Addressing Difficult Topics in a Romantic Relationship

by Jill Avery-Stoss

About Jill Avery-Stoss

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Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

Addressing Difficult Topics in a Romantic Relationship

Healthy communication is the key to a healthy relationship, according to Love Is Respect, on online resource dedicated to this particular dynamic, in the article "Conflict Resolution." This is especially important when addressing delicate or painful subjects. In these cases, when emotions are raw, accusations may be exchanged and conflict inflamed. By taking measures to approach the difficult topic gently and tactfully, you can minimize emotional upset as much as possible.

Prepare for a Successful Talk

Plan ahead for what you intend to say. It isn't necessary to compose an entire script, but compiling a mental list of your main points will be helpful. Anticipate all possible responses as well as the ways you'd like to handle them. If you are going to tell your boyfriend that you will be out of town for his birthday, for instance, it would be important to remember to express your regret, explain the reason for your trip and ask to celebrate with him at a different time. Anticipating a potential response of anger, you may want to practice patience. In case he is saddened, you can be ready to offer support.

Choose Appropriate Place and Time

Be tactful when initiating a serious conversation, advises Robert Taibbi, L.C.S.W., in an article for "Psychology Today" titled "The Art of Solving Relationship Problems." Refrain from raising the delicate subject when one of you is heading to class or feeling ill. You might also consider addressing the matter in a private place, and without distractions such as TV, phone calls and homework. Free time and a comfortable environment allow each of you to focus more fully on one another.

Practice Healthy Communication

Depending on the problem being discussed, it may be tempting to engage in hostile, bitter or passive-aggressive exchanges. Such behavior is not likely to be productive, however. Be open, honest, respectful and assertive when communicating with your boyfriend or girlfriend. In an article for Psych Central titled "The Importance of Personal Boundaries," Jane Collingwood encourages readers to compromise when possible, and to take responsibility for their own emotions instead of blaming them on others. These techniques will better enable you to resolve conflict.

Maintain Firm Boundaries

Collingwood states that setting boundaries is "the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, supportive and caring." They are also healthy methods of demanding respect. Be clear about what actions and behaviors are and are not acceptable. For instance, you may not tolerate name-calling during fits of anger. Remind the person you're in a relationship with of your boundaries, and emphasize that you may choose to end the conversation if these boundaries are violated. It is critical that you abide by the other person's boundaries as well.

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