One of the keys to a happy and healthy relationship is honest communication with your partner. But being completely honest with your partner can be challenging, especially if conflict makes you anxious. After all, having an honest relationship means speaking up regardless of whether your partner agrees with you or not. But you don't have to let your fear of conflict get in the way of having an honest relationship. According to experts, there are some things you can do.
"The true mark of an open and honest relationship is the ability to communicate your feelings when the going gets tough, and to trust that your partner will be responsive to your thoughts," Kara Laricks, Three Day Rule's LGBTQ+ matchmaker and dating expert, tells Bustle. "It takes bravery and vulnerability on both parts."
The reality is, you and your partner are going to disagree on some things. If you're in a relationship, you can pretty much expect for there to be conflict. But fighting, if done productively, can be healthy.
As tempting as it is to keep your feelings to yourself in order to avoid conflict, it's more important to be open with your partner. So here's what you can do to have a more open and honest relationship when conflict makes you anxious, according to experts.
1. Share Your Concerns With An Understanding Third Party First
One way to remedy a pattern of conflict-avoidance is to talk it out with someone before you approach your partner. "It could be a trusted friend, family member, or even an anonymous peer support group," Helena Plater-Zyberk, co-founder of Supportiv, tells Bustle. "Find someone judgement-free, who can help you think through your values and decide which issues are worth risking conflict over." They can help to validate your concerns and give you advice on the best way to approach the issue.
2. Have Emotional Check-Ins With Your Partner
Emotional check-ins can be done daily, weekly, or whenever you feel like bringing something up. "The point is for both of you to air any grievances respectfully and calmly," Amy Hartle, relationship expert at Two Drifters, tells Bustle. "Knowing that you have a specific time and forum for sharing any conflicts or issues can be really comforting and anxiety-reducing." It's also good because it gives you some time to formulate what you want to say so you can express yourself in a way that won't lead to an argument.
3. Hold Your Partner's Hand While You're Having A Deep Conversation
"Holding your partner’s hand will keep your blood pressure low," Katie Ziskind, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. Those few seconds when you're reaching for your partner's hand can also help you to think before you speak.
4. Ask Yourself If The Issue Is Really Big Enough To End Your Relationship
"So often, the conflict is much worse in our heads than in reality," Nance L. Schick, attorney and conflict resolution coach, tells Bustle. "Our brains play trick on us, triggering the amygdala’s fight or flight response when there is no immediate threat of harm." Sometimes you might feel like bringing an issue up will lead to a major fight, but that's not always the case. The best way to break out of the negative thinking is to ground yourself in what's really going on. Really think about whether bringing up this issue is going to make or break your relationship. If it isn't that bad, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.
5. Practice Using "I" Statements
If you want to have an honest relationship but you're afraid of causing a fight, start by sharing how you're feeling. When you use "I" statements such as "I feel like..." you're sharing how you feel and not placing blame on your partner. "Be brave and practice," Laricks says. "The first time you reveal your 'meh' feelings is bound to cause a little anxiety. But the more you share and see that your partner is still on board, the easier navigating conflict will be."
6. Go Into The Conversation Without Any Expectations
"It’s vitally important that you share your feelings with a desire to learn and understand, rather than as a way of blaming and controlling your partner to get them to change," Dr. Margaret Paul, PhD, bestselling author and relationship expert, tells Bustle. If you want to share your feelings without causing any problems, don't expect any kind of outcome. You put your feelings out there. Now it's up to your partner to decide if they want to make an effort to change or work it out.
7. Bring Up Issues As They Come Up
"One of the biggest reason relationships fail is because neither one of the people ever feel comfortable enough to share when they're having an issue with their partner," Mackenzie Riel, relationship expert with TooTimid, tells Bustle. But bottling up your feelings will only lead to an even bigger fight. It's less anxiety-inducing to talk about small issues as they come, than it is to wait. If you hold off, that small issue will only get worse and by then, you're pretty much guaranteed to fight.
If you want to have a more honest relationship, being OK with conflict and knowing how to deal with it is key. Conflict may be uncomfortable, but it is inevitable. But if you try these things, you can have a more honest relationship.