5 Therapist Tips For Approaching Your Partner About A Lingering Issue

That no relationship is perfect may go without saying, but we do need to talk about how to address issues that arise between partners. After all, partners are individuals with unique perspectives, so differences are bound to surface — and a successful relationship relies on gracefully maneuvering them. A respectful conversation will go a lot further toward resolving a problem than angry shouting, for example. But what happens when you've tried to work through an issue with your partner multiple times to no avail?


To get closer to the truth, Glam spoke to licensed marriage and family therapist Caroline Madden, Ph.D., for her exclusive take on the healthiest way to approach lingering relationship issues. Struggling to see eye to eye with your partner on the same issue for an extended period doesn't necessarily mean that it's time to throw in the towel. If you feel like you're getting nowhere on a particular problem within your relationship, this expert advice is for you. 

Be a team player

Partners in a relationship are like members of a team. You should both have the same goal in common: a happy, healthy relationship. When an issue turns into a heated discussion or argument, it's essential to remember that you're on the same team. The only way either one of you wins is to resolve the issue. Aiming to "win" an argument rather than to resolve the issue only results in viewing your partner as the enemy and damaging your relationship — sometimes beyond repair.


"It's simple," Caroline Madden exclusively tells Glam. "Either you both win or you both lose. Winning implies that your partner has lost and may feel like a loser, leading to hurt feelings and a sense of being unlovable. This doesn't foster trust and intimacy," she continues. "Instead, it turns into a game of finding fault with each other." Allowing that game to become the default when an issue arises is playing with fire; instead, commit to compromised so that the team can move forward in the championship (or any other proverbial setting).

Consider your timing

When the same issue seems to rear its head over and over again, it can become difficult to contain your frustration. At the first sign of the problem appearing again, you might be tempted to throw up your hands and slip into confrontational mode. However, this is almost always a mistake. Bringing up a difficult issue at the wrong time nearly guarantees that the conversation won't be productive.


"Timing is crucial," Caroline Madden points out. Her exclusive advice? "Avoid bringing up issues at inappropriate moments, such as when your partner is running late for work, right before bedtime, or during their favorite TV show. By choosing a bad time, you eliminate any chance of having a thoughtful discussion." She adds that if you have a habit of bringing up difficult topics at inopportune times, it may be time to ask yourself if you're falling victim to self-sabotage

Carefully select your language

It's often not what is said that leads to a defensive response from your partner; it's how a statement is presented. "Adopt a gentle approach," Caroline Madden exclusively instructs us. "How you communicate can be just as important as what you say," she continues. "Starting off with harsh and accusatory language is likely to maintain a negative and harsh tone throughout the conversation."


Instead, Madden recommends utilizing "I" statements — a cornerstone of assertive and respectful communication. Rather than approaching your partner with an accusatory statement, such as "You never spend time with me," try the more assertive approach of leading with your own feelings. Rephrasing your concern as "I feel lonely when you aren't here" takes responsibility for your own feelings and presents the issue in a way that allows your partner to empathize rather than defending themselves against an accusation that may include a presumption of their intent, feelings, or character. 

Don't resort to threats or insults

It's not uncommon for partners to threaten to file for divorce or end their relationship in the middle of an argument. While this tactic might be effective when it comes to expressing how angry you are and getting your partner to comply out of fear, it's seriously damaging to your partner and your relationship in the long run. "During a heated argument, threatening to end the relationship is manipulative and hurtful," Caroline Madden exclusively explains to Glam.


"This toxic behavior damages the relationship because your partner starts investing less, caring less, and emotionally detaching," she explains. The same can be said about resorting to name-calling or insults during an argument. Being hurt repeatedly by the person who is supposed to love you can result in shutting down emotionally and becoming less receptive in order to protect yourself. "It's not that they don't love you," Madden adds. "It's simply self-preservation." 

Assume the best

If you've decided to be in a relationship with someone, it's safe to assume that they're a person you consider to be decent, caring, and competent — or whatever positive adjectives you most look for in partners. Try to remember these traits that drew you to your partner, even in moments of conflict. "Give your partner the benefit of the doubt," Caroline Madden exclusively advises us. "Assume that your partner isn't intentionally trying to frustrate, undermine, or control you."


"Remind yourself that your partner loves you and that they have a different perspective than you do," she encourages. "Instead of jumping to conclusions, try asking them how they perceived the situation." Assuring your partner that you care about their point of view and want to come to a resolution that works for both of you is a far more productive approach than assuming that they're out to get you. Trust that you wouldn't have chosen this person if they weren't kind and trustworthy.