How To Have Important Conversations With Him

Something was on Carla’s mind.

by Jeffrey Mark Levine

She’d been thinking about it A LOT. And she knew she needed to share it with her husband, Mike.

Carla recognized that her own emotions and feelings about it were confusing. And that it was going to be potentially an emotionally charged conversation.

You see, Carla and Mike put off having children because Carla didn’t feel ready. Mike was always understanding, yet made it clear that he wanted children. 

Carla was about to turn 41. Mike was dropping some hints about it. And Carla realized it was better for their relationship for them to talk about it – openly and  honestly.

The problem was, Carla had decided that she didn’t want to have children – and she knew that this was going to be a huge blow to Mike, and his vision of what their relationship and their future would look like.

In your life, you may be putting off having that heavy, important conversation. It might not be as life-changing as Carla’s, but these discussions can be scary. And we tend to avoid them, or at least delay having them.

Carla needed what I call, “The Container.”

The Container is the structure around the important conversation. It means that you talk about the conversation that you’re about to have, from the outside – like an observer, from three different perspectives – before, during and after – which I’ve given names: Set-Up, Pause, and Assess (SPA).

In other words, you start by talking about the conversation before you actually have the conversation. 

And then, during the conversation, you remove yourself from it, by checking in about how it’s going. 

Then afterwards, you review.

And you do all this in collaboration with your partner. 

Let’s take a look at how to do this.

The Set-Up

When you start, you want to be honest about your thoughts and feelings.

“Sweetheart, I need for us to have a serious conversation, and I’m a little nervous about it, because I’m having some confusing and mixed feelings about what I’m going to say. In fact, I’m anticipating that I might have some very strong emotions come up and I’m looking to you to just listen, at first, so I can work through this. And I’ll do the same for you.”

Do you see what we’re doing here?

Your words don’t have to be exactly those words. You just want to lay the groundwork for the conversation, and express your own needs and feelings even before you dive in.

You could continue: “It’s possible that we won’t finish the conversation today, and I want to make sure it’s ok for us to stop, but then pick it up again soon – like later or tomorrow. Would you be ok with that?”

That last sentence – asking permission – is huge. It gives him some choice and some room. This can look a number of different ways – “Are you willing to do that?” “Is this a good time?” Etc.

Then you start the conversation with a simple statement of where you’re at: “I know we’ve talked a lot about having children, and I’ve gotten clear that I don’t want us to move in that direction.”

And you might continue: “I realized, finally, that I have so much unresolved with my own parents and my childhood that I don’t have the capacity to be the mother that I would want to be. And I’m feeling really sad about that. And I’m scared about how you’re going to take it.”

The Pause

As you both continue the exchange, at some point the second stage will be necessary – The Pause. That means you step outside the conversation and check-in with each other: “How are we doing? I feel heard and relieved how this is going.” “Do you feel understood?”

Or you might say, “I’m feeling scared and a little confused. Can we take a break?”

This is being real with your partner. And it’s taking a pause in the conversation before it goes down some unfortunate path.

This point can’t be overstated! If the emotions start to run so high that you can’t hear each other anymore, it’s time to take a pause.

Look for these signs that it’s time to take a pause:

  • Interrupting
  • Accusing
  • Blaming
  • Volume increases
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Feeling anger towards your partner
  • Confusion
  • All of these might mean that it’s time to pause… and pick up the conversation another time.

It’s important, when you pause, to both be clear when you will start the conversation again. 

It could be immediately. Or either of you might need a break and you would agree to reconnect in an hour, or tomorrow at 7:30pm. Try to be as specific as possible about when you will start up again.

Assess

When you reach the point where you feel there has been a resolution, or both people feel heard and complete (even if there’s not a final resolution), it’s good to step outside the main conversation one more time and ask: “How did that go?” “Do you feel complete?” “How are we doing?”

The reason to do this is to use the conversation as a learning experience. The two of you will get better at listening, responding and creating a safe place to express real, true feelings and needs.

By using this Container method, and following the three SPA steps – Set-Up, Pause and Assess, you have a framework for navigating a high stakes conversation that will lead to more understanding and deeper connection.

If you’ve been putting off having one of these important conversations with your partner, and would like some guidance on how to do it in a way that you get heard, reach out directly to Jeffrey Mark Levine to find out about personal and couples coaching. 

Jeffrey is a corporate coach and trained mediator (and Rori Raye’s husband) who works with both men and women to improve their communication, deepen their connection and remove the blocks that keep them from feeling and expressing love. He is the author of “How To Talk To A Man”, which contains invaluable advice, tools and solutions to help you avoid common relationship pitfalls, and clean things up when they go south. 

“If you are looking to create a loving, nourishing and deeply connected relationship, everything is ‘talk-about-able’.”

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