As a nationally certified and licensed professional counselor, Janis helps her clients resolve relationship conflicts and trust issues.
Communicating Concerns Are Keys to Happiness
Why We Avoid Asking Our Partners the Hard Questions
There are issues in every relationship that never seem to get addressed. These issues linger in the form of questions that play in our heads. We want to know the answers, we need answers, and we feel that we are entitled to answers. But we dare not ask the questions.
Is it that we are afraid of the truth? Are we afraid of the argument that will ensue? Or maybe we are just not up for the conflict. Or worse, we just don't know how to communicate effectively.
These "unasked" questions lead to unresolved issues in a relationship or marriage. The reason the issues recur is that the couple avoids confronting what's really going on. Avoidance prevents them from doing the difficult work that needs to be done in order to heal and move forward.
Unresolved Themes in Your Relationship
Top 10 Questions and Issues Couples Avoid
The following are ten questions with corresponding themes that one or the other partner avoids asking out of fear of what will happen if they do. The themes encompass some of the most common issues couples grapple with at some point during the course of the relationship: finances, sex, trust, and infidelity.
These issues frequently cycle into recurring conflicts that remain unresolved and may require intervention in the form of couples counseling. In the meantime, suggestions are given on how best to approach your partner or spouse by the re-wording of your question.
1. "Are you having an affair?"
Unresolved Theme: Broken Trust/ Betrayal/ Infidelity
Best Approach: Instead of going on attack mode, express your fears based on the observations you've made about changes in your partner's behavior that make you suspicious:
"I've noticed you coming home later in the evening and it makes me have thoughts of losing you. What's been keeping you out lately?"
2. "Have you been tested for . . .?"
Unresolved Theme: Trust/ Fidelity/ Fear of Disease
Best Approach: In a new relationship that has moved to the next level, share your medical history and sexual behavior first to level and ease the playing field. Speak in general terms of the importance of good health and safe sexual behavior in all encounters to take the labeling or on-the-spot feeling out of the equation:
"Hey, I want you to know that I've been tested for [HIV] because I think it's important for me to be safe and for whomever I'm with to feel safe, too. How about you?"
3. "When are we having sex again?"
Unresolved Theme: Sexual Intimacy/Impotence/Libido Issues
Best Approach: Sexual intimacy is a huge topic about which partners fall out of sync. A regular sexual connection literally holds couples together in the midst of all other conflicts. When it's not happening, for whatever reason, the relationship is at risk:
"I miss being with you and I'm afraid that our sex life may not return to the way it used to be. Do you remember how it was when things were good?"
4. "Who were you just talking to?"
Unresolved Theme: Fear of Rejection/Insecurities
Best Approach: First of all, check your need to know and why you're asking in the first place. Has there been a history of cheating between the both of you or from previous relationships? Are you being possessive of your partner's time with others? Be aware of your motives as you respect your partner's privacy:
"That conversation seemed lengthier than usual. I don't mean to pry. I just feel a little left out. Anyone I know?"
5. "How much did you spend on that?"
Unresolved Theme: Financial Conflict/Poor Money Management
Best Approach: Provided that a household budget exists, state your concerns based on the facts regarding the current state of the finances:
"I understand that you deserve to enjoy your hard earned wages. Did you check our account before you made that purchase? I'm just concerned that we won't be able to meet our financial obligations."
6. "Have you paid that bill yet?"
Unresolved theme: Recurring Debt/Financial Instability
Best Approach: Living with debt in a relationship can wreak havoc on a couple's ability to maintain a household, especially when one is not living up to the promised responsibilities:
"I would love to start rewarding your progress with a special dinner if we can plan ahead. Are we in a better position this month than last month?"
7. "Are you gaining weight?"
Unresolved Theme: Fear of Losing Attraction to Mate
Best Approach: Be sure to check if you may be influenced by societal expectations about beauty, size, and weight. Talk to your partner about overall self-care regimens that include all aspects of health, nutrition,and appearance. Make it a new priority for both of you as a team. Add any health concerns you have about the risks of overweight:
"Would you like to join me in addressing how we can form a partnership to take better care of ourselves to improve our overall health? I think it would be fun."
8. "Are you drinking again?"
Unresolved Theme: Living with Addiction and Recovery/Fear of Relapse
Best Approach: Recognizing that recovery is a life-long process that involves both partners is critical to the couple's success. Be aware of your own tendencies to ignore the signs of relapse before it spirals out of control:
"I've seen some things that look like you might be relapsing but I didn't say anything until now. What has changed with your recovery program that I might help with to keep you sober?"
9. "Are you feeling depressed?"
Unresolved Theme: Long-standing Mood or Mental Disorder
Best Approach: No one wants to be labeled with any type of mental illness so it's difficult to bring up the subject even when the signs and symptoms are evident. Stating what is seen instead of using a diagnosis term is easier to accept:
"Have you been feeling ill or more tired than usual? I noticed that you're sleeping in more over the last several weeks and I'm concerned."
10. "When are you going to throw away some of that junk?"
Unresolved Theme: Disorganization/Procrastination/Hoarding Behavior
Best Approach: Living with that one cluttered room, basement, garage, or attic is a major irritation that many have learned to tolerate. But at some point, you just want to have some order in your home that could benefit both of you:
"How could you better utilize the space in that area where both of us might better maximize the use of our home?"
Disclaimer on Quick Relief of Unresolved Themes
The suggested approaches to handling tough questions in your relationship that you were afraid to ask are only meant to begin a conversation. It is likely that much more work is needed to keep the lines of good communication fluid and open between you and your partner or spouse.
It may be necessary to seek couples counseling to further address the recurrence of unresolved themes that incite conflict, causing arguments to re-cycle and escalate. For severe, long-standing conflict, it will require the on-going work with a mental health professional that can ensure healing of what may be broken in order for the relationship or marriage to repair and grow.
Questions & Answers
Question: Me and my partner, my fiancé, have separated because I was talking to a female friend about our relationship. I lied to her about it and now we broke up. She wants to leave but I want to save this. What should I do?
Answer: You will need to give her time during the separation to heal from the wounds of the broken trust. Practice transparency by having open conversations about what deception means. Let her ask you questions about your tendency to have conversations with people other than her. Sharing intimate relationship issues with another female will not help your situation. Communication is the key to being open and transparent.
Question: I want to save my relationship but her trust is gone because I reach out to other females about our relationship and I love my fiancé. What should I do to save this?
Answer: She will have to see that you have made your relationship a priority by showing her you have set new boundaries. You may need to reach out to those who she does not see as a threat in order to reassure her that she is the priority. She needs to see you take these steps with some consistency over a period of time. Hopefully, then she will develop a new trust for you.
© 2012 Janis Leslie Evans
Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on February 14, 2015:
Thank you, Maria for your comments, happy for your brother.
Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on January 04, 2015:
Hi savvydating, good to see you. Thank you for taking the time to read this one and comment. Lol, yes, it is scary to ask and to get an answer.
Yves on January 04, 2015:
Eeeek! Those are scary questions to ask. Sometimes we don'tknow whether we want to hear the answer. I wouldn't be able to say things in the way you suggested. I'd probably be more direct, but that's just my style, and it has backfired a time or two.
Anyway, you've given us some things to think about---for sure. Almost always, we have to take the plunge and ask away. Good information here. You're not a counselor for nothing. ;)
Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on December 14, 2012:
Hi Louisa, glad you enjoyed this hub. Thank you for those generous comments. I'm glad you and hubby overcame so much, and can relate to some of the questions. Thank you for stopping by and giving it votes and thumbs up.
Louisa Rogers from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico on December 14, 2012:
This is a great hub. Barry and I have been married for lo 38 years and we have a strong marriage, but it's still good to check in with ourselves with questions like these. On our wedding day in 1978, he said to me, "You're not going to get fat, are you?" That set the stage for many a difficult issue! (though truthfully the stage had already been set before the wedding day). I said, "Oh, no, never!" A lot of story there :-) I could have used this hub back then, but we've come a long way and survived major challenges. Great hub. Voted UABI.
Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on November 14, 2012:
Good to see you, I've been hubbing and busy with stuff. Glad you like this hub, been trying to step it up. I need to come visit you as well. Thanks for comments and support.
Rich from Kentucky on November 14, 2012:
I was hoping you were still around. I haven't had any notices in ages and was thinking about you earlier today. Really a nice hub. My wife and I have 32 years of knowing if it needs to be discussed, do so, and if not, don't. It's worked so far, but one never knows when enough is enough! : ) Great Hub!
Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on November 13, 2012:
Thanks Mhatter. Yes, these are the issues I hear from couples these days.
Martin Kloess from San Francisco on November 13, 2012:
Thank you for these. I guess I came from a different generation, but you did bring up good relationship issues.
Janis Leslie Evans (author) from Washington, DC on November 13, 2012:
Thanks so much, Bill, for those very nice comments. Trying hard to improve my hubber skills. You are on point about watching what we say and how we say it. I'm so glad you loved it. Appreciate your support very much.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 13, 2012:
Wow! Those are big questions alright, and I love your alternative suggestions. This is an excellent hub; the trick is to bite our tongue and keep the questions from coming out until we have had time to think about it and re-word it. Love this hub!