You know that feeling you get anticipating a conversation that you know won’t go well with your spouse? You want to bring up that big thing that’s been weighing on your mind for weeks? Or confront them about something? You know they’re not going to like it. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s going to end in a train wreck. Uuuuugh, I’ve been there! My first husband and I fought all. the. time. Accusation-throwing, gloves-off, screaming matches. I assumed it was universally impossible to communicate with your spouse without fighting.
But then my first husband left me. And years later, my second husband would tell you that we’ve never had a fight. I would personally say we’ve had two, but two isn’t too shabby in eight years!
Sure, our difficult conversations aren’t all rainbows and cupcakes. And we’ve definitely experienced our fair share of frustration toward one another. But we’ve both left our hard talks feeling respected, heard, and at least partially understood. Here’s what’s working for us, and how you can communicate with your spouse without fighting!
Communicate With Your Spouse Without Fighting Before “The Talk”
- Let small things go. My husband is annoyed when I leave food out on the coffee table overnight, to clean up in the morning. (Bugs, he says.) I sigh every morning when he doesn’t pull the comforter back over the sheets when he leaves the bed. (I don’t want our hairy dog burrowing under the blankets.) If you live with someone, anyone, they’re going to do things that annoy you. And you’re certain to annoy them! But if we nitpick every small thing, it will (a) chip away at our connection and (b) cause your bigger concerns to lose their impact. Let it go!
- Speak up before resentment builds. It’s not fair to your spouse to never mention something that bothers you, then unleash a month’s worth of resentment on them all at once. The longer I hold onto something, the stronger and more irrational my emotions surrounding it become. Address issues as soon as you identify them.
- Write things out to help you stay focused on the main point and avoid going off on a tangent. Writing out your concerns and reading them back can also help you to catch wording that might come across the wrong way, or offend your partner. This gives you a chance to reword it for more effective communication.
- Focus on one or two main points. If you dive into 22 things that your spouse is doing wrong, it’s going to overwhelm them, and potentially cause them to miss the most important point.
- Don’t say, “We need to talk later.” I know, I know, it’s pressing on your mind and if you can’t tell them right this second, you want to at least tell them it’s coming. But those five little words can make your spouse sick until “the talk”. I know from experience! It allows them to build it up in their minds and start the conversation already on the defense.
- Don’t assume their worst intentions. There have been many times I assumed my husband felt a certain way about something when in fact, he hadn’t even given thought to the topic. Your spouse might surprise you.
Communicate With Your Spouse Without Fighting During “The Talk”
- Consider your timing. Some talks have to happen immediately, but if you have a little wiggle room, don’t drop a bomb on them the second they walk in the door from work. Let them take off their shoes and settle down for a minute. If they’re already busy and/or stressed out, be patient! They’re not going to receive anything very well if they’re already in stress mode.
- Don’t generalize. Most people don’t always do something a certain way. Generalizing your spouse’s actions will only cause you to feel more angry (“You’ve always been this way!”), and your spouse to feel more defensive.
- Focus on how an issue affects you or makes you feel, instead of placing blame. Hank Smith once rightly said, “Placing blame in marriage is like saying, ‘Your side of the boat is sinking.’” Maybe your spouse meant to embarrass you by saying that thing to your family, or maybe they thought they were being funny, and you received it differently. Focus on your part and allow your spouse to focus on their’s.
- Speak to their best intentions. There’s nothing more infuriating than being accused of something that you didn’t do, especially by the person who’s supposed to have your back. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, or at least address the issue as if you do.
- Avoid nagging. If you nitpick your spouse, or begin to sound like a broken record, they may feel more like your child than your partner. This could cause them to close themselves off from you, write off what you’re saying, or stop listening to you altogether. (Check out our free workbook if you’d like a little help in this area!)
- Treat them like you’d like to be treated. I used to work in a call center. When customers called in yelling before I could even ask for their name, I was not very motivated to go above and beyond to help them. But when they treated me with kindness and respect, I would gladly rise far above job expectations to meet their needs. And that’s how we all tend to act, isn’t it? Speak to your spouse the way you’d like them to speak to you, and see if the kindness isn’t returned.
- Be (truly!) open to hear their side of the story. Your spouse can tell if you’re open to not just talking at them, but also hearing what they have to say. Many of our “hard talks” have turned into much bigger conversations than I was expecting. They’ve resolved much more than the original topic, simply because we were both open to truly hearing what the other had to say.
Wrap It Up
You, yes you, can communicate with your spouse without fighting. By being mindful of the topic and considerate of your spouse both before and during “the talk”, you can more effectively communicate your concerns and work toward a resolution!
Pastor and author Dave Willis explains, “In every disagreement with your spouse, there’s not a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser.’ You are united in everything, so you will either win together or lose together.” So let’s focus our efforts on winning together!
P.S. Do you want to reconnect with your spouse in a meaningful way? Or strengthen an already amazing connection? Sign up for our free 5-day email challenge and start growing closer today!
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