5 Difficult Conversations You Have to Have With Your Spouse
As most people in long-term, committed relationships can tell you, open communication is essential to a successful relationship. The good side to this is that you'll know what's going on with your partner and what they're thinking and feeling. The bad side to this is that those thoughts and feelings aren't always positive. Even if it's negative, sometimes it's just better to get it out in the open, rather than letting it fester. (See also: How to Stay Married for 29+ Years)
If you're feeling that there is something amiss in your relationship, it may be one of these topics. Here are some tips on how to bring them up and have a positive and constructive conversation.
If you've never heard of the term "financial infidelity," it essentially means lying (or simply never letting on) to your spouse about debt or financial difficulties. Hiding your debt from your spouse can be a quagmire waiting to happen, especially if your job security becomes compromised. Letting them know that you're in trouble and, most importantly, are trying to work on it (please try to work on it!) may help alleviate stress in your life, as you're no longer hiding things from your partner. Letting them in on your financial black marks may also help give you a new perspective on how to climb out of debt. (See also: Which Debt Reduction Strategy Is Best for You?)
If you're on the other side of this, however, and have suspicions that your spouse may be spending more than you two are able to support, you need to sit them down and discuss your concerns before it boils over into a screaming match about the latest new purchase coming in the door.
Your Job Situation
Many couples will try to keep bad things in their lives from their partners as a way of protecting the spouse. When it comes to job security, this is a topic that should be brought up at the first definitive signs that something is about to change.
If you're feeling that a layoff may be inevitable, your spouse deserves to know ahead of time so that you two can begin to put a plan into action that makes sure you're financially and mentally prepared if it does happen. Telling a partner when it's too late, especially if you've known this was coming, is like pulling the rug out from under them and will only lead to trust issues further down the road. (See also: How to Survive a Job Loss)
Some people were just made to be parents. They love kids, they love being around them all of the time, and they understand that parenting is a sea of ups and downs. Then there are the people that have no patience for children and prefer a lifestyle that is less conducive to raising children.
If you've become committed to a person that is on one of these sides while you're on the other, it's important to bring up your feelings sooner rather than later. Hoping that they'll eventually come around may leave you waiting for a day that may not come and can leave you feeling bitter and resentful. If their stance is unwavering, then it's time for you to decide if this relationship is going to leave you feeling fulfilled, or if you need more from life. (See also: What It Costs to Raise a Child)
Appearance or Lifestyle Habits
"Lifestyle habits" is a nice way of saying that your partner has changed their physical appearance in such a way that you're no longer attracted to them. This is possibly one of the most difficult conversations to have, as you don't want to hurt their feelings, but you need to let them know that this is not what you signed up for, and that you're concerned these changes are putting a negative effect on your love life and their health. Try your best to approach this from a place of love and speak calmly, trying to keep anything resembling a judgmental tone out of it. Think about your words and try to use "I" and "me" more than "you" so that your partner does not feel attacked and become defensive.
Intent vs. Impact
In college I worked for an environmental group that had a progressive workplace policy. One of the key points of the policy was to make sure you were aware of what you were saying (intent) and how it affected others (impact).
In life there are emotional needs that everyone has, and more importantly, deserves to have. The needs to feel loved, to be safe, and to feel important are reasons why a person will seek out a companion, and they deserve to feel that these needs are being met. If you feel that your emotional needs (impact) are being neglected, either purposefully or accidentally (intent), then you need to make it clear that something is lacking in your relationship. This can be a delicate subject, as your partner may not even be aware that they're hurting you. Like the Lifestyle Habit conversation, keeping your side of the conversation to "I" and "me" instead of "you" will help your partner understand that you have feelings that are being hurt, rather than directly accusing them of withholding from you.
Have you had to have one of these challenging conversations? How did you broach the subject?