How to Talk to Your Spouse

Dr. Lorin Bradbury, author of "Treasures from an Old Book, Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World".

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: There are some pretty serious issues that I need to talk to my spouse about, but I have not been able to get up the courage to do so. Do you have any suggestions?

In searching for information to address your questions, I came across some suggestion from the Focus on the Family website. The article is entitled, Approaching Your Spouse, and was written by Mitch Temple. My comments are in parentheses.

•Begin by approaching your spouse at the right time and in the right manner. Choose a time when he or she is not distracted or too stressed or tired. (Do not become impulsive about needing the talk about a sensitive issue at this moment. There may be a better time.)

•Approach your spouse in a non-confrontational manner. An angry tone of voice or condescending “parent to child” approach will only cause him or her to shut down. (Always maintain respect for your spouse.)

•Make sure you bring up the topic in a non-threatening way. If your communication pattern has digressed to the point that when you bring up this topic, your spouse becomes defensive and “blows up,” you may consider writing him or her a letter to be read when you are not present. This gives your spouse time to think about what was said and respond without all the emotions. (When writing, be assertive, but stick to the subject. Don’t weave multiple subjects together. There will be another day for another letter, or maybe the letter will open the door to verbal communication.)

•Don’t say, “You need counseling.” Recognize and admit that “we” have a problem, and it must be addressed as a team. (Very few problems in marriage are totally the fault of one partner; both contribute to the problem.)

You may try statements like the following to encourage your mate to join you in getting help for your marriage:

•I’m concerned that if we allow this problem to continue, it will only get worse. I can’t go on like we have been. I need the help more than anything. I know you are uncomfortable with this, but so am I. It’s embarrassing and even frightening to me. I realize, however, that if we keep doing the same things in our marriage, we’ll get the same results.

•We need outside intervention and direction. It’s like being in a strange city and asking others for directions. Locals know the area. They know the correct path to take, and which roads are easy ones and which roads are dangerous and difficult. A trained Christian therapist knows the way around, has been trained and is capable of helping with issues and dangers that we can’t deal with on our own.

•I know God wants us to do better in our marriage, and our children deserve a more stable home environment than this. It’s obvious that if we don’t get help, we are making the decision to continue in a painful marriage. I believe there is hope for us and it is possible to have a healthy marriage like we used to.

•I love you with all my heart, but I am tired and need your help and support on this. If you won’t go for yourself, would you go with me? Let’s talk about it after dinner tonight.

Notice in the statements above that the person speaking is taking at least part of the responsibility for the problem and wants to work toward resolution.

If you find these suggestions helpful, you may want to go to the article from which the above suggestions were taken at

Also, you will find other helpful articles at the same site.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]

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