In real estate, it’s all about “location, location, location.” Where a property is located greatly determines that property’s value. In relationships, however, when bringing up an important topic that needs to be discussed, it’s all about “timing, timing, timing.”
Let’s be clear: you should be able to discuss anything and everything with your spouse. But it’s when and how you choose to talk about it that will determine the outcome.
If your spouse comes home after a stressful day at work, do you think that’s the best time to bring up what’s been bothering you the past few days? Even if you’ve finally decided to speak up, you want to make sure that you’ve chosen the right time to broach the subject to get the best results. If it’s only going to cause a conflict or an issue, what’s the point in talking about it?
When it comes to discussing something with your spouse, I have a few tried and true tips that will not only help you find the right timing, but also help you say what’s on your mind in the best possible way.
1. Don’t catch your spouse off guard. Imagine that you call your spouse out of the blue and start ranting about what’s bothering you. How do you think he is going to react? Answer: probably not well. Just because you are ready to discuss the issue, it doesn’t mean your spouse is ready to discuss it, too.
If your spouse is at work or in the middle of something important, you might feel hurt or upset when he brushes you off or has to cut your conversation short. But – as much as you might not want to hear it – you have only yourself to blame. You can’t fault your spouse for being busy or for not realizing you were ready to have a serious discussion.
Once we’re determined to do something, waiting to follow through can be difficult. But sometimes waiting is our best option. How do you do this? And how do you know what time is the right time?
2. Make an “appointment” with your spouse to talk. As you’ve just learned, you don’t want to catch your spouse off guard. So how can you give your spouse a heads-up that you need to talk?
Make an appointment! It doesn’t have to be a formal meeting that you add to your calendar, but by letting your spouse know you want to talk, the two of you can set aside some time when you are both free and (hopefully) in the right frame of mind.
Need help with what to say when setting that “appointment”? Try something simple like, “Honey, I’d like to discuss getting more help with the baby. When would be a good time for you?” With this, you’re being direct while also giving your spouse a chance to figure out the best time to talk. Also, by mentioning the problem without going into explicit details or complaints, you’re setting your spouse up for what the conversation will be about and providing him with time to think about it.
3. State what you are feeling simply and directly. When you begin your conversation, be direct and state what you feel, why you feel that way, and what you need. A feeling is usually one word – happy, sad, angry, and so on – whereas thoughts can be a sentence or two.
Here’s an example: “I feel overwhelmed with responsibility around the baby, and I’d really appreciate more help with her.” This is a great starting point, because you are being clear about how you are feeling (overwhelmed), why you feel that way (the baby), and what you need (more help). To break it down even further, the structure is basically “feeling, reason, need.”
From here, you can then go into more detail about what’s really going on, remembering not to blame or shame your spouse. Remember, he most likely doesn’t even know that you have been feeling this way in the first place. Don’t attack him for not being a mind-reader; open your mind to him.
4. Express some appreciation for the good your spouse already bestows upon you. When you have a discussion with him about something that is bothering you or about something you need, you don’t want to be accusatory. You want to have a productive conversation and try to work together to come up with a solution.
A great way to boost a positive outcome is telling and showing your spouse that you are grateful for things he already does. Not only does this create an appreciative atmosphere, it also will likely result in him wanting to please you all the more.
So the next time something is bothering you, remember these helpful tips for starting a discussion with your spouse, and positive results are sure to follow.
Sara Freed is a professional Jewish relationship and marriage coach based in Brooklyn, New York. By drawing on the wisdom of Judaism and implementing her training in the Gottman Method and as a divorce coach, Sara believes that every couple can learn the necessary skills to turn a struggling relationship into a thriving relationship. www.sarafreed.com