Decision making can be tough sometimes. Whether it’s tackling an emotionally loaded subject, or simply a matter of practicality, our experts will help you get the timing right.
Just as there’s a wrong time to go food shopping (when you’re starving, resulting in a trolley piled with high-kilojoule goodies), there’s also a wrong time for having hard conversations, and big decision making. So when is the right time to…
Mention his expanding waistline?
This is tricky. Anything perceived as nagging will be ignored, and if it comes across as criticism, your partner will feel hurt and angry.
Post-holiday is the perfect window – if you’ve gone away and had a good time; perhaps enjoyed a Mediterranean diet and a bit more fresh air and exercise than usual.
We often make our real “resolutions” on holiday after a spell away from day-to-day life. Try the collaborative approach: “I was thinking we could both do with losing a few kilos/getting fitter/eating more healthily.” Suggest you take up something together – tennis/running/squash, and both alter your diet.
Discuss the future with elderly parents?
When your parents are healthy and it’s a conversation, not a crisis. In short, as early as you can – their 70s isn’t too soon. What to talk about? While they’re in good health, where they’d like to be cared for when they’re not. How that will be financed becomes a legal and emotional minefield if sudden decline or dementia sets in.
Parents may feel wary of raising their wishes for fear of upsetting you. It’s a conversation best kept casual, where hands and eyes are occupied elsewhere – while driving or washing up.
Your partner may be better at discussing the matter – parents often find it easier talking about this to an in-law who isn’t as emotionally involved. A minor illness, or the ill health of a relative or friend’s parent, often provides an opening for a chat.
Talk with your adult kids about money?
If you’re sitting on your resentment, then the answer is now, before you’re seething, feeling used, and the relationship really suffers. In this era of student loans and sky-high house prices, “kidults” will often need hand outs. Perhaps you’re happy to help, but less comfortable with the assumption that The Bank of Mom and Dad is always open.
A day out together – or making arrangements for something where you habitually foot the bill – is an ideal springboard to introduce the concept of limits.
“I’ll buy the tickets, but will leave lunch to you”, or “I’ll pick up the tab for X if you can cover Y.” This begins to get the message across without the need for a damaging conversation.
If your child is a student and you’re struggling to subsidise everything, then the talk should be face to face, out of the house – where we tend to behave better – and, crucially, when you’re calm. Avoid family get-togethers or exam time. Tell them how proud you are of them, and that you’re there to support them, but introduce some of your own financial pressures and the need for limits.
Talk about sex with your man?
If you’re not happy with your sex life, or you want to do something differently, don’t bring it up immediately afterwards – it will be taken very personally!
Under the bluff and bluster, most men are very anxious about their performance, so sitting down and announcing “I’d like to talk about our sex life…” presents it as a “problem” and could well have a dampening effect rather than firing things up! Keep it light, and outside the bedroom.
Look for openings in films/articles/books. Use “I” or “We”, not “You”. Try something like, “I’ve just read about X, and I’d like to try it”, or “I hope we’re not getting a bit dull.
How about you tell me what to do one night, and I’ll tell you another night.” Avoid “You always…” or “You’re too…” or “You don’t…” In the bedroom itself, best to show, not tell – a seductive whisper of “Can we take this slowly?”, or a bit of manoeuvring, can open far more doors than a terrifying “We need to talk”.
Get a dog?
When you have enough time and money! You need to be able to spare between R200-R300 a week for food; extra for weekly training classes for a month or two if you’re getting a puppy; deworming every three to four months; and the occasional vet bill and annual vaccinations.
Dogs will put up with a lot – but they often get a rough deal in a busy family. You shouldn’t leave a dog alone for more than four hours, so you need a lifestyle where someone is home or can pop back home at lunch.
Dogs love being in cars, and getting out and about. The other option is paying a dog walker (about R80 for a 45-minute walk). Dogs make fantastic companions for the depressed, bereaved, and empty-nesters – all situations where a dog flourishes.
They can be great shoulders to cry on for teenagers, too – but don’t assume that a teen will be any more help with the dog than a toddler (it’ll be you going for walkies on wet evenings).
- Christine Webber – a psychotherapist, as well as author of the book Too Young to Get Old: The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Living Life to the Full, and How to Mend a Broken Heart.
- Sue Clarke A life and career coach.
- Caroline Kisko A kennel-club advisor with over 10 years’ experience.