Remove the Landmines from Difficult Conversations with Your Spouse

Have you ever been all stirred up, anxious or irritated about something involving your partner and you could hardly contain yourself? As much as you want to hash this out with your spouse, this seems like it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

In the past, it may have seemed like there were “landmines”– surprising explosions of emotion– that were set off when this difficult topic was brought up.  The last thing you probably want to do is to invite in that kind of tension, conflict and distance into your relationship.


You want something to change!  You don’t want to just pretend that you don’t feel bothered by this issue.

Maybe your spouse has a tendency to flirt with others and you’d really like this behavior to stop. It feels embarrassing to you and even as if your partner is rejecting you when he or she flirts. It could seem threatening to your relationship.

You don’t want to seem jealous, even though that’s the way you feel. And you don’t want to nag or be controlling.

You also want to trust and feel confident about the commitment your partner has to your relationship. You probably also would like to feel valued and desirable to your mate– even when there are others around who are potentially more attractive or interesting than you are.

It doesn’t matter whether your partner is a flirt or if there are other issues going on in your relationship. If something is upsetting to you, it’s highly likely you’d like to communicate about it with your mate and see the whole thing resolved in a way you prefer.

The challenge usually lies in finding the “right” words to say in such a situation.

You want to see changes happen and improvements occur and you also want to stay close to your partner. Communicating to connect will help you remove “landmines” from even the most tense topics and to effectively talk with your partner about what you want.

Set a communication intention.

Before you open your mouth to speak about the issue with your partner, take some time to get clear within yourself and make an intention.

This can be akin to the strategizing a football coach does before the big game. The ultimate goal is to score as many points as possible and to win.

You need to determine what “winning” means to you in terms of your relationship.

If you and your partner disagree about something and you push what you want while ignoring or discounting your spouse’s preference, you might “win” the disagreement but ultimately lose in terms of relationship intimacy and trust.

Speaking in terms of ultimatums or putting down your partner because you don’t see the situation in the same way will undoubtedly drive a wedge between the two of you.

Your partner might stop flirting– or hide his or her flirting behavior from you– but if you communicate in a way that is disconnecting, he or she could also move further away from you.

Make it your intention to connect every time your communicate.

We’ll say this loud and clear: When you connect, you aren’t always going to agree. When you connect, you aren’t rolling over and stuffing down what you want in order to keep the peace.

Remember that setting aside your need to be “right” allows space for you two to come together and reach a resolution that both of you can feel at peace with– even happy about.

Be responsible for your own feelings AND make requests.

Try a phrase like this to encourage connecting communication:

I take full responsibility for feeling ______ AND I would like us to make an agreement about _____.”

The magic of a phrase like this is in its clarity and openness. Rather than shutting your partner down for “causing” you to feel a particular way, you can enter the conversation differently.

You affirm to your mate that you take responsibility for how you feel which can help him or her to not get defensive and it also reminds you of your own power.

Right away, you communicate how you are feeling so that your partner knows. You also link how you are feeling to the words or behavior that your partner plays a role in perpetuating. Additionally, you make a request to address the situation.

For example, if your partner tends to flirt and you are unhappy about this, you might say to him or her:

“I take full responsibility for feeling afraid of losing you when I see you flirt with others. And I would like us to make an agreement about what type of interaction is acceptable and in alignment with the commitments we’ve made in our relationship.”

You open the door to discussing possible solutions that will allow both of you to have your needs met with a phrase like this.

The agreement you two come up with might include the types of physical touches with others that are comfortable to both you and your partner. It might also involve an agreed upon signal or phrase that you could use when you would like your partner’s attention while in a social setting.

The point here is to keep your communicating open, honest and driven by love and a desire to move closer together.

Think about what you want in a situation that is triggering for you and then think about how you could say it. Now you are ready to talk with your mate about even the most difficult of topics and continue to stay connected.

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