Here’s Why You Should Never Have A Serious Talk With Your Partner Before Dinner
Your chances of getting what you want from your partner are drastically lowered, unless you read on…
When you’re having an issue with your partner, when do you bring it up?
After you’ve both had a good night’s sleep and a good meal, and you’ve got nothing else pressing going on or distracting you?
Or do you do it in the heat of the moment, when you’re stressed and starving and exhausted and cannot stand the tension between you for one more minute?
Just kidding; that was a rhetorical question. Of course you bring it up at the worst possible time, when it’s most likely to explode into a nasty fight that leaves your heart aching – and maybe your throat, too. The reason I know this is that, number one, can you even remember the last time you and your partner were well-rested, well-fed, and had nothing stressing you out and no distractions? And number two, if you did find yourself in that rare and precious place, did you really want to spend that time hashing out a big thorny issue?
No, it’s human nature to put off big talks until you’re about to explode; and you’re usually hungry and tired when you get to that place. That inevitably leads to having an unproductive conversation and feeling terrible afterward, even if you do end up having hot make-up sex. But we can always aspire to do better. And in the spirit of learning how to practice better communication skills and learn how to have fights that actually benefit your relationship, here’s a tip: wait until after dinner to bring those big issues up with your partner. Here’s why…
Can you hear me now?
When you’re angry with your partner, or they’re angry with you, or you have some other big heavy thing you need to talk about, it’s important to initiate the conversation when you’re both receptive to it. That means being ready, willing, and able to really listen to each other, gracefully accept criticism, and offer suggestions of how to change or solve the problem.
Psychologist Susan Heitler, author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong & Loving Marriage, told The Huffington Post that it’s best to have difficult conversations when your partner is “well-fed and relaxed.” Mornings, she says, are not ideal. “Before or during breakfast – when folks are preoccupied with getting out the door for work — or before dinner are bad choices in terms of emotional readiness because you’re likely to be tired, hungry or rushed, which all are stress factors.”
So, you’ll want to make sure no one is hungry or rushed – but what time is best, exactly? A survey of 1,000 men and women, conducted by British retailer Asda and reported by the Daily Mail, pinpointed 8:15 pm, just after dinner, as the perfect time to have a serious talk with your partner. That’s when men say they are most ready to listen to their partners, who are the most likely to bring up the issue.
Starting off on the right foot
Heitler says women have a better chance of having a productive conversation if they start with “a friendly opener,” something that’s echoed by couples therapist and author John Gottman, who is known for his classic relationship self-help book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. He calls it the “soft startup” and says it’s essential for having serious talks that steer clear of the “four horsemen” that bode bad news for any relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
When you’re upset, it’s hard to open the conversation with friendly banter. So how do you master the soft startup? Gottman suggests showing affection and respect for your partner, even as you’re initiating a serious conversation about a sensitive topic. Being in conflict doesn’t mean you don’t still love and appreciate your partner, so keep that at the forefront of your interaction. Stick to ‘I’ statements, rather than using the more accusatory ‘you’ – ‘I feel upset and frustrated when…’ rather than, ‘you make me so angry when…’ or, even worse, ‘you’re being such an asshole.’
Name-calling and shouting should always be off the table, but even more than that, try to be kind to each other, even when you’re fighting (or, ahem, having a heated discussion). Remember that you love each other; otherwise why bother having the hard talk in the first place?
Making it a ritual
Another key to having healthy fights (also known as: effective communication about hard topics) is to have them often. Not only is bottling things up unhealthy, it makes things worse down the line. When you approach your partner for a serious talk and you’ve got five different things on your mind that you’re mad about, you’re really just spoiling for a fight. You’re likely to end up overwhelmed, exhausted, and feeling worse than when you first started talking.
Gottman calls this being ‘flooded,’ and says when either partner reaches this state, communication shuts down. Your heart rate goes up, adrenaline starts to flow, you start to sweat, and blood flow gets constricted, possibly making you feel lightheaded and/or nauseous. It’s not exactly an ideal state for having a constructive discussion, to say the least. You’ve got to call a time out and find a way to calm down before the conversation can continue – if it can continue at all.
To avoid flooding happening in the first place, try and make it a ritual to talk things out after dinner a few nights a week, or at least once a week. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t store up resentments, disappointments, and complaints. If you do this, the likelihood of one of you blowing up in the heat of the moment will be less. Maybe once in a while you will…but hey, everyone needs an excuse to have hot make-up sex once in a while, right?
Images via tumblr.com, grammy.com, mtv.com, obamawhitehouse.archives.gov.
Comment: When do you think is the best time to initiate a serious talk with your partner?
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