Discussing Sticky Issues with Your Mate Without Getting Stuck

If you’re like me, you’ve often let your mouth fly wide open to reveal the manipulative and prideful intentions behind an effort “to discuss” a sticky issue. Ugh!

You’re thinking that your words will bring clarity and understanding for your mate (cue the sound of angels singing from heaven).

But all you really offered your mate was a sticky web intended to capture him with his own words.

Is that really what any of us want?

Maybe in the heat of the moment, but not once our anger and pride settles back down. Afterwards, we’re left with a tangled mess where we’ve certainly not acted “Christ-like”—inspiring our mates—but rather have left them feeling condemned.

discuss sticky issuesUnfortunately, I’ve been in this sticky mess far more often than a Christian, counselor, and/or pastor’s wife should ever be! However, that’s also given me great insight into how to get unstuck when a sticky discussion arises.

The first thing I do is – Recognize how I’m feeling.

If I’m feeling anxious and angry, it’s a good bet that no matter how I try to discuss something, it’s going to come across harsh and even hateful. So that leads me to . . .

The next step – Call a “time-out” of sorts.

When I’m feeling too emotional, I respectfully ask for a “time out” before we discuss the issue further—adding that I need to pull away to process and pray before we discuss again. (Refer to my prayer guide that I mentioned last week for how).

Step three – Pray and process

I gain so much calmness, peace and perspective once I’ve prayed over my feelings and perceptions regarding the conflict. Sometimes it takes praying and processing for days, but more times than not, it gives me clarity very soon afterwards.

Then I ask my husband if we can schedule a time to discuss the conflict (but avoid discussing immediately after). Whenever we experience strong anger, scientists are finding that the Amygdala in our brains gets “hijacked” for at least 18 minutes or sometimes up to several hours. Sadly, this hijack can drop our IQ by about 15 points until blood begins to flow back to the frontal cortex. Not only that but . . .

Step four – Meet for “the talk.”

As you begin to discuss the issue be sure to come with humbleness—focusing on “your” contribution and not your spouse’s. That’s the key here, friends! Trying to talk to my husband in a way that communicates that he’s the main problem or even part of the problem will take the conversation from a smooth one to a sticky one in no time.

Step five – Make listening your paramount concern and action.

Really step five is actually a part of four—so maybe it should be 4 ½. 😉 The point is, you need to remind yourself that you cannot know all that your mate sees or feels without hearing from him/her first.

Once you’ve really listened, let the words sink in. Don’t grab them and form a rebuttal, even if the rebuttal is only in your head! Be humble enough to “sit with the words” for minutes, hours and even days. Speak them out loud to yourself so that you can hear them, ponder them, feel them.

Then ask the Lord to use your spouse’s words to reveal the truth about you and how you need to change. 

In time, those changes can change the dynamic of your marriage, softening your heart and dropping your mate’s defenses. 

Join me next week in this series on the “Lessons I’ve Learned in Marriage” where I’ll be talking about “How to spur conversation with a disengaged mate.” And if you’re interested in helping me in my once-a-month series on “sexual hangups in marriage,” then you can find out more by clicking here.

 

What is your biggest challenge when encountering a “sticky discussion” with your mate?

 

How do you think your mate would respond if you did all five of these steps completely?

 

Btw, I realize that I’m always pressing you, my readers, to be the one to take responsibility when sometimes you may be the “victim” in a very emotionally abusive marriage. If that’s you, then you need the help of a Christian counselor and pastor to help you gain perspective and support. These steps that I’ve outlined are for those in marriages where emotional abuse is rarely, if ever an issue. In abusive situations, “talking through an issue” can potentially lead to more abuse.


Joining with my friends at Giving Up on Perfect, Christian Blogger Community, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Nanahood, Moments of Hope, Family, Friendship and Faith, DanceWithJesusFriday and LifeGivingLinkup.

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  • Yes! That time out is key for me. Unfortunately, I get an issue in my teeth, and I want to chew it to death like a dog with a bone. It takes some pretty stern self talk to get me to just be quiet and let myself calm down before diving into words that will only hurt the situation.

    • Yes, I’m the same way, Michele. I’m so glad that God is able to calm my feisty spirit in those times. There’s so much I see once I’ve let Him speak into my heart and situation that I didn’t in the middle of it. Thanks for joining the conversation and encouraging me, my friend!

  • “Make listening your paramount concern and action.” so easy to say and so hard to do. But when I do, what a difference. Time to journal my feelings and gain perspective before the talk makes all the difference for me. When I know the Lord has heard me and when I’ve heard Him, I’m such a nicer person.

    • Yes it is, Debbie. There’s nothing easy or natural about it. I’m so glad God wired me as a “writer” because I think it’s an amazing tool for untangling these sticky situations we get stuck in. It’s a discipline, to be sure, but one that makes us as strong as working out with weights would do if we worked out everyday. Thanks for your kindness to me, my friend! I always look forward to hearing from you and value your opinion so much. 🙂

  • Mary

    I see Debbie pointed out “listening” in her comment too. I believe many of us think we are listening when really we are disengaged. I practice listening well. It was one of my dad’s greatest gifts and I learned from him what it looks like and how to make others feel like the are the only ones in the room. Keep in mind I am still practicing but I am blessed to have had such a beautiful role model. I know this doesn’t quite go with your topic but for me, the better we learn how to listen in all areas of our life, the better off we will be. Thank you for always making me think how your words can make a difference in my own life.

    • Yes, listening is the underlying and foundational aspect of my encouragements here, Mary. So you’ve picked up on the “theme” even though I’m also talking about “talking.” We really will end up going in circles if we don’t give more attention to listening than to conveying. And I can see that listening skill in you, my friend. I hear it even in your writing–as you listen not just to others but to God everywhere you go. 🙂

  • NanaHood

    Listening is so important and there are very few people who really know how to do it well. Great post! Thanks for linking up at NanaHood

    • Yes, that’s so true, Teresa. I find myself really trusting and valuing the friend who knows how to listen well. I think our spouses do as well! 😉 Thanks for coming by and joining the conversation, my friend! Always glad to see you here.

  • Jaime Wiebel

    Such great tips, Beth. I love coming here and reading all that you are encouraging us to work on. I am also glad to have featured you on my site this week because you are truly an inspiration to many. I was praying for you and all the mom stuff you are going through. Have a great week!

    • I’m so glad you find it helpful and am very honored to be featured at your blog today. I love your heart for God and His word. It really is evident in all the things you write about and encourage us to do. Thank you so much for the prayers. I truly need them. This empty-nest season is a hard one–at least in the early stages of it. I don’t like letting go! 😉

  • Susan Shipe

    Are you even kidding me? You are telling Noah about the flood sister!!! Thanks for the linkup!

  • Hey Beth!

    My biggest struggle in a sticky situation is being willing to accept my husband’s short communication strategies! He is not a big talker. Especially about serious issues. He gets to the point quickly and then he’s moved on. Within minutes (if not seconds) he has moved onto a joke or the next item on his to-do list! It’s amazing the way his mind works. When we sit down to have “the talk”, I’d want to have a deep conversation. He just couldn’t and I would get hurt and take it personally – as though me or our relationship wasn’t valuable enough to him to take the time to have the conversations. Once I healed in my own identity issues, I was able to simply recognize his communication abilities not as a reflection of me but simply his wiring. I adapted. Over the years he has learned to talk a bit more, but I have learned to share small bits and pieces and then let it go. What journey marriage is! Ha!

    Thanks, friend, for the great messages and for hosting!
    Lori

  • Beth, great points! As you said, it’s so important to make listening our most important concern when we sit down to “have the talk,” but it’s so much easier to want to “be heard” or “make our point.” But the steps of preparing our hearts is vital, too. Thanks for some great truths!

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