In a perfect world, arguments with your man would involve him saying things like, “You’re right – I’ve never thought of it like that,” and end with some fabulous make-up sex. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where tricky conversations are more likely to involve a bottle of wine, a pyramid of soggy tissues, and end in a shouting match to make the neighbours run for the hills. Here are some hints to help you through those toe curling tête-à-têtes – without the hole in the wall.
Before you start…
“Firstly, make sure you’re armed with a plan,” says relationship expert Jenni Trent Hughes. “Think through what he might say and decide how you’d respond. Secondly, make sure you listen, and give him time to digest what you’ve said. Finally, remember that some important conversations happen gradually – it could take a month of talking to get through everything you need to discuss."
The Dilemma: "I wish our sex life was more adventurous"
This is the one topic where a glass of wine might be helpful to get you relaxed. “Switch off your TV and mobile phones, and stay away from the bedroom, which is where you’re most intimate,” says Relate’s Denise Knowles. “Begin by asking how he feels your sex life is going, and if he’s happy – without pointing the finger of blame. Then say something like, ‘I thought we could try some new things together – what do you think?’ Make some simple suggestions, like having a shower together, then ask if he has any ideas of his own, so he doesn’t think this is about being bad in bed.” If he still does take it to heart, ripping off his trousers is a quick way of telling him you still think he’s sexy…
The Dilemma: "We’ve been a couple for years – will you ever propose?"
“You might feel like giving him an ultimatum, but don’t," Jenni warns. “If getting married is important to you, tell him so – but never guilt-trip him into a proposal. Marriages that start with tears usually end in them too.” The key is to make him think seriously about the relationship without being pushy. “Start with positives: tell him what you love about him, then ask where he sees the relationship going,” advises Jennie. “If he doesn’t see marriage, say something like, 'I’ll have to think about this – I see it differently.’ That way, you’re giving him space – and you’ll have time to decide what to do if he doesn’t change his mind.”
The Dilemma: "Are we ever going to agree on having children?"
“It always amazes me how many couples don’t have this conversation," says Denise. “It’s a crucial question, but a difficult one – you can’t just have a baby and decide you like it. The way to approach this subject is to ask what thoughts your partner has being on a parent – what he’d worry about or look forward to.” Once you know how he feels, you have to accept that when it comes to children, there’s very little room for compromise. “If you disagree, arrange to discuss it again later,” Denise says. “But never belittle his feelings – saying he’s being silly or stubborn isn’t helpful. If his answer is the same, you’ll have to decide if having a baby – or not – is more important than your relationship."
The Dilemma: "I want to call time on our relationship"
“The best way to tackle this is to make it seem like the decision is mutual,” Jenni explains. “Saying, 'it’s not you, it’s me,' is a cliché that won’t wash. You need to be honest, but not too blunt." A good way to start is to massage his ego. “Focus on his good qualities, then break it to him gently.” Jenni says. “You could say, the relationship’s gone as far as it can”. After you’ve broken the news, it’s best to leave him alone to lick his wounds. “But make sure the break-up happens face-to-face,” warns Jenni. “The only time it’s acceptable to split up over the phone is with a long distance relationship."