It starts out innocently enough. A regular evening is interrupted as either you or your spouse ask a few triggering questions. "Can we really afford that vacation we so want? Would declaring bankruptcy be the way out of our current financial situation?" The couple dances around the issue a little until the panic sets in. Before they know it, the discussion has taken on a life of its own and is barreling out of control. Why?
Because we all need a foundation under our feet to feel secure and to protect us from the challenges of life that come from outside. A financial setback, job loss or even illness are often perceived as being attacks from without. We expect to find these situations difficult. However, we often don't see the storm coming when we 'merely' open up a conversation. But when it upsets our equilibrium as a couple, by drawing attention to where we are weakest or most insecure as a couple, the reaction can be unexpectedly profound and can knock us off balance.
It would do us all well to observe and remember which conversations trigger strong reactions. We could then set up special buffers to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
So, in the example where bankruptcy may need to be considered, the following guidelines should apply:
- Tell your spouse in advance that you would like to have a serious conversation and DO NOT leave your spouse entirely in suspense as to the subject. Say "I want us to discuss our financial situation and what we can do to improve it."
- Make sure your partner feels safe and loved and that you are totally devoted to ensuring your mutual betterment.
- Schedule together for a time when you have uninterrupted privacy and no pressing engagements immediately following.
- Do any required research in advance so that you will have access to any pertinent information and up-to-date facts.
- Always remember that your goal is to improve your situation and your relationship. If the conversation gets too heated, diffuse the situation by taking a break, if possible, and rephrasing your thoughts and concerns in non-threatening words and tones.
Even when you successfully navigate a stressful conversation, the experience may leave you tired and occasionally frightened about your current situation. That's OK.
Be there for each other. Be kind and be supportive. Always be loving. Tomorrow will bring another day with a fresh perspective and you will be there together to share it.
Have you had a recent experience like the one above where what seemed like a simple conversation got out of hand? What would you do differently the next time? Share your comment so we can all learn how to better manage more 'volatile' topics.