How to Broach A Difficult Topic with Your Spouse

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How to Broach A Difficult Topic with Your Spouse

Some alternatives to “Let’s Talk”

By June Yong | 15 October 2020

“The more we connect with the feelings and needs behind their words, the less frightening it is to open up to other people.” – Marshall Rosenberg

Is your spouse spending too much time on devices and neglecting the family?

Is he or she a workaholic or travelling for prolonged periods of time?

Sometimes we have so much to say, but we hold back for fear of straining the marriage relationship. But is it healthy for us to suppress our emotions and thoughts?

How else can we deal with persistent, unresolved issues in the marriage?

Before you begin:

  • Think about a conducive time and place to have the conversation.
  • Set the tone by choosing to stay calm throughout the conversation.
  • Acknowledge that emotions may run high, so be willing to call for timeout when needed.

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  1. State your observation
  2. For example:

    • “I notice you’ve been coming home late frequently. I would like to understand more from your point of view.”

  3. Use an I-statement
  4. For example:

    • "I feel insecure/worried when you are late and you don’t inform me beforehand.”

  5. Seek to listen first
  6. Ask open-ended questions like:

    • “How is it like for you at work?”

  7. Reflect what you hear
  8. For example:

    • "I hear you saying that when you’re absorbed with work, it is hard to remember to text.”

  9. Listen out for feelings and needs
  10. For example:

    • "Seems like this project is making you feel quite stressed out.”
    • “You’re saying you need me to be more understanding during this period.”

  11. Focus on the issue at hand
  12. Place the issue at the centre; don’t make your spouse the problem.

  13. Understand the dream or motivation behind the behaviour
  14. Perhaps your spouse is afraid of being overlooked for a promotion or wants to be a better provider for the family. Such motivations may be hard to express.

  15. Be specific in making a request
  16. For example:

    • “I would like you to come home early at least once a week to spend time with us.”

  17. Reach an agreement that you both can accept
  18. Try to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion and test it out together.

It many take many bite-sized conversations to reach some form of resolution for persistent issues in your marriage, so don’t be disheartened if the first one does not go as planned.

As the quote at the start of this article shows, it is more important to connect with the feelings and needs of the other person than to get what you want.

Taking the first step towards being vulnerable may create the safe space for your spouse to do the same.

We hope that the strategies shared here will prove useful the next time you need to tackle a thorny issue! If, however, the problem seems too big to handle, do approach one of our counsellors for help and advice.

© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

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