Written by Bethany Bartholomew
We’ve all been there. Your wife just left her make-up powder all over the bathroom sink—again. You’re tempted to leave your shaving cream in there, too, just to prove a point. Or your husband just left the toilet seat up—again. You’re tempted to make the splash just to show him why leaving it down is so important.
Now let’s not get hasty. We know there are times when we’re supposed to discuss things with our spouses instead of getting upset, but in the moment it can be hard to find the right words (or the rational words) to say. Timing really makes a difference when it comes to discussing difficult things, even things as small as a toilet seat or some make-up powder.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for bringing up those little difficulties, because the truth is they are little, and when we talk about them at the right time they stay little instead of getting blown out of proportion.
This one we’ve heard over and over, but it’s often the hardest to remember. Just wait. Wait those extra ten seconds, ten minutes, or ten hours. Bring up small grievances when you are in a better mood and can think more rationally. Blowing up right when you see dirty socks on the floor or loose hair on the shower wall probably won’t actually lead to the kind of discussion that will solve the problem.
There’s waiting a rational amount of time, and then there’s putting it off again and again until you really do feel like you’ll blow up the next time it happens. Write a note to yourself to “discuss the toilet seat issue” or “talk about hair in the shower” if you need a reminder. But don’t wait until it’s been three weeks to bring something up. Your spouse can’t know that it’s bugging you until you tell them.
And especially don’t collect negative points to bring up all at once. Saving up your grievances and then letting them all loose in one heavy load of ammunition in an argument will be both surprising to your spouse and ineffective. Play fair and be honest. Let them know as soon as possible instead of holding it in. The explosion is never as pretty.
READ: WHY YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE NEED A TALK RITUAL
The age old question: Should we go to bed mad? The answer: Well, I’ve actually heard both sides. Some couples really do just need to go to bed angry. Once they’ve gotten enough sleep and can think more clearly, the problem seems much smaller, and the solutions seem much easier. Other couples can’t go to bed angry. They will sit and stew and toss and turn all night and eventually turn the whole thing into an even bigger problem later on. These couples really do need to talk it out before they try to get any sleep.
So the answer to the question? It depends. Talk with your spouse about how you like to tackle miscommunications and heated discussions. Your spouse may be the type that gets more emotional the longer they go without sleep. Or your spouse may be the type that needs to get everything off their chest and out of their brain before they can crawl into bed for the night.
Understanding each other’s needs will help you to know when to sleep and when to take a five-minute break and then try the discussion one more time before bed. And if one of you needs the sleep and the other needs to talk, decide on a typically low-stress time during the day to check in and ask, “Is there anything you want to say before we go to bed tonight?” You’ll both be less tired, and you’ll both have a clearer mind before bed.
Getting enough sleep is essential to any emotional situation, especially a difficult discussion. But using it as an excuse to get out of a conversation is probably not the best idea either. Acknowledge when you need to just push through the uncomfortable feelings and tough love to find solutions together.
Sometimes it’s harder to decide to tackle the problem and much easier to just think, “I’ll deal with this tomorrow.” But take the time that you both need to be able to discuss both sides of the situation. Let your spouse say what they need to say, and kindly say everything that you need to say. Getting both opinions on the table in full will actually make the process faster in the long run. You’ll be able to work on finding solutions instead of going back to the same discussion over and over to finish telling each other everything you feel about the situation.
Do Look for Moments
Weekly discussions as a couple can be a great time to bring up what you want to work on together and as individuals. Create a safe space and a specified time every week in which you can discuss how you’re doing in your relationship.
Or, if you find that setting a specified time means you’ll just dread that discussion all week, look for unscheduled happy moments. Bring up a difficult topic while you’re both relaxed in the car on the way to a movie or while you’re both sitting on the couch unwinding after work. Find moments of low-stress and minimized distraction. Then kindly and carefully ask your spouse if it’s a good time to talk about something. You could say, “Hey, while we’re both not stressing about it, can I talk to you about something that’s been bugging me lately?” Be willing to wait if your spouse needs to talk another time, but take that moment to set a specific time when you will talk together about your concerns.
READ: 3 SECRETS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Talking through the difficult things is important. But remember to emphasize the good in your relationship, too. If you have a specified time for couple discussion, or even if you’ve just found a happy moment in which you’d like to have a more serious discussion, remember that you don’t always have to bring up something that is going wrong. In fact, the more positive things you bring up about your relationship, the safer your spouse will feel when they do need to bring up a concern. Besides, your spouse can’t always know what they’re doing right unless you tell them. So point out the positive! Remember to acknowledge the good points of your relationship just as much as, if not more than, you bring up the things you need to work on together.
Photo Credit:Crooze Photography
“A great marriage isn’t something that just happens; it’s something that must be created.”
- Fawn Weaver
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