Do You Know How to Positively Bring an Issue Up in Your Relationship?

Being able to talk to your partner assertively about the problems that plague them is essential to sustain a healthy relationship.
Do You Know How to Positively Bring an Issue Up in Your Relationship?
Julia Marquez Arrico

Written and verified by the psychologist Julia Marquez Arrico.

Last update: 07 May, 2024

When we send a message, the form (how we say it) is often more important than the content (what we say). Being able to accurately communicate what we want to say isn’t an easy task.
We have to bring together words, expressions, emotions, our attitude, etc. In fact, when it comes to someone you’re dating or a spouse, it’s even harder. Do you know how to positively bring an issue up in your relationship?

“Communication” is its own psychological specialty. Actually, there are psychologists who dedicate themselves to improving communication skills in their patients, and to understanding how the media affects our daily lives.

They’ve studied communication so much that now we have one thing very clear about it. Good communication skills are very important in every aspect of our lives. But if there’s one aspect where it’s especially important, it’s in relationships.

8 Most Effective Communication Strategies to Bring an Issue Up in Your Relationship

Knowing how to positively bring an issue up with your partner can help you get through conflicts and learn from them. That’s why today we’ll explain the 8 most important strategies for positive communication in your relationship.

1. Look for the Right Moment: You Need Privacy, Quiet, and Their Attention

To positively bring an issue up with your partner, you need to find the right moment. That means you need privacy, quiet, and attention.

Sometimes we only spend a small part of the morning, afternoon, or night together. And there are thousands of things to do and you’re both tired. Remember: these aren’t the best times to bring up an issue.

finding the right time to bring up an issue

Decide how urgent your problem is and whether it can wait or not. It’s always best to look for a slot of time when your partner is free, you’re both calm, and there are no distractions.

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than trying to explain or understand something and for someone to interrupt. So, no cell phone, kids, TV, or music. You have to try to get their attention to 200%. Of course, your attention levels should be just as high.

 “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
-Maya Angelou-

2. Pay Attention to Body Language

It’s very important that your body physically transmits calm, and not a state of alert or defensiveness when you’re going to bring an issue up in your relationship. It’s normal to be nervous or uncomfortable if you’re going to talk about something important.

But try to keep yourself under control and use certain details. These might be: having open posture, not crossing your arms, looking them in the eye but without intimidation, and trying not to move too much.

Be face-to-face and near each other, nothing in the middle. That’s what will help you create a more positive climate. 

For example, sitting on the couch and holding eye contact and using a calm tone of voice can be much better than sitting face-to-face at the table. These small details color our communication of the problem a more positive and intimate hue.

3. Be Specific and Focus on the Present

Not beating around the bush is fundamental when you’re going to bring an issue up. The first step to keeping yourself focused is being clear, knowing what you want to say and your goal in bringing it up.

Before you even start talking it’s very important to know what you feel, what you want, and what changes you want out of the situation so it’ll stop being a problem. 

Therefore it’s best to say what you feel and think in a clear, brief way. You don’t have to repeat the same thing over and over again.

Choose easy-to-understand words. Explain things with recent examples, as close to the present as possible. The past is important for understanding where we are and why we’re here. But when it comes to bringing up an issue, you have to focus on talking about what’s going on and how you want the situation to change.

4. Use the Sandwich Technique: Something Positive + the Problem + Something Positive

The sandwich technique makes sense when we want to correct the other person but soften the emotional impact of the criticism. That’s why it’s a good thing to learn if you want to bring an issue up with your partner.

It means surrounding the central message with positive elements. You put them before and after in your communication.

For example, “I know you work a lot of hours, and I like that a lot because it shows you’re making an effort for the family. But I feel like you could help out more with household chores. And I’m sure we can find a way for you to be able to.”

The goal of this technique is to take advantage of the psychological effect of primacy and recency. These effects explain how what we remember most about a message is how it starts and how it ends. 

So mentioning the problem in the middle of the message, starting and ending with something positive, is a great formula for talking about the conflict and feel positive in the end.

5. Take Advantage of Flexibility and the Magic of Words

The words you choose when you bring the issue up are fundamental. So to positively bring up an issue, your words need to give off flexibility. They have to reflect a desire or a suggestion, not an ultimatum. 

For example, you can use a  “you could” instead of a “you have to.” That way it’s much more likely the other person will listen with an open attitude.

You can start to bring your issue up with words such as “I’d like,” “I’d need,” or “would make me happy.” This is much better than saying “I want,” “you should’ve,” or “I need.” 

In reality, the message is the same either way. But words are magic like that. They can make the person accept — and even promise — a change they would’ve disagreed with otherwise.

two stuffed animals in the snow

6. Very Important: Convincing Your Partner the Problem has a Solution

If you want to positively bring an issue up, there has to be a time when you propose a solution. Explaining the problem and not suggesting a solution isn’t a good idea. If you don’t suggest some way to improve the situation, you’ll be bringing your partner to a dead-end.

Another important aspect is that the solution be a suggestion and not a command. It’s about solving the problem, not making the other person do what you want.

Before you begin, it’s important to brainstorm and figure out possible solutions to suggest. It’s not about you explaining what you think is the solution. That’s because for the solution to be fair and effective, both members of the relationship have to agree.

Rather, it’s about you suggesting what you think you could do, and finding out if they think so too. Because it’s an issue that has to do with the relationship itself. The responsibility for the solution is shared between both people.  

“Be honest, brutally honest. That is what’s going to maintain relationships.”<
-Lauryn Hill-

7. Turn Your Complains Into Desires

Behind every complain there’s a desire. For example, when you think “why don’t they appreciate my effort,” or “they’re always late, they don’t take me seriously,” the desire behind these complains is, “I want them to recognize my efforts more, and let me know they notice the things I’m doing,” and “I want you to be on time because it’s important to me.”

Turning complaints into desires is a true skill. We have to practice it, but it’s not impossible. The first step is to leave aside all the powerful and unpleasant emotions causing the complaint. Then we can think about what we really want to ask for.

Secondly, it’s very important to transmit the desire with positive language. This gives the other person space to act instead of paralyzing them.

That is, to positively bring an issue up in your relationship, explain what you want to happen now, without focusing on whatever annoys you (the complaint). 

8. Give Your Partner Time to Reflect

Don’t demand an immediate response or action. Let your partner think about what you’ve brought up. If you don’t demand a response right when you bring up the issue, you’ll take some of the pressure off. 

And taking the pressure off someone so they can make a decision is one of the best ways to turn the issue into a positive challenge. This is because you’re giving them freedom.

You’re letting them evaluate without pressure. And then they can answer once the “shock” of the conversation has passed

But be careful… reflection time needs an expiration date if it’s going to be useful. To put it another way, you have to give them a time limit. The time limit you give your partner will depend on each person’s personal schedules.

It will depend on how urgent the conflict is. But it’s not about taking an indeterminate amount of time to think. If so, what’s really happening is that they’re avoiding the problem. And avoiding the problem does nothing but make it worse.

If you keep these ideas in mind the next time you bring an issue up with your partner, you’ll be able to do it positively. Then it’ll be much easier to learn from the conflict, know yourselves better, and strengthen the relationship.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.