There’s something you need to get off your chest.

You wanted to say something to her last night, but just couldn’t for some reason.

There will come a day in your relationship when it’s time to have a difficult conversation.

Finances, health, sex, the in-laws…

How effective will you be?

Will it blow up into an argument, compounding the difficulties you’re already facing?

A Chinese proverb reminds us that we should dig a well before we are thirsty.

It’s best to start practicing talking about the hard topics before the added pressures of life make it harder.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Set a precedent

Create a culture of open, honest conversation right from the beginning. Have an “open communication policy.”

Nothing is off limits.

Sex, finances, health, death, career—get in the practice of speaking openly about these things. If you don’t, shame and resentment can build and fester, only making it harder and harder to broach these subjects.

  • Be clear going in

Make sure you know what you’re feeling and what you want to say going in.

It can help to go for a walk and write things down in a notebook. This will help you sort out your thoughts and feelings and identify any distinctions or nuances that need to be made.

You can even make a short list or notes to bring with you to refer to if you get stuck or forget.

This will help you keep from stumbling or from things coming out all wrong because you’re flustered or if the conversation happens to take a turn in a direction you hadn’t anticipated.

  • Timing is important

Even though everything is “on the table” for discussion, you still need to choose your moment.

Have tact, sensitivity, and consideration for your partner.

If she didn’t sleep well last night, then it’s probably best not to discuss your issues with her mother over breakfast.

  • Be patient

Sometimes, you won’t be able to discuss the whole issue in one conversation. There may be a part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the conversation.

If it’s a heavy topic, don’t be attached to getting resolution in one conversation. People get fatigued and overwhelmed. This makes it hard to stay calm and speak clearly.

  • Prepare for the worst

Don’t go in expecting the worst, just be ready if things don’t go the way you’d like.

If she has a tone or gets defensive, know that you’ve probably hit on something sensitive.

She could just be having a hard day. Don’t take it personally, just breathe and stay calm. You may need to just acknowledge her feelings and pick it up another time. Or, just be okay with her going through her emotional process.

If you find yourself beginning to heat up, try to breathe and relax. If that doesn’t work, close out the conversation amicably and try again another time. You don’t want to say something you regret later.

  • Watch your tone and style 

Don’t blame or accuse. This will just put her on the defensive and throw up barriers to having a constructive conversation.

Be mindful of how you frame the conversation. Don’t set up what you’re about to say by listing-off all the things she’s did to create the problem.

Take responsibility for your own feelings, words, and actions.

Ask questions, acknowledge, and speak in a calm tone (to the best of your ability).

  • Be strong

Let’s say you’ve done everything above to the best of your ability, you’re feeling calm and centered, and you’re acting kindly.

You’ve presented your desires or concerns to her her, and she’s throwing a fit. Maybe she’s throwing it back in your face or trying to deflect or manipulate.

You’ve tried to talk about this before, and she’s used the same behaviors to shut things down over and over again.

Sometimes you just have to whether the storm.

Hold your ground.

Being a good partner requires, at times, holding her to a higher standard.

As men, we can leave important things unsaid in our relationships.

This can lead to all kinds of problems and even sow the seeds of destruction for your union.

If you can implement and integrate these communication methods into your relationship, you’ll have a better chance at success.