Updated: Nov 20, 2021
The problems are there and the writing is on the wall. You can’t get your husband to talk to you about your problems. You have no idea what to do after so long of this pattern. Anytime you try he ignores you, brushes it off, tries to change the subject, and perhaps even gets angry and storms away. The problems keep getting swept under the rug thus making them keep growing in size until suddenly there’s a huge gulf between you and your husband. You feel isolated, abandoned, unsure of your place in the relationship, and have no idea what to do. So many words are either going unsaid or being screamed at each other in moments of anger.
You want a relationship with your husband where you can talk to him about anything and everything and be able to talk calmly, openly, and freely about problems. You want to be able to go to him without fear of him yelling at you, criticizing your decisions, or shutting down and stonewalling you.
But, what can you do? It turns out that you actually do have some power in these situations, and here are a few ways to get that power back.
1: Check Your Time
Part of having good conversations about challenges is picking a good time to talk, versus just erupting onto your partner when you’ve held it all in for so long, or trying to talk to them right before sleep-which is never a good time for anyone.
Pick a time when you both feel neutral and have the time, physical energy, and emotional energy to carry on this conversation. This could even be a scheduled time in the week where you do a weekly check-in.
There are several books that are great for weekly check-ins to get the ball rolling on hard topics. Try a book like this one or this one to begin to have some of those challenging conversations on a routine basis.
2: Start Positively
When starting a conversation with your partner, it could be helpful if you tell the person some of the things you like about them, such as “I like how you fold the clothes,” or “I like how you help with the dog.” A great ritual to start would be to say 3 positives to your partner, have them repeat those positives back, then they say three positive things to you that you repeat back. This ritual can really help the relationship to stay in balance before difficult conversations.
Please don’t add a “but” after these statements though, as it destroys what came before it. If you hear, “I love you but…”--all you are taking away is that something is wrong. Using “and” can work well, such as “I love you and I need help.”
Try to keep that positive attitude going throughout the conversation and remember that you and your partner are a team.
3: Stay With One Item
It is possible your husband isn’t talking to you about your problems because when you go to talk to him, you try to talk about all of the problems at once, leaving him overwhelmed and feeling stuck in negativity.
For these conversations, leave the laundry list put away. In these meetings, pick one topic and one topic only to explore with them, such as help with the dog, setting better schedules, or affection in your relationship. When you attack your partner with the laundry list, it can feel overwhelming which leads to nothing getting solved and so much tension in the air.
When you pick one item, you can both work through that item together, understand each other’s viewpoints, and pick a great solution.
4: Be Curious And Problem Solve Together
Be curious about your partner and why they see the problem the way they do. Be curious in how you both can work together to solve the problem. This could mean really exploring their reasons why they don’t want to do that chore, or what stops them from commitment. It could mean brainstorming with them about many ways to solve the problem, and then crossing out certain solutions until you both find one you like.
It does, however, mean staying calm, staying out of blaming or shaming territory, and staying in a curious mindset of how you both can work together better.
5: Communicate Understanding
As you work through your problems, work to understand their point of view and communicate that understanding. Couples who can give each other empathy and understanding through life’s challenges are couples who stay together. A great way to communicate understanding is to come from their point of view before stating your own point of view and then asking for a compromise.
A sample conversation could be: “I understand you like to change in the bathroom.” (Their point of view)
“ I like to keep a clean bathroom without clothes in it.” (Your point of view)
“How can we work together to keep the bathroom free of clothes?” (Teamwork and brainstorming)
This may take several tries before you both reach an adequate compromise, but starting with understanding their point of view helps them feel heard and to better listen when you state your side.
5: Take A Break
If conversations begin to heat up, or you or your partner begin to shut down, please take a 20-30 minute break and come back to it. This doesn’t mean walk away completely or stop talking for today, this means taking a break before things are said that could really damage the situation. After the break, return ready to continue talking or set a new time to finish the conversation.
There are so many strategies for you to try to work through if you want to have a better relationship with your husband and want him to be able to talk to you about your problems. You deserve that happy, healthy relationship where you both feel heard, seen, and understood and like you are taking on the world together. The trick is, trying to find new ways to change the current patterns for the better.
If you struggle to communicate, therapy may be a great place to work on communication strategies, setting boundaries, or looking into past patterns that have set you up for challenges in communication and working to change those patterns. There is hope for your future. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation at 757-296-8794.
Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.
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