How To Have The Courageous Conversation You Marriage Needs (part 4)

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 4 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…” I Chronicles 21:13

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)

Take a Time Out If Needed 

If it is obvious that either you or your spouse is triggered and that you do not perceive the conversation is going well, call a Time Out. Follow the Time Out rules and set up another time to complete the conversation.  Consider having some support there for you during your next attempt.

Request What You Want

You have placed a great amount of time and energy into having this very important conversation. You know what you want, and have practiced having the conversation on paper as well as scheduling a time. You have even made arrangements for having your spouse’s full attention and managed to avoid emotional triggers. Your Speaking Truth skills have stated clearly what the problem is. Do not leave the conversation without asking for what you want.

We have seen too many couples blow their courageous conversation but not taking the step that clearly asks your spouse for what it is that you want.  We think the reason is because they either think their spouse is going to understand what to do just because they understand what the problem is or that they think “anyone with common sense” would know what they need or want.

The heartbreak of going through all of that set up and then not getting resolution has to be as bad as or worse than never having the conversation to begin with. It is so important to specifically ask for what you want.   Chances are pretty good that if your spouse knew what you wanted they would already be doing it.

While working with marriages on the brink in Marriage Intensives, we have heard as we come to the end of the day a request by too many spouses for things like, “love me better”, “be kinder to me”, “woo me”, or “act like you like me.” These are all great things to ask for and I believe the need is high for such a request to be made. But what does it mean?

If we asked a hundred people to define what it means to “love me better”, we would get one hundred different answers. By asking your spouse to “love me better” you know exactly what that means, but your spouse will be clueless. They may buy you more flowers, try to have sex more frequently, or spend more money on more vacations… all of which may not be loving you better, but perhaps adding to your list of emotional triggers.

We encourage you to be very specific in listing what you want. If you were directing a play where you were instructing your spouse to “love you better” what would you tell him/her to do?  How frequently? In what way?  Be specific. Ask for what you want.

Be Open To “Yes”, “No” or Counter Request

When putting your request together, be ready to accept “yes” or “no”.  There may be something about your request that they are able to agree to and another part of the request to which you are not going to receive with agreement. Be willing to have your spouse request clarification about what you are asking of them.

Frequently, the request is met affirmatively, but sometimes it is met with, “yes, but…” which comes with a counter request. For instance, one spouse might ask, “Will you be responsible for getting the kids up and fed before school?” and the other spouse might say, “Yes, but can we move to heat up only microwave breakfasts for us on weekdays?”

We hope that you will be able to use the Courageous Conversation Rules effectively to help you move through fear and have the marriage saving conversations your marriage deserves.  Like the other skills in this book, you will find the skill of Courageous Conversations difficult the first two or three time you use them.  The more you use them, the more familiar they will be come.  The more Courageous Conversations you have, the less fear will stand in your way.  By practicing these skills you will deepen your connectedness to each other and strengthen your commitment to your relationship.

There are all of the Courageous Conversation Rules for you to print and keep close to remind you of the principles of this article series.  May your marriage and relationship always be worth the hard conversations that will move you closer toward each other

 Crucial Conversations Rules:


 Know What You Want

 Practice on Paper First

 Consider Any Need for Support

 Schedule It

 Safe Space with No Distractions

 Use Your Speaking and Hearing Truth Skills

 Be a Thermostat Not a Thermometer

 Take a Time Out if Needed

(Use Time Out Rules)

 Request What You Want

(Specific, Measurable)

Be Open to “Yes”, “No”, or Counter Request

If you missed it, here is part 1 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 three rules in this article?  Have you ever tried any of them before?  If you tried to have a courageous conversation with your spouse using these rules, how did it go?

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