If you have ever been in a serious romantic relationship then you know that communication skills are important,. Actually, they’re vital. You either need to already have them on lock when you enter into the relationship, or hone them quickly. If you have no idea what you are doing, then you risk learning the hard way. And the hard way sucks. Always.
Common side effects include: sleeping on the couch, being ignored for the next week, passive aggression at parties, and jokes at your expense while out with mutual friends. Even (gasp!) being denied sexual intimacy!
But, on the other hand, if you are a master of communication, a guru of sensitivity and know how to de-escalate while remaining productive and understanding, you’ll be treated like a rockstar and the relationship will thrive.
Here are some ways to approach sensitive topics that have the potential to turn into a fight of epic proportions.
Avoidance = Do Not Do
If the topic at hand is of particular importance to both of you, then avoidance is not going to help you. For one thing, avoidance never works, it is stupid. Ever tried losing weight by avoiding the mirror? Or steering clear of rebuke from your boss by avoiding your email? It doesn’t work. And also, when the conversation is held, the tension will be so palpable that there will be virtually no chance to have a productive non-combative conversation. Address issues as they arise. Always.
You Should Avoid Sarcasm Though
Nobody likes being condescended to, that goes double for your significant other… that goes double double for your significant other when you are having a conversation about something particularly sensitive for one of you. Your sarcasm will only trigger equally un-helpful responses in them. Take them seriously. And if you disagree, explain why – but without rolling your eyes and responding snidely.
It’s Not a Competition
You don’t always need to be right. Sometimes insecurities arise when we feel like people are judging us. As such, we decide we need to always be right to win other people’s approbation and respect. But your significant other already likes and respects you (hopefully). You two are together, after all. So you don’t need to always be right. You just need to be kind, cool, and collected. So admit it when you are super wrong. Even if you don’t want to.
Timing is Key
Does your significant other look pissed? Did they just get off the phone with their boss, or shitty kid brother? Don’t broach the topic now, because it is sensitive, which calls for a sensitive environment and a soothing ambiance (both internally and externally). There is a huge difference between asking your significant other to move in with you at a funeral, and after a nice three course meal at a fancy restaurant. No?
Keep The Train On the Tracks
Do not, I repeat, do not derail. These conversations can end up like tree branches, twisting and turning into different topics until you are miles away from the topic you intended to discuss. So resist the urge to go on tangents that you THINK support your arguments, and if they try to do it gently pull them back from that impulse.
Be a Good Listener
When your significant other is speaking, you should be listening. Right? It sounds simple, but so often we are really just waiting for our turn to speak while others are speaking. Especially if we are revved up over something sensitive. But how can you possibly address what they said adequately if you didn’t hear it in the first place? If you both practice listening attentively, not only will the conversation go better, but the issue at hand will likely get cleared up faster too. Which means more time to watch Battlestar Galactica (or whatever…)
If this was a boxing match, you would be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Below the belt jabs. Using kicks. Biting their ear… So it is the same with your significant other during a conversation about a sensitive topic. Therefore, It is not fair to bring up things that are entirely divorced from the conversation to attempt to give you the moral high ground (“You didn’t do the dishes last night”, “Well you cheated on me in high school!”). Accusations are not only unproductive, they are usually utilized when you know that you are wrong about something and want to deflect. In which case you should be admitting you are wrong, not pouting.
Time-Outs are Okay
If the conversation is obviously devolving into a fight, you might consider taking a break from it and returning to the conversation later when you two are more calm. Don’t suggest it passive aggressively however. Have you ever walked away from a term paper or the like and then returned rejuvenated and more willing to tackle it? That can be the case with these tough conversations. Sometimes they need to be separated into “rounds”.
If they strongly disagree that “we should have a threesome”, respect that, and be understanding of it. Try to see it from their perspective. You can push it.. a little, but, after awhile, if there is no budging, know when to stop pushing. Concessions are also necessary in a relationship. And it will make them more likely to consider conceding next time, when the roles are perhaps reversed.