Sharing things that are upsetting or often lead to conflict in your relationship can be hard. If you are uncomfortable with conflict, you may decide to keep these things to yourself. However, doing this can have a negative impact on your couple intimacy. Although it may not be easy, saying what you need to say, even if it may lead to conflict, is important for a healthy relationship. If you struggle with this, the following tips might make it easier for you to speak up in your relationship.
What Happens When You Don’t Speak Up
When you don’t speak up in your relationship, your couple connection and intimacy can suffer. Bottling up your feelings and needs, can lead to resentment and loneliness in your relationship. Maybe you don’t fight, but it is probably difficult for you to feel known and understood by your partner as well. Your connection can begin to feel superficial. Denying your feelings and needs can lead to an internal struggle that can weaken your self-esteem and lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Why It Can Be Hard To Speak Up
It can be hard to speak up about things that might be bothering you in your relationship. One of the reasons that this might be true, is you may be afraid it will lead to a fight. Although conflict can be good for your relationship and even bring you closer together, it can trigger fears of abandonment. You may have a fear that fighting with your partner will lead to the end of your relationship. Therefore, you might feel as though you have to bite your tongue and keep everything pleasant. The problem with this is that you could end up resenting your partner and feeling disconnected. In order to have a healthy intimate connection, you need to be able to say what’s on your mind. This is true, even if it causes an argument. There are some things you can do to help you speak up in your relationship, even if you are afraid it might lead to conflict.
1. Know Yourself
In order to speak up and say what you need to say in your relationship, you need to know yourself and what’s important to you. Spend time feeling your feelings. Notice your fears and what happens just before you shut down. Be aware of certain triggers that cause you to feel uncomfortable and keep you from speaking up. Write out what you need, why it’s important to you, why it’s hard for you to share, and what makes it easier for you to speak up. When you are clear with what you need to say and why you need to say it, you can devise a plan for how you are going to do it.
2. Know What To Let Go
While it is important to speak up when something is bothering you, it is also helpful to let some things go. Sometimes, if you have been holding back instead of speaking up, you might notice that everything starts to bother you. You want to determine if what is bothering you is something that you need to bring up, or something you can let go. To help you decide this, figure out if it bothers you if others do it, or only when your partner does it. Also, consider if this is an issue your partner needs to change, or if it is your issue. When you can let the unimportant things go, it can be easier to identify the important things that you do need to bring up.
3. Talk About The Little Things
Talk to your partner about the things that are easier for you to discuss. Usually, these are things about your day that have nothing to do with your partner. This helps foster a connection so you will be more comfortable bringing up the things that might lead to conflict. When it is hard for you to speak up for yourself in your relationship, you might start pulling away and stop talking about the unimportant things as well. If you feel disconnected from your partner, it is usually harder to seek them out for conversation. When conversation becomes a habit in your relationship, it will be easier to bring up the things that are bothering you.
4. Have Clear Boundaries
Having clear boundaries with yourself and your partner can make arguments easier to manage. For yourself, have a goal in mind. If you know you need to discuss something your partner said that hurt you, figure out what you want to accomplish. Are you bringing it up so they will be aware it hurts you? Do you want them to stop saying it? With your partner, you can determine when it is hard for you to discuss things and what makes it easier. For example, if you shut down when your partner yells, you may need a boundary around this. Let them know what you need from them and why. If they yell when you are trying to share what is bothering you, give them a warning the first time and walk away for awhile the second time. Let them know when you will come back and try again. When you have boundaries in place, it can make it easier for you to share what is bothering you.
5. Pick A Good Time
Timing can be very important when you need to talk about something that is hard for you. If you try to have this discussion at an inconvenient time, you may not feel heard by your partner. This might make it hard for you to bring up other things that bother you and can cause you to shut down further. If your partner is busy with something, or has other plans, it might not be a good time to talk. Ask your partner if it is a good time to talk. If it isn’t, you can agree on a time that works better. When you know that you will have your partner’s undivided attention, it can be easier for you to speak up.
6. Use Effective Communication Skills
Effective communication skills can help you feel more comfortable sharing with your partner. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. When you use “you” statements, your partner can become defensive and it will be hard for them to truly listen to you. When your partner speaks, reflect back what you hear them say. Ask them to do this after you speak as well. This is about active listening. If you are listening so that you can reflect back what they are trying to say, you cannot be focused on preparing your response. After you hear their reflection, you can clarify your message to make sure they understand your position.
Speaking up in your relationship helps foster a deeper bond. If you tried these tips and notice you are still avoiding conflict with your partner, couples counseling can help. When you are able to openly share with your partner, the intimacy in your relationship and your overall well-being can improve.