How to discuss difficult topics with your partner
In new partnerships, the unexpected discoveries, unique experiences and sheer joy at finding a match can be exhilarating. So much so, that once the whirlwind settles down, the reality of every day challenges, relationship compromises and difficult conversations can be a bit of a downer. Whenever this time comes for you, whether in a few dates or after a few months, knowing how to communicate delicate topics is a skill that shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated. How you express yourself will be unique to you and your relationship, so don’t be surprised at all the different ways of doing it.
Where to communicate
The idea of a serious conversation can conjure up images from childhood and impromptu family meetings. Usually the sort where people are called to sit around a kitchen table to be given bad news, or after being caught-out doing something they shouldn’t. To dispel this sort of negative association, which can contain a whole host of legacy feelings and emotions, understand that where you have your conversation is entirely up to you.
The location choices you have are endless, so depending on the topic, think about neutral ground, a park, a beach. Consider even places as intimate as the bed you share, whilst you take a bath together, or walking one of your favourite routes. These are all valid options to express a range of different issues that you may want covered. Be as free with your choice of venue as you want to be whilst you’re talking.
How to communicate
Not everyone is good at verbal communication, that’s a fact. Even the most articulate person in the world can turn into a mumbling wreck when expressing their feelings. Vulnerability does strange things to us and it’s really important that you both feel safe and unjudged in moments like this. Don’t assume that someone is reluctant to communicate if verbally they appear to have shut down, or they seem to be purposefully acting difficult.
Think about what you want to say and how best you can say it. Do you want a conversation, a debate or to simply pass on information to your loved one? Would it be better if you weren’t interrupted, if it took the form of a handwritten letter, an email, through the words of a song or piece of literature. Have you lately read a blog or magazine article that expertly expressed everything you want to share but can’t find your own words for?
You need to express yourself in the most effective way for you, all the while being very conscious of the fact that your partner has the right to do this as well. What this means is that you may not receive your response in the same medium of communication. Your lover may respond to your letter by talking, or to your song with an email or text message. Be as respectful of their choice as you would like them to be of yours, and give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re responding in the best way they know how.
Bear in mind that with time and growing trust, a person’s favoured means of communication can change or develop and a couple can learn to express themselves in mutually recognised ways.
When to communicate
Timing is everything for so much in life and it applies even to this. Choosing carefully when to bring up delicate matters will make the difference between a good reception and a bad one. As much as you can, pick your moments and try to make sure they’re as appropriate as they need to be.
If your relationship is fairly new, consider the impact of what you’re about to say and the influent it could have on how it’s developing. Your deepest darkest secrets, and sometimes even your good ones, aren’t always fit conversation for early dating and may skew the course you were both heading down. If it doesn’t need to be, ensure that the topic you want to discuss is not too heavy too soon, and that it doesn’t put on levels of pressure too great for the stage you’ve reached in your relationship.
Why you’re communicating
What are your intentions in discussing what you have to say with your partner, is it to bring you closer together, to explain a behaviour, or do you want something from them? Knowing the answer to these questions may not seem important, but occasionally telling your partner why you’re sharing information can help them process it and know what to do with it. If you just need a listening ear, you may find it upsetting if instead they ask you multiple questions or say something wrong because they felt they had to speak.
Always when communicating be as clear as possible about what you’re saying and what you need. Ideally, the openness will bring you closer together, if not at first then with time.