I subscribe to a listserv that sends out articles on communication. I was reading an article recently on how to talk to your spouse about starting a family. As I read through the article I realized these steps apply to communication with your spouse about any emotionally charged issue. I found the steps so clear and helpful that I wanted to share them with you.
1- Build Safety
Respect is required to feel safe in a relationship. You can communicate respect by asking your spouse to schedule a time when you are both rested and can pay full attention to have the difficult conversation.
2- Set Expectations
At the beginning of the conversation suggest that your only reason for this discussion is to understand your spouse's perspective on the topic and for your spouse to understand yours. No decision has to be made in the next hour. Communication is the goal.
3- Establish Mutual Purpose
Acknowledge the things you know you both want for your life together. For example, I love you and want us to always be together. Communicate that you don't want this topic to strain your relationship so you really want to hear your spouses thoughts and feelings about it.
4- Try not to Judge
Try not to have a preconceived idea about the way your spouse "should" act/feel/respond/communicate. In fact, if you catch yourself having any thoughts that include name calling or using the words "always" or "never" or "should" it is time to take a deep breath and focus your communication on asking questions and developing understanding.
5- Take a Break
If things are not going well, suggest taking a break. Saying to your spouse, 'This is a really tough issue for us, why don't we take a break?'-@lisaallred Click To Tweetshows respect. Try going even further and thanking him or her for being willing to communicate with you about this topic.
If you feel like you have tried all of these ideas (and more) and it just isn't working for you it might be time to involve an individual or couples therapist. I am available (as is the rest of the Work/Life team) to assist you with an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) referral. We can be reached at (919) 531- LIFE.
For the article that inspired this blog: Crucial Skills: Tips for Talking About Starting a Family