5 Tough Conversations to Have With Your Partner or YNGMI

Wed May 08 2024

two Greek statues having a serious conversation

Relationships thrive on open communication.

Yet so many couples struggle to have the crucial conversations that can make or break their bond. Just tune into any episode of Dr. Phil and you’ll see the fallout from failing to express needs, desires, and fears openly with a partner.

This blog post will draw on the relationship research from the Gottman Institute and insights from the Enneagram personality system. Here it will outline 5 essential conversations every couple needs to have or they are not going to make it.

  • The Gottman Institute, was founded by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, has conducted over 40 years of research on what makes relationships succeed or fail.
  • The Enneagram describes nine distinct personality types, each with its own core motivations, fears, and behavior patterns.

If you and your partner avoid these conversations, YNGMI - You’re Nearing Grave Misery and Isolation. But by diving in and discussing these 5 key topics, you’ll build the foundation for a relationship that can withstand life’s toughest challenges.

Let’s explore these make or break conversations.

I. Understanding Your Partner’s Core Emotions

Do you know what makes your partner tick?

Do you know what their childhood was like? Do you know if they have lingering wounds that still trigger strong emotions?

According to the Enneagram, every personality type has a core sensitivity to one of three emotion - anger, shame, or fear. Anger includes frustration, irritation, annoyance and hostility. Shame involves feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, and humiliation. Fear spans from mild anxiety to sheer terror.

Here are the nine types and their core emotional vice or passion:

  1. Type 1: Anger - Ones repress anger to maintain a self-righteous stance.
  2. Type 2: Pride - Twos need to be needed, stemming from inverted pride.
  3. Type 3: Deceit - Threes deceive themselves and others to maintain an image of success.
  4. Type 4: Envy - Fours feel deficient compared to others, leading to envy.
  5. Type 5: Avarice - Fives withhold resources and energy out of fear of depletion.
  6. Type 6: Fear - Sixes are beset by fear and anxiety, leading to continual doubt.
  7. Type 7: Gluttony - Sevens avoid emotional pain by overindulging in stimulation and experiences.
  8. Type 8: Lust - Eights dominate and control due to an unconscious fear of being harmed.
  9. Type 9: Sloth - Nines avoid conflict and numb out to maintain a false peace.

By understanding your partner’s core emotion and childhood wound, you can attune to their innermost needs and sensitivities with empathy and care. The Gottman Institute emphasizes the importance of “turning towards” your partner - recognizing and responding to their emotional bids for connection.

When you identify your partner’s emotional landscape, you gain a roadmap for how to love them.

II. Discussing the Four Horsemen

You should know that there is a thing called the “Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse.”

The Four horsemen were identified by the Gottman Institute after they studied couples trying to identify what are the characteristics of a successful relationship. In that study they identified 4 behaviors that lead to couples breaking up or divorcing.

The four horsemen are

  1. Criticism - Attacking your partner’s character with blame and accusation.
  2. Contempt - Assuming a position of superiority and treating your partner with disrespect.
  3. Defensiveness - Denying responsibility, making excuses, and meeting one complaint with another.
  4. Stonewalling - Withdrawing and shutting down to avoid conflict.

However there are antidotes to these four negative patterns. Assuming you have identified one of these negative patterns here are the antidotes:

  1. For criticism, use a gentle start-up focused on your feelings and needs.
  2. Replace contempt with a culture of appreciation and respect.
  3. Counter defensiveness by taking responsibility for your role.
  4. Prevent stonewalling by self-soothing and taking breaks to calm down.

By learning to spot the Four Horsemen and applying their antidotes, you can stop a negative cycle from spiraling out of control. However this is hard because it means you may have to break old bad habits.

But if you are able to break those bad habits, you can create a climate of safety and respect.

The next thing you can do to grow your relationship is to get on the same page.

III. Establishing a Shared Vision

You need to have a conversation about each other’s dreams.

If you don’t discuss your individual dreams and find a way to merge them, you’ll be living separate lives under the same roof. When you take the time to dive deep and discover what really matters to each of you, magic can happen.

Try asking questions like:

  • “What legacy do you want to leave? What impact do you hope to have on the world?”
  • “When you picture us 10 years from now, what does our life look like? What adventures have we had? What have we created together?”
  • “What’s most important to you? What are your non-negotiables and where are you willing to compromise?”

You don’t have to have a perfect plan. Just the awareness alone is enough to get the creative juices flowing so that both your lives can be headed in the right direction.

Maybe your shared roadmap means living abroad for a year to satisfy your sense of wanderlust, while also pursuing a stable career path to meet your partner’s need for security.

When you know you’re working towards the same big-picture goals, you’ll find more motivation to support each other through the day-to-day challenges.

IV. Addressing Conflict Styles

Do you know what your fighting style is?

Do you come out swinging or retreat into stony silence? How about your partner?

The Enneagram outlines three conflict styles that correspond with the emotion triads:

  • Positive Outlook Group (Types 2, 7, 9): Avoid conflict to maintain connection.
  • Competency Group (Types 1, 3, 5): Focus on facts and objectivity to resolve issues.
  • Reactive Group (Types 4, 6, 8): Intensify emotions and express volatility during conflicts.

To identify your own and your partner’s conflict style:

  1. Reflect on your go-to responses during disagreements. Do you minimize issues, present logical arguments, or dig in your heels and emote?
  2. Ask your partner how they experience you during a fight. Do they feel heard and validated or ignored and attacked?

Once you understand your conflict dynamic, you can develop a game plan to navigate the rocky rapids:

  • If you tend to avoid or minimize, practice expressing your needs directly and setting boundaries.
  • If you get intense and reactive, work on self-soothing and taking time-outs.
  • If you default to logic and objectivity, focus on validating emotions and expressing empathy.

When you approach conflicts as an opportunity to understand each other better, you stop seeing your partner as the enemy. Instead, you recognize you’re on the same team, fighting for your relationship.

V. Nurturing Intimacy and Connection

Its easy for the spark in your relationship to fade.

If you aren’t already married pretend you are for a minute. With the daily grind of work-kids-chores-dinner-netflix-repeat-, it’s all too easy to drift into roommate mode with your partner. But neglecting your intimate connection is like forgetting to water a houseplant - eventually, it will shrivel up and die.

The Gottmans found that the ”Magic Six Hours” - a series of small, daily investments - can keep the spark alive:

  1. Partings: Take 2 minutes every morning to really connect before saying goodbye.
  2. Reunions: Spend 20 minutes at the end of each day sharing highlights and struggles.
  3. Appreciation: Find ways to express genuine appreciation and admiration.
  4. Affection: Offer physical affection consistently, even outside the bedroom.
  5. Weekly dates: Carve out at least 2 hours per week for uninterrupted quality time.
  6. Hourly check-ins: Send a quick text or share a long hug - little moments of connection add up.

In addition the Enneagram gives more insight into what different personalities need for intimacy:

  1. Ones need to feel respected and appreciated for their integrity.
  2. Twos need to feel cherished and central to their partner’s life.
  3. Threes need their partner to see behind their successful image.
  4. Fours need a deep sense of being fully seen and understood.
  5. Fives need plenty of private time balanced with shared interests.
  6. Sixes need steadfast reassurance and demonstrations of commitment.
  7. Sevens need adventures and stimulation alongside quiet moments of presence.
  8. Eights need to be matched in intensity and to have their vulnerability cherished.
  9. Nines need to have their voice drawn out and their presence invited.

Staying intimately connected is like a dance - it requires constant recalibration and attentiveness to subtle cues. But when you commit to nurturing your bond, you’ll have a partner beside you through every twist and turn.


Strong relationships aren’t built on shared interests or sexual chemistry - they’re forged in the crucible of tough conversations. By having these 5 crucial discussions, you’ll create an unshakable foundation for your life together.

When you learn to dive deep together - bringing your whole, imperfect selves and facing your fears hand-in-hand - you won’t just make it. You’ll thrive, crafting a one-of-a-kind love strong enough to withstand any storm. Have those conversations - your relationship is worth it.

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