It can sometimes seem like you can't love anyone more than your significant other — and no one can get you as mad as them, either. But there are ways to bring up an issue in a relationship that won't start a fight, meaning you can air out grievances without having to skid into time outs or dole out apologies after. When our partners tick us off, it could be extremely hard to stay level headed and calm. After all, these are supposed to be the people who understand us the best — why would they ever do something that would make our skin crawl?
Instead of going on the offensive and blaming them for our hurt and displeasure, you need to focus on the issue at hand and share your specific gripes with them. Only then will you be able to enter a discussion without snowballing it into a big to-do. Below are 11 tips on how to bring up an issue in a relationship without starting a fight — leave the name-calling and finger-pointing nehind so you can get down to some real results. In the end, that's all you want anyway — being in the right is great, but being happy and still in love is better.
1. Explain How It Makes You Feel
If you want your partner to hear you, keep them from running to the defensive side by keeping the topic focused on your own emotions. "Never start the conversation by saying 'you always do this,' or 'I hate it when you do that.' Instead say, 'I've noticed that this is something that occurs when... and it makes me feel like...' but the goal is not to create an offense," relationship expert Alexis Nicole White explains in an email interview with Bustle. That way the focus is on you, not them.
2. Take A Collaborative Approach
In that vein, when you bring up an issue with your partner, give it a collaborative spin. "When you come back to have a discussion with your loved one, take a collaborative approach. If you engage a problem as you vs. your partner, you create barriers that only make a happy relationship harder," lifestyle writer Eric Ravenscraft from Lifehacker suggested. Rather than making it sound like you're against them, phrase it in a "we need to work on this as a team" way.
3. Wait Till Your Emotions Level
If you glance at the sink and notice that your partner hasn't done the dishes, again, after you asked them to, you need to take a moment before you go steamroll them. "Do whatever brings your energy down. Go for a walk. Listen to loud music. Write an angry note and then destroy it," Ravenscraft recommended. Rushing off to talk to them while you're in the thick of your anger will only lead to explosive results. Wait it out until you're calmer and more rational.
4. Take Out Any Negatively-Charged Words
While you might be upset with your S.O at the moment, coming at them with negative adjectives will only prove to escalate your situation. "Make sure you don’t use words that sound critical in your critique. Rather than saying, 'I’m disappointed in you for being lazy and not pulling your weight.' It would be much more effective to be specific and omit words with negative emotional charges such as 'disappointed' which will bring about a feeling of guilt and 'lazy' which will most likely bring about indignant anger," lifestyle writer Melissa Maramerce from relationship site Paired Life advised. Instead, share what you appreciate that they do for you, and then request they step up their game without using any finger-pointing words.
5. Explain You Want To Have A Discussion, Not An Argument
When someone comes at you with a critique, your back immediately goes up and you feel like you need to convince them that they're wrong in their feelings. In order to avoid that, tell your partner that what you want to have is a discussion, not an argument. "In an argument, there is no respect. It’s two people with very different viewpoints who are trying to convince one another that the other is wrong," Maramerce pointed out. While in a discussion you're trying to put viewpoints on the table and come to an agreement where both parties can be happy in. Explain the difference and you might have a smoother talk.
6. Pull A "We Need To Talk"
It might so melodramatic, but ambushing your partner with a gripe will only get their back up in a knee-jerk reaction, which will help you solve nothing. "If your boyfriend thinks he's coming home to spend the night vegging on the couch and instead you rip into him the second he walks in the door about how badly he behaved in front of your friends last Friday, you're setting him — and yourself — up," lifestyle writer Laura Gilbert from Cosmopolitan explained. Instead, let them know you'd like to have a conversation about something that's bothering you, and give them a couple of minutes to get into a problem-solving frame of mind.
7. Explain What The Real Issue Is
Your main squeeze might not understand why you get so bent out of shape when it come to the dishes, but if you explain what the real problem is they'll be better able to come on board. "Freaking out about a specific instance (the RSVP debacle) won't improve communication. But if you can identify what's really bothering you, he can work on that bigger issue," Gilbert advised.
Spell it out for them ("it makes me feel like you don't respect my feelings and that full sink acts like a symbol of that,") and you might come to a resolution faster.
8. Use "I" Not "You"
While it might sound inconsequential, when you're bringing up a gripe change the focus from your partner and put it on yourself. "'You don't do any chores, so I did the dishes again!' sounds blamey, while 'I feel like I'm left with an unfair share of housework, such as the dishes. What do you think about that?' suddenly opens things up for a legit discussion." Gilbert explained. After all, you're trying to start a discussion, not kick them to the ground.
9. Stick To One Issue At A Time
While it might be tempting to throw in another gripe while you're on a roll, the best thing to do during an argument is to stick to one problem at a time. "Keep diversions to a minimum, without rehashing old fights or side-issues, by focusing on the end-result," dating coach Harris O’Malley from relationship site Doctor Nerd Love suggested. That way you're not starting a fight where you vent; rather, you're bringing up an issue so you can solve its problem.
10. Have A Solution Ready
When you come armed with an end-result, the conversation quickly becomes constructive rather than critical. "When you bring up a problem, you need to be ready with the solution," Maramerce urged. And if you're not ready with one at the moment, ask your partner to brainstorm with you on finding one. The only reason you're bringing up a problem is so you can fix it, so a resolution should always be your main goal.
11. Reward Yourselves For Good Behavior
If you brought up an issue and were able to iron it out without shouting, fist clenching, or storm outs, reward yourselves for a job well done. "It may sound cheesy, but rewarding constructive behavior is a basic tenet of manipulating ourselves and others into self-improvement," Ravenscraft explained. Go out to eat at your favorite restaurant, cuddle and watch a movie, go out and buy cupcakes — the reward will make you more keen to copy those same results the next time around.
Because you know there will always be a next time around. And you'll weather that one like a champ, too.