How To Have The Courageous Conversation Your Marriage Needs (part 3)

What is a Courageous Conversation?

A courageous conversation is a conversation that has a high degree of probability that it will involve high emotions. Some conversations do not involve emotions and are not emotional. However, when you think you might be triggered emotionally when talking about the conversation, or when you think your spouse might be triggered when having the conversation, the conversation is a crucial conversation.

(This is part 3 in a 4 part series on Courageous Conversations).

It is called courageous because if you have the conversation, it might lead to high emotions which may result in damage to the relationship. It is also courageous because if there is no conversation, not resolving the issue will lead to further disengagement. This will lead to damage in the relationship.

‘“Be strong and courageous…” Deuteronomy 31:7b

Courageous conversations happen when spouses care enough to say what they are afraid to say. When they work through fear and run toward- not away from the problem they need to discuss. They are then ready to have a courageous conversation that will likely strengthen the relationship and help each other move forward in a positive way.

Courageous Conversation Rules (Continued)

Schedule It

We are proponents of scheduling all courageous conversations. Think about how important this is. When you need to visit with a doctor, a lawyer, or even a plumber, you have to schedule it. How much more important is it for you to put this very important event in the life of your relationship into your schedule.

When you schedule it, it will give your spouse ample opportunity to know that the two of you are going to be earnestly talking about something important. That is important so that they are not “blindsided” by the issue and it should keep from having the initial moments of the conversation interrupted by a Time Out or blow up.

Scheduling it also helps you work it around other important things going on in your life. It is hard to think about the relationship issue when your company’s downsizing meeting is in an hour. We are also so much brighter when we are operating with adequate nutrition and sleep. Scheduling allows us to not accidently attempt such an important conversation when we are very tired or hungry.

Safe Space With No Distractions

It is important that the two of you have your conversation in a space that feels comfortable for each of you. If you are in a room of the house where there is a long history of conflict and negativity, it would lend itself toward the courageous conversation having trouble succeeding.

It is equally important that the courageous conversation happens where you will not be easily distracted or have a lot of interruptions. Courageous conversations are better had when the children are out of site and possibly out of the house with a baby sitter or at school. It is important for phones and electronic devices are turned off so that both of you can focus on the matter at hand.

If you are meeting in a restaurant, it is better for the highly distracted person to not be sitting where they have view of the entire restaurant. For instance, Roy is more easily distracted than Devra. When they go out on a date, Roy always asks to sit near the wall and in the chair facing the wall so that the only thing in front of him is his wife and his food.

Use Your Speaking and Hearing Truth skills (in prior blog posts)

It is important for the person requesting courageous conversation to be the speaker first. They are the one with the matter they want to bring up so they should be the first speaker. We encourage couples to print and bring with them the Speaking and Hearing Truth Rules with them.

Be a Thermostat Not a Thermometer

The reason you are having a courageous conversation is because there is a high probability of the conversation having emotional triggers. Remember, we cannot control what triggers our spouse. In fact, we usually do not know we are doing something that will trigger them unless they tell us what it was that we did. We can control the triggers we know about.

And we can control what we do with our emotions. We cannot always control what triggers us, but we can control what we do with the anger, sadness, fear or negative emotion we have when we are triggered.

We have found that the analogy of the thermostat and thermometer is a helpful illustration of what we can choose to do with our emotions.   Sometimes we act like a thermometer. A thermometer always matches the temperature of the room. For instance, when the room is sixty degrees, the thermometer will set itself on sixty degrees. If a fire breaks out in the room and the room temperature goes up to two hundred degrees, the thermometer will also report two hundred degrees.

When we are faced with a spouse who’s emotions move from sixty to two hundred in just a minute or two, one of our options is to match them. As they become triggered and the energy builds into a higher volume of voice and more animated physical movements, we can choose to be like a thermometer and match their energy and do the same thing.

A thermostat, on the other hand, does not match the temperature of the room. If the thermostat is placed on seventy-two degrees and the room is at sixty degrees, it will work to move the temperature of the room to seventy-two degrees. If the thermostat is placed on seventy-two degrees and the room is at two hundred degrees, it will work to move the temperature of the room to seventy-two degrees.

When we are faced with a spouse who’s emotions move from sixty to two hundred in just a minute or two, one of our options is to remain calm and help soothe them.  We can choose instead of matching their energy to be in charge of our own emotions and remain calm.  Our goal should be to help them take a break and regain control of their emotions.  Sometimes that will include a Time Out.

Check out next week’s blog for part 4 of this 4 part series on how to have the marriage saving courageous conversation you are afraid to have.

What do you have to say?

We love to hear from readers.  What do you think about the four rules in this article?  Have you ever tried any of them before?  Is there a space where you and your spouse could go to have a courageous conversation?  Are you more likely to be like a thermostat or a thermometer if you try to have a courageous conversation with your spouse?

This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at