I believe having difficult conversations is a real art. It asks self-awareness and a connection with your animal body; when am I actually in a fight, flight, freeze, ... ? What do I need to regulate myself? It requires having a sense of when it is time to ask for a break, to pauze the interaction, to take some breaths. For me, it means that one of us (the one least triggered) or we together can facilitate the conversation so it becomes something that actually brings us to a place forward and through, rather than continuous loops of the same.
Communication skills and non-violent language are one thing, at the same time it only goes as far as you are willing to look at yourself. I'd say in a healthy fight, I can acknowledge my emotions, needs and desires and stand for them. That's hard though if everything feels fussy.
Also as much as I stand for the care I feel for myself, I want to keep track of the relational and the care I feel for what we have together. Meaning, I am willing to set aside 'having to be right' and want to appreciating the other for what they show as well as say 'sorry' and take responsibility for my part.
So often there are crossroads during a talk where I can see the choice between expressing my own feelings and challenges - and, setting my part aside to actually give space to the other (who might need to feel heard more than me in that moment).
I sometimes find myself in frustration and when I take a breath I can suddenly talk from the fear that's lying underneath. Relational challenges are unavoidable. So let's make them as pleasurable as can be? If you are like me, you secretly also like the challenge and deepening of intimacy.
It's so easy to start believing we are the only ones having difficult moments in our relationship(s) while in reality all of us are on the same boat of humanness. It's common to hide our vulnerable sides and try to figure it all out in our little couple bubble. It creates loneliness and seperation and takes away the possibility to learn from each other and have healthy role models. In reality, we are stronger and more capable when we choose to unisolate.
One way of doing that is inviting a witness to your relational space. In essence, this is someone both or all of you feel comfortable with and who is simply present. That's it, really. When I ask one of my friends to be with us, I tell them we don't need any guidance or advice. If we do, we'll ask for that reflection or third perspective in the moment. Of course if you want someone who's more engaged, that's a totally valid desire too! I have found it incredibly valuable to have someone with us or to be that third person myself, in many ways.
First of all, on a very basic, unconscious, neurological level another regulated nervous system is an enormous help. We are group animals designed to attune to each other and feel impacted by each other's state. When two people talk about a subject that feels to both of them sensitive, it's easy to stop really hearing each other and get reactive. Another nervous system will automatically support 'distributing' that charge. Even if that extra being isn't in the calmest mood either or feels a little affected, generally the conversation will feel lighter. That is how we are made.
It also creates a new dynamic and might fresh up anything that got stuck. It will be easier to zoom out and hear yourself from an outsider's perspective simply because there is an 'outsider'. It enables you to stay stronger in awareness. Couples and friends supporting each other in this way are likely going to experience a deeper intimacy and get to be inspired by each other. Having witnessed a difficult conversation of friends, as well as the deep care they obviously both feel, has always given me new realizations and a greater appreciation for my own relationships.
If this is new for you, feel invited to try it out. It won't harm you. At the most it might just feel a little unusual in the beginning. You can ask someone to be with you, no interventions needed, just presence. Carve out 30 minutes to one hour so both of you get the chance to share what might have been feeling challenging. You can come up with a concrete request to move forward.