By Carolyn Steber, Bustle
Some conversations are easier to have than others, especially when it comes to saying difficult things to your partner. It can be tempting to sweep certain issues under the rug, as a way of avoiding conflict, tension, and discomfort. But if something's eating away at you, it's best to get it all out for your own sake — as well as the health of your relationship.
"Having the opportunity to talk about these touchy areas creates closeness and allows for conflicts to be addressed and acknowledged, which is incredibly healthy for relationships," licensed psychotherapist Shirin Peykar, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Authenticity breeds closeness even if there is a disagreement." So don't avoid tough conversations, simply for fear of having an argument.
With some topics, disagreements are bound to happen. And that's OK, as long as you and your partner keep them under control. You can, however, soften the approach as a way of staying on the same page.. "Remember the positives in your relationship during conflict," Peykar says. "Stay away from criticism and defensiveness, [and] make the [goals] of the conversation understanding, curiosity, and closeness."
If you can do these things, while talking about difficult topics, you'll not only feel better personally, but you're bound to have a healthier relationship, too. With that in mind, here are a few difficult things you may need to talk about with your partner, according to experts.
1. What Your Boundaries Are
Talking about boundaries in a relationship can be tough, especially since it can feel like you're telling your partner to back off. But it definitely doesn't have to be done in a harsh way, or result in a negative experience.
In fact, talking about your boundaries — and asking your partner about theirs — is actually really healthy. "Boundaries can be physical, emotional, financial, etc.," therapist Dr. Talal H. Alsaleem, PsyD, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Having these conversations helps couples understand and anticipate what is expected of them, which can reduce the amount of unintentional hurt they can cause to their partner due to a lack of information."
2. Any Unmet Emotional Needs
Admitting you have a few unmet emotional needs can be tough, but it's something you should considering talking about sooner rather than later.
"Having these conversations allows partners the opportunity to learn about their partner's needs and the best ways to fulfill them, which leads to increased satisfaction in the relationship," Dr. Alsaleem says.
3. Betrayals Of Trust
If your partner betrays your trust in any way, the best way to overcome the pain of it all is by talking it out.
So if they've made you uncomfortable, or said something out of line, let them know. "For example, maybe you felt like they were flirting with someone, or something they said triggered one of your past wounds," love coach Diana Eskander, tells Bustle.
Being honest about an insecurity or worry can be tough, but it's much healthier than letting it fester, which will only lead to resentment.
4. What You Want For The Future
Many people feel uncomfortable when talking about the future with their partner. And yet, if you want to ensure your relationship is heading in the right direction, this convo will be key.
"It can be vulnerable and anxiety-inducing, especially if you're unsure if you're on the same page about what you want for your future," Christie Federico, MEd, licensed therapist and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "However, your relationship will inevitably fall apart if you fail to have this conversation and frequently check in with one another about the direction you're headed." So go ahead and make it a priority, however nerve-racking it may feel.
5. Financial Troubles
Money issues are frequently glossed over in relationships, since they can easily lead to tension, arguments — and sometimes even breakups. But keeping quiet isn't the best course of action.
"Hiding important information about [yourself] in shame affects [your] mental and emotional health negatively, and will also do a number on your relationship," Federico says. "A healthy relationship includes honesty and not having to hide parts about yourself. It also requires teamwork and coming up with solutions to difficult situations together."
This might include being honest about your debt or other financial troubles, as well as talking to your partner about their financial history. If you two can work together regarding all things money-related, you'll certainly have a healthier relationship.
6. Your Sex Life
If you're feeling misunderstood, uncomfortable, or let down in this area, let your partner know ASAP.
"Sex and sexuality are an important part of a person’s overall health, so naturally, it is also an important part of the relationship’s health," Melissa Coats, LPC, tells Bustle. "Leaving out the conversation of sex is like putting the emergency brake on a relationship. The relationship will still function, but there is something that is holding it back from getting the full experience."
By finding the right time to talk about how you've been feeling — and asking your partner how they've been feeling, too — you will ultimately build even more intimacy in your relationship.
7. Ongoing Health Issues
It's your choice when it comes to what you do and don't share with your partner, in terms of your health history. But if you have an ongoing issue, as it relates to your sexual health, you need to let them know.
"It's so important to be able to talk about your sexual health if you're sexually active in your partnership," Federico says. "If you have an STI/STD, your status will directly affect the health of your partner. Although it might seem scary and vulnerable to disclose, it's too important not to. By doing so, you may feel more emotionally connected to your partner and even help them remain physically healthy."
8. How You Define Your Relationship
"If you don't know what your relationship means [to the both of] you, you risk repeating past mistakes, getting stuck in uncomfortable roles, or fighting about what a healthy relationship is," psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, LMFT, PhD, tells Bustle.
So if it feels like you've been flailing in the wind, in terms of where you stand with your partner, it's definitely time to talk.
If they aren't on the same page, that's something you need to know. And if they are, having this conversation will only end up being one more healthy step in the right direction.
9. How You Argue
It might sound strange to talk about arguing styles, but this is one topic that can make for a healthier relationship now, as well as years down the line.
"We all get upset from time to time," Dr. Tessina says. So understanding how you both argue — and how you can learn to diffuse each other's anger, and fight fair — will only bring you closer together.
10. Problems In Past Relationships
"It may be uncomfortable to hear your partner [talk about old relationships], or discuss times you had with past exes," therapist Jordan Madison, LGMFT, tells Bustle. "However, discussing this topic can lead to a healthier relationship."
So if something's on your mind, or you think it'd be helpful, find time to bring it up. "This allows you and your partner to learn from past mistakes in previous relationships, understand relationship patterns, triggers for your [partner], and how to handle similar situations that may arise," Madison says.
11. How To Divvy Up Chores
It's so easy to fall into a rut, where one partner ends up doing everything to keep the relationship running. Think not only physical chores, such as grocery shopping or cleaning the house, but also the mental chore of remembering it all.
"Couples don’t always sit down and divvy up these tasks before they move in or have kids together, but instead the tasks often just get taken on by one or the other and then that person becomes the permanent doer of the task," Dr. Sherry Pagoto, licensed clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Connecticut, tells Bustle.
This can feel unfair and burdensome — and lead to resentment over time, Dr. Pagoto says. So if you're the one who's been stuck with it all, it may be time to speak up.
And again, don't worry about rocking the boat. "The more tough issues you tackle together, the easier it is to tackle tough ones in the future," Dr. Pagoto says. "Avoiding tough conversations can lead to real problems in the future because rarely does a tough situation resolve itself."
It may not be fun or easy to talk about these things with your partner. But once you get it all off your chest, and see the positive effects it can have on your relationship, you'll be glad you did.