Setting the Conditions for Cooperative Communication

For any serious discussion involving your relationship, there are a few practical factors to take into consideration. It’s best to have difficult conversations earlier in the day, rather than later, because people are better able to exercise self-control, show empathy, and be considerate when they are not fatigued. Many discussions spiral into arguments in the evening because couples are often too tired, cranky, and worn-out to have a serious conversation.

Furthermore, sensitive issues are best addressed in a private setting where both people feel comfortable. Pick a setting that is on neutral turf and where both parties can easily leave if need be. Bringing your partner to your therapist may not feel like neutral turf. And showing up at your partner’s place of work unannounced isn’t going to work in your favor.

Plan to set aside a lot of time for such discussions; they often last longer than you think. And choose a time when both of you are not feeling rushed or have other things to attend to. For instance, bringing up an intimate betrayal while dealing with a sick child, or when one of you has a pressing deadline at work, is not ideal. And avoiding alcohol is always a good idea.

If you’ve already confronted your partner and it didn’t go over well, definitely take the time, setting, and location into account when bringing up the issue again.