may not be as easy as it sounds. But it will pay big dividends in your relationship. When someone reflects what we are saying we know we have really been heard. It feels so divine to be heard at this level.
  3. Avoid giving your feedback and opinion. That is the hard part I think. Because we all have something we feel needs to be said. But if we can hold off and just listen and “be there” it will create a feeling of “YOU really matter to me and I want to know what YOU are feeling and thinking.”. By all means do share your feelings and thoughts if you are asked. But remember it is really more about “being there” to listen.
  4. After you have really listened, you can respond in a way that shows you have heard your partner’s feelings not just their words. This may mean listening at a level to be able to detect the underlying feeling beneath what is being said. You might even want to name what you think you are hearing. “So you are really angry about . . . ” or “After all the hard work on the meal, you feel unappreciated.”
  5. Ask what your loved one needs from you? This may be something you can do or maybe not. But the fact that you have asked shows you care and want to do what you can.

couple communicating face to face in restaurant enlarged image

Being listened to is a true gift. In our crazy busy lives we don’t always connect in a way in which we are really listening. But when we do it is so very magical. It makes us feel loved and cared for and that is what most of us really want in our relationships.

So hope you will take time to give this special gift to your loved one today!