How to Pick The Best Time to Talk to Your Loved One

How to Pick The Best Time to Talk to Your Loved One

When we love someone suffering from addiction, we need to learn how to figure out our timing when communicating with them. If you’re anything like me, when you’re upset, you want to talk about it right at that moment. But is that the best time to do it? Today, I want to discuss how and when to talk to your loved one when you’re feeling frustrated or when you’re feeling worried or anxious or sad or hurt.

Listen to the podcast episode here: 

Read the transcript and find more details here: 

For better or for worse, I’ve done a really good job of protecting my kids. And now, my oldest son is going off to college, and I can’t keep protecting him, which scares me to death. It’s a new way of me having to come to grips with the idea of letting go. Right?

And I know you probably can relate to that because there’s a lot of you that are letting go in your relationships when you love someone suffering from addiction. Letting go is tough and hard and scary, and you’re full of anxiety because you just don’t know how things are going to be in the future. You don’t know how everything’s going to work out.

You don’t even know if everything’s going to work out. And so it’s a hard, yucky place. But I’m here to give you attention and encourage you and tell you that it’s going to be okay because the truth is it is, it is going to be okay.

We’re all going to be better than okay.

Today, I want to discuss how to talk to your loved one when you’re feeling frustrated or when you’re feeling worried or anxious or sad or hurt. I subscribe to the theory and teach it often about how we need to let go of control with our loved ones, right?

We can’t get them sober or convince them that they need to get better. We can’t be in charge of their recovery. It’s really out of our hands. If they want to get better, they will. If they’re not getting better, it’s because they don’t want to. It’s just that simple. If they’re not getting sober, it’s because they don’t want to.

And you know what? The other hard truth is, they might not ever want to. They might not ever want to get sober bad enough to stay sober. That’s another hard truth, and what are you supposed to do with that?

You can’t not talk to them for the rest of your relationship. And even if you end up leaving and getting a divorce, if you have kids with them, you’re still going to have to communicate with them. You’re still going to have to have words. So what do you do?

How do you talk to them?

Where you feel like you’re being heard and your feelings are being recognized. And where you’re actually being listened to and heard you and seen because isn’t that what we all want? Don’t we feel that to make progress, we need our feelings to be heard?

It feels really good when that happens. Doesn’t it? When they’re not denying or they’re not placating you or trying to convince you there’s nothing wrong, and they’re not defending. So how do you do this?

How do you effectively communicate with somebody in the thick or the middle or at the beginning or the end of their addiction? How do you do it? What do you do?

I’m going to share with you just one tool to help. I don’t believe in overwhelming you with 80 different steps and four different processes and three different sayings. No, that’s too overwhelming. It’s too much homework. Who the hell can remember that? Let’s keep it simple. Let’s dumb it down to the simplest terms possible. I like to pretend that I’m trying to teach my kids because if I can dumb it down enough to teach my nine-year-old, I know that I can understand it.

And then it’s easy to remember, right? Let’s not overwhelm ourselves. Today I’m just going to teach you one very important, probably the most important step, about communicating with your loved one. And over the next couple of episodes, I’ll sprinkle in some more tools for communication, but this is it. Just one for today, you ready?

It’s going to be good. And it’s going to be hard. I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be tough to follow this rule.

The first rule for communicating is timing.

We need to learn how to figure out timing when communicating with our loved ones. If you’re anything like me, when you’re upset, you want to talk about it. I am the type of wife where if something is wrong between my husband and me, if there’s an issue we gotta talk about, I’m like a stalker, and I will stalk him until he talks to me about it.

And even worse, I’m like a kidnapper because I will keep him in a room until we have worked it out. I am not letting you leave this room until we love each other. And we have figured out the solution, and you know that we’re gonna beat this dead horse to a pulp, my poor, poor husband.

He’ll say, what really? We don’t need to go into more detail about this, Michelle. And I’m like, yes, we do. We need to talk about all of our feelings, which we’ll cover that in another episode, but that’s also not exactly what you want to do.

Here’s the truth: When you have an issue with your loved one, it’s not the best time to talk to them about it.

When you’re feeling all those feelings of worry because they’re not coming home or they didn’t come home on time, or anger because they picked up the bottle after they promised they wouldn’t, or anxiety because your prescription pills are missing from the drawer and you counted them… that’s not the best time to talk to them. I know that sucks. Right?

It’s sucks that I just said that because if you’re like me, you need to go there. We need to park there. We need to stay there. I’ve got things to say, and I need you to listen. Right? But that’s not actually the most effective way to communicate.

Here’s another way that you’re going to do next time.

You feel like you have an issue to talk about. You are going to reach out to your loved one, and you’re going to say, hey, just a heads up, I need to talk about you coming home late last night. Can you let me know when a good time to discuss that is? When’s the next time you have 30 minutes available so that we can talk about that?

I know that’s a very mature and very calculated and very adult-ish thing to say, right? It’s almost like borderline sort of BS, fakey. It feels like that, but it’s actually not. Because you want to present your feelings in a way that your loved one will not feel defensive. If you want to present your feelings so that they’re going to actually have the best possible chance of being heard, you’re going to have to give that person a little bit of a heads up.

Otherwise, here’s what happens. And I’ve done this myself. I’ll never forget one time when my ex-husband passed out on the bed from a night of drinking. And I literally sat at the end of the bed, waiting for him to wake up in the morning so that we could discuss this. I kept poking him, poking his arm, being like is he up? Or if he like rolled over, you know, I’d be like, okay, now’s the time. I was being ridiculous.

You can’t pounce on somebody when they wake up. You can’t take them out like a sniper from the side. You’ve got to give them a heads up that this is what you need to talk about and that you’re feeling upset about it. And then your loved one will be able to process that a lot easier.

In a healthy relationship with somebody who doesn’t suffer from addiction, this technique usually works.

But we know that much of the wonderful, beautiful advice written by experts in the field of relationships doesn’t apply to us. Those tips do not help us because they often were not dealing with the same situation. We’re not dealing with the typical, healthy relationship.

So in an ideal situation, your partner would hear you say that and say yeah, I have 30 minutes this afternoon at four. Can I give you a call then? Or how about I come home early, and we can sit down and talk about it.

That’s what a healthy relationship looks like. When you love somebody with addiction, oftentimes, you are dealing with a childlike maturity in that person.

They might roll their eyes and give you a contemptuous feeling. Or they might offer denial and say, there’s really no problem with that and we don’t need to discuss that. Or they might get angry and go, I’m not discussing that with you because you’re being dramatic, right?

Let’s be real with one another. There’s a greater chance of your loved one responding in that way, then a healthy version, right? So what do you do then? If they don’t respond back to you in a way that shows that they’re interested in hearing or listening to your problems, what matter is it?

You can claim that you’re mature and responsible and that you played your 50% part in trying to work through this relationship. That’s what’s important here. It’s the key to our community. And it’s the key to your growth in life.

You’re attracted to somebody who is suffering from addiction. You cannot control their responses, their life, their sobriety, their love for you. You have no control over that.

What you do have control over where you can grow as a human being is your side of the street, right?

Your heart, your spirit, your wisdom. That’s what you do have control over. So when you reach out to your loved one and they blow you off, guess what? You still have a victory. You still won because you showed up in a mature, responsible way and said, listen, I’m here to play; I’m here to participate, and I’m willing to work. Are you?

And if they say no, by showing you that they’re not willing by rolling their eyes or not giving you the respect and kindness and time that you deserve to be heard, then you can make wise decisions about your future.

That’s more information for you to tuck away so that you can make better-informed decisions about your future with that person. And also if you ever decide to leave, you know what, that behavior that you just developed, the timing of how and when to talk to somebody about problems, is going to work very well for you in your next relationship.

Because healthy spouses or partners or lovers, whatever you want to call them, will respond to you by looking you in the eye and saying, I hear you. If that issue is important to you, it’s important to me. And I love you. So let’s make time for this. I can do it right now, or I can do it later tonight.

They’re not going to be dismissive of your feelings. They’re not going to be belittling of you. Does that make sense? Now, if let’s say you’re one of the lucky ones in our community, and you do have a spouse that is suffering from addiction and does respond favorably and say, yeah, let’s make time for you. Let’s make time for your feelings.

First of all, hallelujah. Let’s just say that right now. Let’s celebrate that because that’s rare. And then number two, please make sure that when you decide to talk about it with them, that they are sober. You should never ever try to discuss a serious topic with any addict who has been drinking or is currently high or on drugs.

It is a waste of your energy and breath.

It’s words that are not registering. So if you’re trying to argue while they’re drinking and they’re drunk, it’s not ever going to come out favorably for you. It’s not going to help the situation at all.

So me sitting on the end of the bed all those years ago was such a dodo move because he’s hungover. How responsive do you really think he’s going to be, Michelle?

Instead, get off the bed, grab your keys and your kids, go out, do something fun for the day, and let him sleep it off and do whatever he needs to do. Stop sitting there waiting for him, wake up, right? We need well-rested, sober partners who are open and willing to hear us.

That is really important—the timing of when you choose to talk to your loved one matters. So let’s be responsible, mature adults, and behave and pick up some new patterns here so that we can use them in our relationships.

If we decide to stay or we can use them in our next relationships, if we decide to leave. But either way, we are the winners.

Tip number one is super simple – timing.

Timing is everything. So give your partner a heads-up that you have an issue you want to discuss, ask for when they have time to discuss it, and make sure they’re well-rested whenever that time comes. You are well-rested. And most importantly, they are sober.

We can do this. I believe in you, and I know in my soul and in my heart and in my entire being that you’ve got this. You are a wise, mature human being challenged with this relationship in a way you probably haven’t been challenged with before, but you can rise.

You can grow and come out of this stronger, happier, healthier, whether you leave or not. So let’s focus on staying in our own lane. Let’s worry about our side of the street. Not theirs. Let’s not waste energy trying to fix or trying to solve them. Let’s take our energy and put it towards us. And this is a great tip and tool to master. Okay. So let’s practice this week. I’m with ya. I’m going to practice too. And then we’re going to cover another tip next week.

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.

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