How to Talk to Him and Get the Answers You Need

You need to know how to argue, disagree, and work through your problems. You need to know how to talk to him and actually get the answers you need.

Sometimes you can do it in one conversation, sometimes it takes several. Some issues will come up over and over again during the years of your relationship.

The following 9 steps will show you how to talk to him about ANY difficult issue… 

1. Choose the right time

This step could save your relationship. Why?

Because a man named John Gottman has figured out how to accurately predict, with 91% accuracy, whether a couple will divorce… After listening to them for just 5 minutes.

Gottman’s ability to accurately figure out who will stick together and who won’t is based on how harsh the beginning of their tough conversations are.

And since the harshest conversations are usually the ones you have without planning, the trick is to actively CHOOSE a time to bring up difficult issues, a time that’s convenient or workable for BOTH of you.

Here are some basics:

  • offer your guy more than one possible time
  • let him know (in a non-inflammatory way) what issue you want to address
  • offer times when there will be the fewest interruptions
  • try to pick neutral ground when possible

Choosing a good time for your conversation often eliminates your anger-of-the-moment, but don’t be fooled. Make sure you BEGIN the conversation well, too. 

2. Have a specific goal

talk to himNow that you have a time set up to talk to him, you need to figure out what, exactly, you want to get out of the conversation. Usually you want to:

  • solve a problem
  • share how you feel about something

Figure out exactly what OUTCOME would be ideal for you, and SHARE that with your partner.

Now he knows whether all you need from him is to listen, or whether you also want him to help you solve a tricky issue. AND he knows what specific “fix” you’re hoping for. What a difference this one tiny thing can make.

3. Whittle it down

Don’t overload your partner by dumping a giant pile of emotional laundry on them. Yes, you may have lots of stuff that needs to be dealt with, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. However, it WAS destroyed in one.

You’re working on learning how to talk to him, so take it one need at a time.

Try these tactics to get your topic down to size:

  • Pour it out: Create a master list of all your thoughts or issues that you want to talk to him about. Dump it all out. Let it be messy if it’s messy.
  • Group it up: Are some of the items you wrote down similar? Group by similarity.
  • Separate feelings from fixes: Separate your list into feelings and specific puzzles or problems you want to solve.
  • Consider results: If you can’t figure out what behavior or other specific thing needs to be addressed, ask what new results you’d like.
  • Prioritize: Put them in order of importance. What’s at the very top of the list?
  • Pick one: If it’s still important, you can always go back and pick another one later.

MORE: 3 Secrets to Lasting Love

4. NEVER say “always” and “never” 🙂

When you use these words in the middle of a conflict, you magically eliminate all the good things your partner has done, and all the positive experiences you have had.

Why do we use them? They seem pretty powerful, after all.

We use them because we’ve tried to communicate about a particular issue before, and have not felt really heard. So we try to ramp up the power with any tool we have.

Always and never – and their cousin, “every” (as in, “You do this EVERY single time!”) – are blunt instruments that might make you feel better for a moment, but rarely accomplish any constructive goals.

If you are expecting your conversation to be really complicated and difficult, script it out in advance and try to keep it as clean of these damaging little sledgehammers as possible.

5. Go hard on the issue, easy on the person

If you’ve successfully nailed numbers 1-4 above, you should be doing really well at learning how to talk to him. You are ready to focus on one issue, whether it’s a problem that needs to be fixed or a feeling that needs to be shared.

Rather than thinking “I want Ben to stop being late for everything,” (which uses “everything,” see number 4 above), try thinking “I love Ben, but I feel incredible anxiety around trying to get somewhere on time.”

MORE: 3 Things Your Man Desperately Needs from You

6. If you name a problem, offer a possible solution

working it out togetherSometimes our arguments crumble into a long list of complaints about how “you aren’t doing/being _________.” Instead, use “I” language to show how you feel, and ask for what you need or would like to see happen.

Less of this: “Once again, you didn’t get home in time for us to be at the play when it started. Do you not even care that we missed the first 20 minutes of the show? And we even paid for season tickets!”
More of this: “I really feel frustrated when I miss the first part of the plays we have tickets for; what do you think about me going on ahead and meeting you there?”

MORE: 7 Terrible Reasons to End Your Relationship

7. Let go of your “shoulds”

Everyone has a list of “rules” in their mind about how we “should” behave, think, live, etc. Those “shoulds” are not always helpful to us, either, ESPECIALLY when you’re new at figuring out how to talk to him in a way he can best hear.

Here are a few of the regular villains in the “shoulds” list:

  • He SHOULD know what I want, without me having to tell him.
  • This is his fault to start with; why SHOULD I be the one to deal with the fallout?
  • Sex SHOULD be awesome, all the time.
  • If I’m attracted to another person, it means I SHOULDN’T stay in this relationship.
  • This SHOULDN’T be so difficult.
  • He SHOULD accept me the way I am.
  • I SHOULDN’T be angry about this.
  • Relationships SHOULD be easier.

Ask yourself the following questions about your “shoulds”:

1. Is this way of thinking helping you and/or your relationship, or hurting it?
2. How hard would it really be to stop thinking this way? What exactly would it take?
3. What could you do to help shift this dynamic?

MORE: The Crazy-Happy Healing Power of the 30 Second Hug

8. Invite feedback (and listen fully to it)

Whoops, did you forget this part? It’s obvious, once you think of it. You’re figuring out how to talk to him, but you also need to be sure to ask your husband or boyfriend to tell you what HE thinks, how he feels about what you’ve said.

And of course, you should listen to what he has to tell you. Don’t interrupt to clarify or defend; let them get a chance at the conversational floor before you take another turn.

MORE: Are You A Needy Girlfriend?

9. Remember that listening is not the same as agreeing

How many times have you said, “You’re not listening to me,” when what you really meant was “You’re not agreeing with me”?

It costs so little to listen fully to what your partner is saying, to validate their feelings (which can’t be switched on or off like a light switch), and to show respect for what they’ve shared. It doesn’t mean you agree, but it does communicate your love for them when you listen with an open heart and mind.

xoxo Claire

8 comments on “How to Talk to Him and Get the Answers You Need

  1. The last time I wrote her a letter of forgiveness and seeing her free she put a restraining order on me. She refuses to talk. The one time we did agree to talk, I did exactly what you said. I listened to all of her ranting and concerns. When it was my turn, as soon as I brought out the list, she responded “I don’t want to hear anything you have to say, and really don’t care”. Then she got up and left. As it turns out, I caught her with the man that she said was just a friend walking hand in hand. I’m convinced she will never apologize and we haven’t spoken in over6 months. But yet she continues to make it appear as if I was the one cheating.

    Please help, I’m desperate.

    • Claire Casey

      Hi, Steven. I hear your frustration. But truthfully, great communication isn’t about listening to someone rant. It’s also not about presenting a list of problems or complaints to someone.

      But I don’t think your situation has much to do with building communication skills at this point; if there are restraining orders and accusations of cheating being flung around, things have gone pretty far out to sea.

      There isn’t a fast, simple solution for relationship happiness here. The painful truth is that this doesn’t sound like a woman who wants to be with you.

      If it’s critical to maintain a relationship (for example, if you have children together), you might consider two things:

      1. A “cooling off” period where you don’t contact her directly unless necessary, or she contacts you first. Be polite and kind, but not emotional.

      2. Re-investing in your own life dreams and goals. Get your focus off of her.

      And I hope you’ll consider dating other people; that will help as well…

      Sending hugs your way; sounds like you could use them. I hope you have a network of friends and loved ones who can support you as you make your way through this…

  2. I have a partner that he is too busy at work for me and doesn’t make time for me. We are involved for the past 6 months. On the weekends he is always cleaning his house and sleeping all day on Saturdays and Sundays he is going to church and sleeping all day afterwards. He is mostly ignoring me. We don’t live together. He is always talking sweet to me. I don’t know if he is doing anything else but what he says he’s doing. He is always texting and emailing me and never calling me on the phone. So what should I do? Please help!

  3. Claire Casey

    Hi, Robin.

    It sounds like the main thing here is that you would like to spend more time with your man. So what you need to do is talk to him about that exact issue. Figure out specifically how much time you’d like to spend with him, and what kinds of things you want to do together, then communicate that with him when the two of you sit down to talk.

    Once YOU are clear about your needs, you can talk to him more easily about it. He may not even know that you need more quality time with him. He may be thinking that everything is fine.

    Good luck, girlfriend! I know you’ll do well. 🙂

  4. Please send me a direct email to where I can ask advice e on a situation without it being published n u can respond dire try back thru my email Thanks

    • Claire Casey

      Hi, Sue. I’m not currently doing one-on-one coaching like that, but soon I plan to launch a private membership site where women can have a bit more privacy to chat, get advice, and share experience with one another. I’ll be sharing more about that soon! xoxo Claire

  5. I have been dating this man for a month and a half now and at the beginning, our conversations had a flow, I enjoyed spending time with him and we could be honest with each other. However, in the past couple of weeks our conversations have become very dull. He either talks for a really long time about himself, but when I comment on it or offer another conversation topic, he interrupts me consistently or dismisses it with short one-word answers or he doesn’t say anything at all. I don’t care about having silences or pauses with him, but I am at a point where I feel like I can’t really talk to him about anything because no matter what I say, it doesn’t seem interest to him unless it is about himself or his own interests/hobbies and so I remain quiet or get immediately annoyed and frustrated.

    I don’t know how to approach him about this, because I don’t want to suggest he is boring or egocentric and he said in the past that he didn’t feel the need to talk to me all the time and that even if it didn’t seem like it, when he was with me he was always listening and always present. However, I find it hard to believe when I don’t feel like we can communicate as easily…

    What should I do?

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