Have the problems in your relationship become the elephant in the room? You’re not alone.
Many couples struggle with the same issues over and over again. The problem is on their mind, yet they can never get past them. Why?
As long as there isn’t open communication about the issues in a relationship, it’s impossible to resolve them. Why let disagreements build up when you can solve right then and there? Here’s how you can start figuring things out with your partner.
How to talk about your problems in marriage:
- Address your own emotions
- Get clear on the problem
- Start gentle
- Listen and acknowledge
Follow these four steps and you’ll be set up for long-term success in your marriage. You’re capable of working out the problems in your relationship. The only reason why things have gone off course is because you didn’t know how to turn it around. Read on to find out why each step is crucial for talking out the problems in your marriage. We’ll walk you through this process step-by-step so that you can build a strong and loving foundation and conversation with your spouse.
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Address Your Own Emotions
It happens to all of us.
We get triggered and riled up.
Our partner keeps doing what we hate. Or they’re not doing what we think they should. No matter which scenario, we end up getting emotional about it. In these moments it’s very clear: it’s all our partners’ fault. We blame them for how they are making us feel. Therefore, they have to change.
But is it true? Is it really your partner’s fault?
When you feel miserable, you’re the one suffering. Your emotions are your responsibility, not your partner’s. This doesn’t mean that you tolerate bad or abusive behavior. Nor does it mean that you don’t communicate when you have unmet needs.
Instead, you can get out of this dysfunctional cycle by not:
- blaming your partner for your feelings.
- outsourcing the solution to your partner.
- playing the victim and taking full ownership of your feelings.
If you keep repeating the types of behavior above, you’ll never resolve the issue and only fix your circumstances.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re all for having loving and supporting behavior in a relationship. They are very important to nurture. However, if we don’t take ownership for how we feel, we’re effectively outsourcing our happiness to someone else.
Tina’s husband has taken on extra responsibilities outside of work, which makes the time he can spend with her less than before. He decided to do this without asking Tina or having any discussion about it. She feels infuriated about what he’s done.
When Tina has a session with me, it looks very clear to her:
The problem is what her husband has done. He should stop his new activities and the problem will be solved. But when we dive deeper into the issue, it reveals deeper layers. Tina finds out that she feels abandoned and neglected by Joseph, her husband.
Anger was just the top emotional layer. What was underneath was much more important.
If Tina doesn’t address her feelings of abandonment and neglect, it will surface at other points in her life. By wanting to shuffle the circumstances around, she avoids looking at what she’s feeling.
Every problem we face with our partner is an opportunity for growth.– Jachym Jerie
When you do address the root of your discomfort and dissatisfaction, you might find that the problem suddenly becomes less severe. That’s why addressing your emotions is the first vital step to starting a productive conversation with your partner about your problems. By understanding and accepting what’s going on inside, you’ll have a much easier time talking to your partner about it without fighting.
Get Clear On The Problem
You can’t talk to resolve issues within your marriage if you don’t know what the issue is.
Let’s go back to Tina.
Tina knows that blaming her partner for all her emotions is part of the problem, however, there’s also the issue that needs to be addressed with Joseph.
You see, the issue with Joseph is that he made this decision without consulting Tina at all. She was put in front of finished facts. His decision has a clear impact on the relationship which means both his and her input is what’s needed.
When we enter a relationship, we’re becoming part of something greater than us. We form a new entity called ‘our marriage.’ This new entity needs care and attention. When we don’t give it that, we can realize 10 years later that we’ve become strangers who barely know each other.
When Joseph decides without bringing the topic into the relationship, he’s saying: “My opinion and needs are superior than yours. I don’t need to consider you and how you see things.”
This way of relating is very limiting and short-sighted. It doesn’t allow for growth and exchange, because it is ‘me’ focused vs. ‘us’ focused.
To have an Exceptional Relationship, this fundamental shift from me to you is crucial. Take it from us, Jachym and I used to make decisions regarding our relationship from a place of ‘what can I get?’ Over time, we realized that our marriage wasn’t about checking balances. Instead, we started to experience how rewarding it can actually be to serve your partner.
Sure, we’re all in relationships because it fulfills us and makes us happy. But what if it can be even more satisfying? Even the challenges that you’re facing is an opportunity for growth. Jachym and I have worked through a lot of past hurts and mistakes. But talking about it from a place of honesty and trust brings you that much closer. Know that there is a way that can get your marriage on track and that much stronger than before.
Let’s get back to your problem.
- What’s really the issue?
- What behavior is your partner engaging in that’s not beneficial for the relationship?
These two questions can help you get clarity and better communicate how you see the problem. Now that you’ve addressed your own emotions and you’re clear on the problem, you’re ready to talk about the problem in your marriage to your partner.
We recommend having a talking routine in place. If you don’t have one yet, you can read this article here.
‘Have you paid the taxes? Done the dishwasher yet? Have you called Mary like we discussed?’
James was taken aback. He just got home and barely closed the front door behind him. After working 10 hours, James was exhausted. He wasn’t greeted with a smile nor a ‘Hi, how was your day?’
Do you think James was receptive to these inquiries? Most likely not. It’s the same thing when you want to bring up a problem. Be aware that you might have spent a lot of time thinking about it while your partner hasn’t at all.
Your brain is tuned into the problem, while your partner might need some time to get into gear. If you just barge in, you’re very likely to have a difficult conversation ahead of you. How you start a conversation is important because it steers it into a certain direction. It’s much easier to start the talk right than to turn a conversation around.
So what should you do instead? Here’s what to watch out for when you communicate with your spouse:
- Blame your partner.
- Criticize them.
- Use contempt.
- Be sarcastic and leave snide remarks
These few things can make a big difference to the outcome of the conversation and make it a lot more pleasant and drama-free. Now that you know how to start this important talk right. What should you do during that conversation to bring you closer to an understanding resolution? Read on to find out.
Listen And Acknowledge
People do the best they can with the understanding they have of themselves and the world.- Jachym Jerie
When you have a problem in your marriage, it’s very likely that you and your partner see the issue at hand very differently. Let’s look at Patricia and Kent:
Patricia loved to spend money on make-up, clothes, shoes, hand-bags etc. Her husband, Kent, on the other hand loved to save money. He preferred not to spend money and would rather wear worn clothes than buy new ones.
For Patricia spending money meant freedom. She was free to buy whatever she wanted. It was a way of taking care of herself. It gave her tremendous joy.
For Kent money meant safety. Spending money was a threat to him because he was afraid that if something would happen, they wouldn’t have enough money to cover it. The couple regularly fought over this issue. Kent wanted to save, Patricia wanted to spend. The conversation usually went like this:
Kent: ‘Why are you going to the mall again, you were already there yesterday! Don’t you have enough stuff by now?!’
Patricia: ‘Stop being so stingy! Do you even love me? If you truly did, you’d come with me and shower me with more gifts. You’re such a loser. If you can’t keep up with my spending, you just have to work harder.’
The conversation between Kent and Patricia doesn’t lead to any understanding. Blame, criticism, defensiveness, and contempt are ruling the show. They keep fighting about the same issue without any resolution. If you want to resolve your issues, stop trying to have your way. Instead, listen to your partner.
Here’s what Patricia could be wondering about:
- What does money mean to my husband?
- Why is it important to him not to spend?
- How does he feel when he does spend money?
- How does he feel when we accumulate money?
Do you see how these questions are based in curiosity and not in judgment? When you listen to your partner, you might not agree with them. That’s totally okay. But you can treat these questions like a trip into a foreign culture. When you travel, you’re intensely curious about how people live, how they see the world, what issues they face etc.
The same attitude is necessary for exploring your partner’s point of view. Only when both of you have the chance to fully express yourselves, can you see how the issue can be addressed.
That’s how you have conversations that become enriching and transformative for your relationship. No more fighting, calming down, and then apologizing to each other. Instead you get to see your differences as an invitation to broaden your view of life.
Before reading this article, you might’ve thought that talking to your partner about your problems is a scary thing. It might still feel new and uncomfortable but now you have a solid strategy.
You can overcome your insecurities and get clarity on the problem that you want to solve. Instead of approaching your spouse in a way that’s counter-productive, you can implement the gentle approach that we suggested and set yourself up for a successful and fruitful talk.
Not only that, you’ve also learned the value in listening and acknowledging the differences that you may have with your partner. Remember, the problem isn’t the deal-breaker here. As long as you take the time and commitment to do the five steps we’ve shown you with care and the right intentions, you and your spouse can work through any challenge.
Don’t let this hurdle stop you from loving each other.
Don’t let a new situation break you apart.
Take charge of your life and you can turn your marriage around.
Don’t regret tomorrow.
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