11 Ways To Be Direct With Your Partner (Expressing Needs Shouldn't Be Stressful)

Not all conversations are easy to have, and when you need to be direct about something, it can sometimes be a stressful task to get your partner to really listen and keep things from turning into a fight. The last person we want to feel stressed about is our partner, so knowing how to approach deep or difficult conversations can alleviate some anxiety. Stress over your relationship can lower your happiness in the union as a whole and with each other personally. But, by learning to communicate our worries with our partners, we can increase our connectivity with them.


Effective communication in romantic relationships not only helps reduce tension but also keeps us on the same page and feeling like we have a partner that we can confide in no matter how difficult the topic is. So, before you let worry swallow you whole, we have some tips on how to have that deep conversation you need to have with your partner, no matter how serious the subject matter. Remember, you're in this together, and our tips help to ensure you are thinking of yourself and your partner when it's time to talk.

Let things settle a little before you talk

Whether things already got heated or you're angry and haven't confronted your partner yet, you might want to take some time alone to cool off. Use that time to find your center, work through the issue in your head, and even play out some conversational scenarios with yourself — all of which will help you move from wanting to yell to a place where you're able to discuss. If you go into a conversation with tempers flaring, it can easily turn into a fight. 


Not sure how to calm yourself down when you're heated and ready to scream? Start by thinking calmly. Although telling someone else to calm down when they're angry can backfire, telling yourself to calm down may help deescalate your anger. Putting yourself on a timed break can help as well. While you take some time to chill, picture yourself calm and easy to talk to. Take slow deep breaths — you could even consider meditating (you can find some wonderful guided meditations online with tips to help you relax). You could also literally cool down: take a quick cold shower, dampen a washcloth with cold water, and lay down with it on your neck or forehead. 

Pick the right time to talk

It's easier to be direct and express yourself without stress when you schedule a time to have deep conversations. If one of you is in a hurry to go to work or has some other plan on your mind, there will be less focus on the conversation. You want to talk when there is no hurry, when you can both say what needs to be said and have time to work through things. Feeling rushed can also make you more irritable, and you may not be able to have the conversation in a positive light or be able to feel like your words and concerns are being heard.


Not only does this planned talk time allow you to feel more relaxed during the conversation — because you had time to slow your heart rate and cool off — but it also gives you some alone time to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. As you'll read in the following paragraphs, it helps to have a plan on just what you need to say and how you're going to talk to your partner in a way that helps you both better understand one another.

Set some conversation boundaries

Those who have already set boundaries with friends, family, and partners may already know why having them is so important, but what about conversational boundaries? And yes, it's a real thing. While you may already have a list of things that cross the line with you, like leaving wet towels on the floor or being interrupted when you're on the phone, you can also set boundaries when it comes to having important conversations. These boundaries help ensure that you get to say what you need to say and that things don't turn into a fight.


According to The Gottman Institute, not having conversational boundaries can lead to more issues, such as flooding and stonewalling. Flooding happens when you start to get overwhelmed with the situation. It's a stress response that comes with a faster heart rate and a trick of the system that makes it more difficult for you to hear what's being said to you. If you're missing key points of the conversation it can seem as though you're not listening and you may not be responding properly (aka stonewalling). Boundaries allow you to stay calmer — if you say, "Let's not be accusatory" and make it okay to stop the conversation for needed breaks, flooding is less likely to get in the way.

There's no right or wrong here

Rather than going into the conversation with the feeling that one of you is right and one of you is wrong, go in with the idea that you could be the one in the wrong. There are, as they say, two sides to every story. Your partner's stance on a subject could be that they were in the right all along, and you may realize that is the case — or maybe not — but you want to leave those options open.


While it may seem a difficult task to be open enough to accept that you could be wrong before the conversation even starts, going into it with the idea that this is your opinion and everyone has their own can help you stay open-minded while your partner gives their side of the story. When couples get together, they don't always agree on everything. And family dynamics change with career changes, added family members (like children), and aging — our ideals can change with time. Where we once thought we agreed wholeheartedly with our partner on a certain subject, we could see things differently at a future time. Allow your differences to teach each other — don't bottle them up inside.

Start the conversation on a positive note

If you go into a conversation positively, it's easier to keep things positive. Negativity from one person makes it too easy for the other person to fall into negative talk. Rather than seeing things as all doom and gloom, even if the issue seems negative, do your best to look for a silver lining, no matter how thin the thread is. Don't go in venting about all of the things that stress you out or accusing your partner of anything. 


Some of the best ways to avoid negativity are to turn anything negative around immediately. Even if your partner starts talking negatively, find a way to turn a positive light on what they're saying. Agree that you understand where they're coming from, then offer a positive twist. It's a cliche, but using "I" statements keeps you from sounding like you're laying all blame on your partner. "I feel as though we're on different pages, and I hope we can find a way to work through things and find common ground again." In this statement, you show that this is how you feel, rather than stating it as though this is just how it is, and you also point out that things weren't always like this, so there is a possible positive outcome.


Don't forget to listen

While you may be the one with the issue you need to get off your chest, your partner has a voice too, and it's only fair they get a chance to say what they need to say. You can start the conversation and share what it is you want to talk about, but when you get to a point where your partner's input or opinion will help move the conversation toward a solution, it's time to let them talk. Of course, part of the parameters you set in place early on should be that you aren't interrupted until you're done saying what you need to say.


Be sure to actively listen when your partner is speaking, as they were hopefully doing for you. If either of you is spending time trying to think of what you're going to say next, then you're not hearing everything the other person has to say. Active listening requires your full attention to the speaker, shoving down any urge to interrupt or come up with the best comeback. If you focus on paying attention to each other's body language and keep eye contact during the conversation, it makes it easier to be present for what they're saying to you.

Don't let stress get in the way

If you're already stressed going into the conversation, it can push you to say the wrong things or make it difficult to be direct. You may find yourself clamming up, yelling, or your anxiety could take over and make you seem even more agitated. Being aware of stress, both yours and your partner's, can help. If you notice your partner getting tense during the conversation, take a moment to acknowledge this and hold off more conversation to give them a few minutes to calm down or speak about what is stressing them out about what you just said. 


It's also important to touch base on stress factors before you even start your conversation. Being able to pause for some calm time is a great way to build your communication skills, and being able to talk about the stress you're feeling going into the conversation can help lessen it. You're in this together, even if you're not on the same page right now, so it's important to think of how your partner is affected by your disagreement.

Keep the conversation on track

People often come into conversations knowing what they need to say, and it's important to stay focused on the topic at hand. When you get off topic, it can lead to confusion, making it harder to solve whatever is going on between the two of you. If you feel your partner has done something wrong, it's easy to add in other seeming mistakes they've made to try to get your point across, but you don't want to get into passive/aggressive behavior. Save that stuff for another conversation. 


When it comes to deep conversations with a romantic partner, trauma triggers can also pop out of nowhere, and those triggers often make us change the subject. Learn to recognize the things that trigger both of you. It's okay to take a break in the conversation, as long as you keep it minimal and move back to the matter at hand without staying off-topic for too long. There's also a chance that one conversation can bring up something else that you may want to deal with. You and your partner can choose to agree to stay on the original topic, or postpone that to discuss this new thing that's come up — it's all about working together.

Look for common ground

In order to work things out, you need to reach a point where you can both agree — or at least agree to disagree. To get to that point, it helps to find some common ground. The hope is that your conversation will lead you to that common ground and some understanding of where each of you is coming from. Common ground comes with having stories that are relatable in some way. If you're disagreeing on how to do something, finding a way to meet in the middle can be a form of finding common ground. 


If you can't be on the same page, there's a chance you can at least find some similarities in what you're working through. Common ground can also come from looking outside ourselves for understanding, such as looking at how someone else did something and integrating it into the conversation. For example, if you knew someone who did what your partner wants to do, and you know it worked out well, you might be able to see why they want to lean into their idea as opposed to what you want. You can even put your imagination to work and visualize what your partner is trying to show you.

Cool down tempers when they arise

You can go into a conversation with your partner as cool as a cucumber, but tempers can still begin to flare out of control if you don't find common ground or a solution in a timely manner. If you feel that anger kicking in, or you notice your significant other getting upset, take things down a notch by saying something soothing, directing things to a more positive tone, or even suggesting a break to rethink things and come back with a calmer mind. The idea here is that you don't want your conversation to turn into a full-blown argument — and you definitely don't want to start fighting when that won't help solve anything and will likely add more issues to your already stressed relationship,


Even before any yelling begins, you can sense the tension in your partner through something like a clenched jaw or fist. The conversation may switch to blaming and it could be more difficult to control your language. When this happens, step back, but don't walk away. Dr. Adeola Adelayo, a practicing psychiatrist, tells Banner Health, "Sometimes walking away can make someone angrier," Dr. Adelayo said. "Only walk away if you're in physical danger.". Don't deny the angry feelings, but don't let them be in control of you. Dr. Adelayo added, "When you remain tempered and calm, this helps set the tone and boundaries for the rest of the conversation."

Don't forget to find a solution

To be sure that you and your partner work things out, you don't want to end the conversation until you've found a solution to the problem –- even if that solution is that you agree to disagree and move on. In the grand scheme of things, not all of your issues will come out with you on top and getting the changes that you seek. Depending on what you're working out with your partner, the solution could be time apart or even a breakup, but that's why it is important that you both get to say your peace and be heard.


If you can't come to a solution, schedule another time to revisit the conversation. Sometimes it takes more than one discussion to figure out what the best answer is for you, your partner, and anyone else who may be involved (like your children). A reschedule doesn't mean that the conversation is over, it simply means that you both have more time to figure out the best solution, if this is an argument worth continuing, or if there's more to what's going on that you need to dive deeper into — in which case, having a mediator, like a therapist, come into the conversation could be a blessing for both of you.