Help with communication!!!

by Lisa

I need some advice. I know that I am an enabler. I have been for many years. However, after I got divorced, I swore - as many do - that I would be a better communicator and express myself.

I have been with another person for many years, who is VERY defensive whenever I try to discuss money, needing help around the house, etc. I need some help in opening the conversation so that the "wall" does not go up as soon as I say "we need to talk". Can anyone offer advice??

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Jan 09, 2010
by: Evan

What do you co-operate on? (If nothing, that seems like a big problem.) How do you do this?

Avoiding the phrase seems sensible.

Are you willing to do tough stuff too?

Would talking about how to give ourselves the best possible relationship be possible?

Perhaps you could walk up to this difficult topic through easier ones?

If these suggestions aren't any use, I hope at least they can provoke some thinking.

Jan 08, 2010
My 2 cents
by: Anonymous

Hello. Considering I am in similar shoes as yours, I am not sure I can be of help but I can help support you. My therapist suggested I try the line, "What would you be willing to do".

I really like what Don had to say about reconditioning him. With this world being so fast paced and instant gratification being so "normal", it will be a process where patience will have to be very important. (And I am listening to myself here as I plan to use this same idea I am presenting.)

I also think if you remove the phrase or anything close to, "We need to talk" may be helpful. Instead, you may start with how you are feeling overwhelmed with such and such. Or, however you are feeling you can share that. Timing of course would be very important as you want your partner to be in the mood or state of mind to listen. If you share how you feel about something not so specific to how you feel about an issue and ask for your partners advice. I think making your other half feel involved or better that they are making a choice and have control could possibly help.

Being codependent myself I am about making him happy and doing for him. But we all need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves first or we are truly unable to care for others in a necessary manner.

After all that ranting, lol, I would suggest you start with how you are feeling about something that is bothering you only mildly and moving into how you could use some help. If it is about money, you can always put him in the drivers seat and ask him what he think about this or that and try to stear or gently lead into certain areas of finance you want to discuss.

Don't give up on your quest for growth!


Jan 08, 2010
Ain't it the Truth!!
by: Don Carter

Hi Lisa...good stuff godbear! I agree completely... there is something in (some of) us men that make a wall go up when we hear the words "We need to talk".

In my case, my reaction was based upon years of conditioning from childhood and adulthood -- Words like that meant "You screwed up again and I'm going to let you have it now".

Lisa, you might try for a while to say the words "We need to talk", notice the wall go up...and then start telling him about something you really appreciate about him.

Later on, after some reconditioning, he may be more able to listen when you approach him to talk. But still -- it would be wise to only link the words "We need to talk" to something positive so that talking is experienced as something positive.

Use godbear's approach "When...I feel...because..." in other circumstances. Then when talking seems natural you may never need to even say "We need to talk".

One final thought...I also agree with godbear that if there is moderate to severe dysfunction in the relationship then "We need to talk" is only a small element of the problem -- it is a much bigger issue when Codependency, Addiction or Adult Child Syndrome is at play.

For more on relationship problems check out the following page by copying and pasting the link into your browser:

Jan 08, 2010
by: godbear

There is something in a Man's DNA that causes Panic upon hearing those dreaded words, "We need to talk." At least it seems so. I have been in a good recovery process for several years, yet those words still put me on immediate edge and I become defensive.

Also the words, "you should, ought to, or need to" cause an immediate raising of THE WALL. I am able to recognize this when it happens and purposefully lower the wall (at least with most people, excluding my Mother.) I expect this, in my case, is a holdover from childhood when apparently, I couldn't do anything that met my Parent's standards, especially when the rules kept changing....sometimes on a minute by minute basis.

As I began to read about neural networks on this web site, I began to see a reason why I reacted as if a threat was present, even when none existed. I don't know if what you have is 'merely' a communication problem, of something much deeper.

Did one or both of you grow up in dysfunctional families? Is addiction involved? Do you have a 'need' to take care of someone? I have found that I am powerless over other people. If change is to take place, it must begin with me. If addiction or other dysfunction is involved, please seek out a 12 step program such as Alanon or Codependents Anonymous and begin to work on yourself. And, if you can afford Professional counseling, combine that with attendance at self help groups.

A formula I have learned in helping to have difficult conversations is this:

"When you................I feel.

For example, When you complain about taking out the trash,...I feel discounted or angry or ignored or whatever the feeling is. This allows the speaker to be clear and it does not provoke 'the wall'. It is not blaming or nagging. It is a clear statement about how I feel. Also, it does not invite disagreement. All of the topics on this site are great sources on information. Please stay in touch.

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