Let’s face it. There’s no way to avoid having a difficult marriage conversation at any given time throughout your marriage. And while things like finances, communication, and spirituality, are high on the list of hot topics to discuss regularly in your marriage, there are some topics that most don’t even want to think about or confront. But a real marriage requires real communication. You can’t work through your differences or be clear about each others’ needs and wants through e-mails, text messages or Facebook messenger. No, difficult marriage conversations require you to speak to each other directly.
Recently, hubby and I had a rare moment where we were watching TV, and three conversations came out of watching one show. Here are 3 difficult marriage conversations you can’t ignore.
1. Advance directives & living wills- God forbid something happens to you or your spouse that leaves either dependent on life support and feeding from tubes for the rest of their life, or in need of extensive medical treatment. Do you know what decision your spouse would want you to make in that difficult moment? No one ever wants to think of the worst. But, being clear about what each of you wants would make a difficult process a little more manageable with clear direction and wishes.
2. s*xual likes and dislikes- Just as we grow in the person we become over time and throughout marriage, it’s likely that what we liked five years ago, we may not be too interested in now. But guess what? We’ll never know if we’re not having the conversation and asking the question. Make time to check in regularly when it comes to your s*xual interests. But make sure you’re realistic and sensitive to your spouse’s wants, needs and perspective.
3. Marriage goals- This may sound a little crazy, at first, but when was the last time you sat down with your spouse to go over your life goals together? What do you see in your future? Where do you want your family to be in the next 1, 3, 5 or 10 years from now? Have you broken down your goals into categories that you can work on together (i.e. finances, health, parenting, leisure, career or business)? Talking about your marriage dreams and goals and how you can work on them together will go a long way.
How to initiate a difficult conversation:
1. Acknowledge your spouse’s feelings. Understand that you may not agree or fully comprehend what your spouse is feeling. But that shouldn’t stop you from attempting to view the situation from their standpoint.
2. Set clear goals & action steps. Make sure that you’re clear on your desired final outcome. What is the purpose of the conversation and what are you hoping to gain from it? Answering this question ahead of time will help you to approach the topic with heart and not attitude.
3. Show appreciation & encouragement. Regardless of how difficult the topic is, you should always go into the conversation making sure you encourage your spouse and express your appreciation and love for them. Loving affirmation is a great way to relieve a little tension and make sure you are always playing on the same team.
4. Be mindful of timing. Trying to squeeze in a difficult conversation in between soccer practice or making dinner is probably not the best option. Instead, let your spouse know you have to speak to them about something and want to make sure you are both free to chat without distractions. The last thing you want is to have to end it in the middle of a heated discussion and before you’re able to resolve anything.
5. Listen attentively and repeat back what you understand. I’ve heard of this technique many times, most recently shared during the BMWK Marriage Cruise. Many times we listen with the intent to battle back or to defend whatever it is we think needs defending. But if you’re forced to repeat back what your spouse is saying and what you understand, that leaves very little room for misunderstandings. It forces you to really listen to what they are saying.
6. Put your ego away. When it comes to communicating with your spouse effectively, there is no room for ego. It took me a while to come to grips with the fact that I’m not always right (as shocking as it was). But I learned that it’s not always about me (and contrary to what you may believe, it’s not always about you either). The more I let go of my ego, the easier it is to have these difficult conversations.