We all know effective communication is essential for a happy, intimate, connected, and long-lasting relationship. Why? Because lack of communication or miscommunication leads to resentment, which acts like a little crack in the relationship that starts to chip away at the foundation of love, respect, and trust in the relationship.

When there are two humans in a relationship, that means two sets of biologies, upbringings, lived experiences, inner children, and lives coming together. Of course, with that, there will be challenges, disagreements, and tough conversations that need to be had at some point

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The way that you approach these will dramatically change the way that it is received by your partner and the outcome. Here are five tips for bringing up an issue without causing a fight in your relationship.

1. Create a loving environment and pick your spot carefully

If your partner is watching sports, it’s not a good time to open the conversation that you want to vision the next year together or if there is an issue you’d like to address— that’s a quick way to get shut down or be met with defensiveness. Make sure the timing is right for you and your partner and that you’re both in a calm state and have a generous amount of time for the discussion.

2. Ask permission and respect their boundaries

Respect your partner’s boundaries and you’ll demonstrate that’s the new standard that you’d also like reciprocated. For example: “Hey, I’ve been visioning out my year and I’d love for us to make time together to set some couple resolutions, does Saturday work for you?” Then when the time comes “Is now a good time, are you ready?”

If they just got a work email or they’re mid-conversation with a friend via text when really they need an extra five minutes, you run into an opportunity of miscommunication and that isn’t the place you want to get started when you’re introducing something new into the relationship or addressing issues.

3. Have clarity on the desired outcome you’d like to achieve

Gain clarity on the outcome you’d like before going into the conversation by writing in your journey about the issue, how you feel about it and what you’re hoping to get out of the conversation and eventually the outcome, e.g. a changed behavior from your partner or them simply hearing and seeing you for you are. With that, don’t become so attached to this outcome as it may take a few conversations and some time, shifts in relationships are not, and in fact, rarely instantaneous.

4. Share from “I feel” not “you made me feel”

Always share how you feel from the “I feel” place, they don’t have to agree with what you’re saying but they can’t argue with your feelings (they are valid), and this way you’re avoiding being accusational, which would sound like “When you did x, you made me feel y”. Never generalize or say “You always do x” or “You never do y” – use a specific example to communicate and take responsibility for your feelings, never placing blame on them (it’s not helpful and they will respond with defensiveness).

5. Create space for your partner to share and mirror their words

Once you’ve opened the conversation and addressed the issue, create space for your partner to share how they’re feeling, listen actively without interrupting, and allow them to finish, before mirroring back your understanding of what they shared. This allows them to feel heard, and validated of their feelings and leaves little room for misunderstanding.