Vulnerability comes easier for some than others. It can be frustrating when you and your partner struggle to openly discuss feelings while trying to establish healthy relationship habits. Painful experiences, embarrassment, fear of judgement, or an uneasy feeling of trust can all hinder someone’s ability to open up. If your partner is acting closed off, it likely has nothing to do with you. It’s probably a result of their past or a preconceived notion.
If you find yourself with someone who really doesn’t like expressing their feelings, there are ways to encourage them to do it without being pushy. Here are 5 ways you can gently open your partner up:
1. Clearly communicate your needs with them.
If you need your partner to communicate more effectively with you, you must do the same with them. Tell them directly, but in a nice tone, that you want to get to know them better and that you want them to get to know you too. Be sure to say you don’t expect them to always want to share every little thing, but extend the invitation to talk about their feelings when something is going on. They may not realize they aren’t sharing enough. By doing this, you are creating a safe place of trust, sympathy, and good intentions.
2. Sympathize with them always.
Speaking of sympathy, your partner’s past is probably why they are hesitant to open up to you. Always, always, always, reiterate that you understand why it’s scary for them. Don’t get angry if they struggle at first. You can also say things like, “I am so proud of you for sharing that, that takes a lot of courage,” when they do share those difficult things. It will help them feel more comfortable with you frequently show understanding.
3. Don’t force it.
When you force a fart it becomes a shitty mess — think of these conversations as the same. When you force it, they will only get frustrated and feel targeted. It’s not productive. So avoid this by offering your acceptance and support, and let them come to you when they feel ready.
4. Listen, don’t debate.
Focus on learning about their feelings rather than debating about them. You want to make them feel heard and not alone. Focus on what they’re saying, and don’t just think about how you’ll respond. Let them speak until they are blue in the face and genuinely listen and try to understand them. You don’t even have to speak or give advice. Just shut up, give them the microphone, and let them talk until they feel better.
5. Always lead by example.
It might be difficult for you to do when you also hate sharing your emotions, but you can’t expect someone to open up to you if you won’t do the same. Create that safe place and break that boundary by sharing something deep about yourself to show them it’s okay. This will normalize those deeper conversations and hopefully eliminate the stigmas surrounding them.
You can’t force someone to open up, but you can help them get there. So make your partner feel valid for how they feel, and reinforce that their feelings will not change your love for them. Reassurance can never hurt in these situations, especially if your significant other suffers from abandonment or trust issues. It’s all a natural part of being human; some things are super sensitive and hit nerves very quickly. As long as you can be respectful of their boundaries and patient until they are ready, you will get somewhere deeper with them one day.