Difficult conversations sometimes start something like this.

It not me, it’s you…and we need to talk.

Or maybe it is me and I don’t know how to tell you.

Sometimes just the thought of having a difficult conversation is enough to make even the most committed couples choose the nearest side door to escape. But the path of least resistance can also be the highway to hell, torching your relationship into oblivion.

Before you descend into the depths of hallway sex (when the only action you’re getting is a “f*ck you” as you pass each other on the way to the kitchen), promise yourself to figure out a way to open up. Baby steps. Talk about something that matters to you, but that isn’t the biggest elephant in the room.

Because it’s not a hard conversation unless the relationship matters, many people, especially women, tend to avoid tough talks because they fear the worst. If you’re struggling, Oprah’s LifeClass offers advice on starting a “conversation that will advance, heal and grow your most cherished relationships in seven steps.”

First, know that you need to talk, and then what your expectations are. Are you trying to solve something, or heal a hurt? Make sure you listen, and be willing to be wrong. Most of all, figure out next steps before you end the discussion, and then keep the lines of communication open.

This isn’t the time to do a toxic dump of every little thing. It is the time to be respectful, and search for common ground. 

Body language and tone matters as much or more than words. Make sure you are on the same level, literally — both standing, or both sitting. Don’t raise your voice; speak calmly. Don’t interrupt. Make sure you understand what the other person said before you respond, and if you’re not sure, ask. It should go without saying, but don’t swear, and don’t insult your partner. Banish words such as “always,” “never,” “everything” or “nothing.” Use “I” statements, not YOU accusations, such as “I feel ignored when…” not “You don’t care about me…”

If things do get heated and you need a time-out, take it, but only after you’ve both agreed ahead of time what that looks and sounds like. If one of you storms out and slams the door you’re likely headed back to hallway sex. Or worse, sleeping in the guest bedroom. Or maybe even packing a suitcase.

Another great read is “You Lost That Loving Feeling

The Loving Couple

Hard conversations are just that, hard, but the relationship rewards are worth it…and make-up sex is much better than hallway sex.

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