Family therapist Joe Rich shares tips on how to confront a loved one.
1. Set the Scene
Timing can be crucial. Be selective about a time that respects their schedule (i.e. time of day) and your schedule (e.g., the kids are out). Establish with your partner that you want to put some time aside to talk and if they press hard, give them the conversation agenda or topic that you want to talk about.
2. Be the Listener
Identify yourself as the "listener." Don't waste time asking them to open up so that you can be mad, give a lecture, etc. Listen is also an anagram for silent for a reason. Try to listen for feelings (generally harder to find), in addition to thoughts and behaviours.
3. Prepare for Pitfalls
Think about not taking things personally as a way of avoiding pitfalls that shut you down and therefore the conversation. Realize that this may be a confrontation that the two of you have been avoiding over time (an elephant in the room), so this may be intimidating and may cause your partner to go directly to denial as an old pattern or out of fear.
Be careful what you wish for: you may open a Pandora's box or discover things that you didn't expect. Have a plan for how you are going to deal with things (friend, therapist, notes, etc.).
4. Plan a Follow-Up
Plan a follow-up to the opening conversation; call it a closing up conversation. This allows things to feel like a process and manageable for them and for you.