Even people who have made a serious mistake and caused considerable harm to a partner want to be treated with respect. By treating your partner in a respectful, thoughtful manner, you’re more likely to gain their cooperation. We aren’t saying that gaining your partner’s cooperation will solve all of your problems, but without it, there’s little point in going forward. The sooner you adopt a constructive approach, the sooner you’ll discover if the two of you can fix what’s broken. Viewing the situation from an outsider’s perspective, even for a moment, can help you find a better way to approach your partner with your concerns.

Reflect on a Positive Experience. This next activity works best if you do it right before you start the conversation with your partner. Take a few moments to think about a time when you and your partner were able to discuss and resolve a problem in your relationship—a discussion where your partner made you feel understood and worked with you to successfully deal with the issue at hand. Try to recall as many details of this encounter as you can, especially how you felt when your partner was responsive to your needs and concerns. Recalling such instances immediately before talking to your partner can provide you with some reassurance that the two of you can handle difficult conversations constructively—you’ve done it before.