How to Talk to Your Spouse About Tough Issues

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Do you and your spouse have a tough time talking about hard things? If so, these practical tips can help you talk to your spouse about tough issues. ::

You’ve had those marriage conversations before, right?

The ones where you ask, “What’s wrong?” And your spouse says, “Nothing. I’m fine.” You know nothing’s farther from the truth.

Sure, you’re civil to each other. You smile together for the family photo, happily split household chores, and may even make love regularly.

Yet, you can’t shake the feeling that you’re not able to fully connect with your spouse. It’s not that he is hiding big secrets from you, but you can sense that there are things he isn’t sharing that you know would help you understand him more and make your relationship better.

And to be honest, there are things you want to say to your spouse, too. You know… little things that bother you, things that your heart really needs to say – just stuff you really, really wish he knew.

We want our marriages to be free from mediocrity and protected from bigger issues like infidelity, but how can we have those kinds of conversations with our spouses? What do we even say?

What are the things that your spouse may need to say to you? What are the thoughts or emotions hiding inside him or her that may have caused the relationship to turn lukewarm and stale?

From time to time, I believe every couple needs to just get this stuff out in the open – whether that’s out loud in your bedroom, written in a journal, or shared together with a counselor.

But I totally get it: You or your spouse may be hesitant to share because you’re emotionally bruised from the last conversation like this.

So here’s another big question: How can we feel safe enough to share these sometimes really tricky issues, and what boundaries need to be established for the conversation?

We’re going to discuss all of that here in this post!

Let’s share some conversation starters and ground rules so that you and your spouse can work through these hidden, tricky issues and get back to growing closer as a couple.

17 Conversation Starters to Help Share Deep Emotions

We want to share with our spouses, but sometimes those emotions are hidden and we’re not even sure what we’re feeling.

If you have something to say (or you think your spouse might), consider using these as conversation prompts to access what might be going on.

One idea would be to print these out and each of you could fill out the top three that connect with you the most.

Something important about using these prompts: First, I would strongly encourage you to choose statements that aren’t “blame” related, but that also highlight your responsibility in the relationship disconnect. Second, I would encourage you to use these cautiously and with the ground rules (outlined in the next section).

  1. I’m sorry that I have…
  2. I feel very loved when you…
  3. I have made the choice to ____________ and I see how that has brought _______________.
  4. It hurts me when you…
  5. We have drifted apart because…
  6. I don’t like it when you say…
  7. When _______________ happened, I felt ____________, and it led me to do ______________.
  8. I feel disrespected when…
  9. I’m worried about our relationship because…
  10. I long for you to try…
  11. We have been so __________ lately and that has made us _______________.
  12. I know I hurt you when I _______________ and I’m sorry.
  13. I have been feeling very ________________ lately and I see that it has affected ____________.
  14. I would like it if we could________ more because…
  15. I love it when you…
  16. I feel sad in our marriage because…
  17. We have been __________ and I want to change that to be more_________________.

7 Ground Rules for Safe Communication in Marriage

Maybe what we’re feeling has already been brought up before and we’re still licking our wounds from the last conversation. Or maybe we just aren’t sure that our spouse wants to hear about it at all.

I think even the strongest couples feel like this from time to time (I know my husband and I do).

Can I suggest a few ground rules to keep tension as low as possible as you discuss these sensitive topics?

1) Accept where you are.

It’s OK that things aren’t perfect. Accept the current state of your emotions and those of your spouse. Believe this truth: “We’re starting here and our heart is to make things better.”

2) Look for your part in the problem.

I had a college professor who said, “In marriage, both parties plays a role in the happiness or unhappiness of the relationship.” Very true. It’s easy to blame the other person as the “reason” for the issue. Sometimes it’s true that one person is more “at fault” than another. However, I believe that (excluding situations where abuse is present) both a husband and wife play a part in the current state of the marriage since we are constantly responding to the other’s actions. It can go a long way in a conversation to recognize and apologize for your part instead of just placing blame.

3) Talk before you share.

No one likes to feel like they’re cornered and attacked out of the blue. That can easily happen when we go to our spouse and suddenly start sharing deep emotions (or probing him or her with questions), all in the name of feeling “closer.”

My husband and I find it helpful to give each other a heads up about a big conversation we need to have – something along the lines of, “Hey honey, can we chat later today about some stuff in our relationship that may be keeping us from feeling close?”

4) Location and timing are everything.

Pick a time when there are no kids around or phones that will buzz. Find a place where you can speak privately and you both feel safe. For us, that’s our master bedroom (read more about how to make your bedroom a sanctuary for your marriage here).

5) Make it a safe place to share.

If you’re not sure that you can talk about these things without accusation, condemnation, or pointing fingers, consider having a third party (like a counselor) present to keep the peace. Or, if it’s more comfortable, it might make sense to use a journal to ask your spouse questions or write emotions down.

5) Pray, pray, pray.

Pray before you even choose to have the conversation. Pray right before the conversation. And in those moments when you’re incredibly frustrated, pray for in-the-moment wisdom on how to handle the emotions.

6) Stick to the Topic

This isn’t a time to dredge up old fights or to even cover a lot of issues at once. Pick one or two things and stay focused. Do your best to not veer off on rabbit trails or other areas of tension.

7) Remember that it’s not all about you.

Make the focus about growing closer, not just about airing your needs. Consider how your spouse may be feeling. Really listen to his or her feedback. The goal isn’t to be “right” or “wrong,” but for each of you to share honestly so that these issues won’t keep you separated.

8) Time for change (and tons of grace) must rule.

Realize that one conversation isn’t going to change everything. It’s a process, and once we understand the deeper emotions, we have to give our spouses time and space to slowly make the changes. This can be oh-so-hard, but it’s the incredibly important grace side of marriage.

Agree to check in from time to time to discuss the issues if they can’t be solved right away.

Marriage is never easy, but we must keep the lines of communication open in order to keep our family’s foundation solid!

Today, I challenge you to ask God if there are some tough issues you need to discuss with your spouse. Let Him guide your marriage toward the strongest path!

About the author:

alicia-michelle-200-x-200Alicia Michelle, author and online influencer at, is passionate about helping women discover their beautifully imperfect journey through parenting, marriage, faith and homemaking. She’s also a happily married homeschool mom of four curious and amazing kids who keep her on her toes! Alicia is the author of the books Plan to Be Flexible and the Back to School Survival Manual. She also teaches the online video courses “7 Days to a Less Angry Mom,” and “bloom: A Journey to Joy (and Sanity) for Homeschool Moms”.

When she’s not keeping her household and the site firing on all cylinders, she can be found snuggled under a warm blanket with a cup of tea and a good book (and, if she’s lucky, something drenched in chocolate). You can find her at, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

More to Consider…

Has your marriage lost its spark? Do you and your beloved desire to bring intimacy back into your marriage? If so, come see these 7 ways to do so! ::

Many marriages fail due to lack of communication. Come see these 5 solid tips for better communication between you and your spouse. ::


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