Want to talk to your husband or wife about something important but don’t know how to bring it up without starting a fight or scaring them away? Whether you’re an introvert, an empath, or find it difficult to have a conversation about something important with your partner; the key to a happy marriage is communication. Many people think conflict is bad, but when you’re in a relationship it is healthy and actually promotes awareness and understanding of each other’s needs. But if the conversation suddenly gets toxic with name-calling, blaming, and gaslighting it’s time to rethink your communication strategy.

Think about common conflicts between you and your spouse. How do conversations about these conflicts usually go? Do you make progress on them, or are you just spinning your wheels? Do you get shut down, ignored, or yelled at when you present a conflicting opinion or express concerns about your partner?

Tips to Bring Up a Contentious Issue Without Starting a Fight

  1. Prepare Yourself for the Conversation
  2. Read the Room
  3. Focus on the Soft Start

One of many ways to navigate these issues successfully is to know how to start a discussion about them effectively. To this end, here are three insightful ways you can bring up an issue with your spouse effectively.

1. Prepare Yourself

It might seem artificial or stilted to write down your thoughts about an issue before bringing it up with your spouse. But as a habit, it can be hugely valuable. Writing down or even saying out loud what you’re going to say helps you:

  • Clarify your thoughts about the issue
  • Focus on the meat of the problem
  • Confirm that you’re prepared to speak respectfully
  • Reduce the risk of saying something out of anger you might later regret


2. Read the Room

Just because you’re ready to speak about an issue doesn’t necessarily mean your spouse is. Before blurting out your thoughts, take into context what’s going on at the moment. Is your spouse in the middle of a work-from-home workday? Did they just walk into the house and could use a moment to settle in? Are they working on a project, focusing on their phone, or doing something with the kids?

Offer your spouse grace by asking them if now is a good time to have this conversation. If it’s not, arrange a time later to chat.

3.  Focus on the Soft Start-Up

Here’s a helpful mantra to keep in mind: how we start is how we end.

Relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman discovered that conversations tend to end in the same manner in which they begin. If you begin a conversation hot out of the gate with criticism or an adversarial tone (think sarcasm, anger), then you’re setting yourself and your spouse up for failure as far as making progress about the issue at hand.

Continue Learning…

You’re far better off bringing up the subject in a calm and loving way. To do this, assume you are on the same team tackling an obstacle together. And yes—you’re allowed to complain, and you’re allowed to feel negative emotions! Just do your best to express them in a non-threatening and non-accusatory way. This will help your spouse be more receptive to your needs and to the discussion itself.

How do you complain without criticizing? Focus on the behavior or specific issue, not on your spouse or their character. So, instead of, “You’re so forgetful. It makes me so angry that you AGAIN forgot to take the trash out,” Try, “I’m feeling a bit frustrated that the garbage wasn’t taken out last night. I feel uncared for when that happens and I would really like to feel supported in this”

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Jennifer Long

Jennifer Long is a writer, author, and multiple hat wearer with experience across many different industries.