6 Tips To Encourage Your Partner To Talk About Their Feelings More
There's no denying that vulnerability comes easier to some people than to others. If you and your partner clash when it comes to opening up about your emotions, it can be difficult to foster healthy relationship habits. And while you may be all for talking about your feelings, from happiness to sadness and everything in between, your SO might prefer to keep their feelings to themselves. That's why encouraging your partner to talk about their feelings is so tricky. Ultimately, you can't force anyone to do anything they don't want to do, but when your relationship is on the line, where's the boundary?
"Not everyone is comfortable talking about their feelings," Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples' therapist in Los Angeles, tells Elite Daily. "There are many reasons for this. Perhaps they have had painful experiences and are now prone to feeling ashamed, embarrassed, or ridiculed. This may be a long-standing issue for them. In short, they may not feel that the world is safe enough to talk about their inner world. It is important to acknowledge their fear." Once you've done that, the next steps are all about proving to them that your relationship is a safe space for them to open up. Here's how experts suggest moving forward.
1. Be Clear About What You Need From Them
If you want your partner to communicate with you more effectively, that might mean you have to do the very same thing. "In other words, you want to express to your partner that you have a strong desire to get to know them better and for them to get to know you as well," Dr. Brown says. "You can then let them know that you don't expect them to completely spill out all of their emotions on command but, rather, let them know that you are extending them an ongoing invitation to talk about their feelings."
2. Try To Sympathize
As Dr. Brown says, someone's hesitancy to talk about their feelings probably comes from a time in their past when opening up may have resulted in a negative experience. Letting your partner know you can see how that could be scary for them may help them feel more comfortable doing so with you. "You want to know what it is you can do to help them feel safe enough to open up," he says. "It's important to understand that opening up for some requires a tremendous act of courage. Being vulnerable does not come easily for many people."
Dr. Brown also stresses that you should try to validate their feelings, and "focus more on learning about their feelings rather than debating about [them]. This can help them feel that they are heard and, as importantly, that they don't have to be alone with their feelings."
3. Listen Closely
If your partner begins to open up to you about their feelings, one of the best ways to ensure they continue to do so is to let them speak and genuinely listen. "As they talk, reflect back to them what you are hearing them say," Dr. Brown advises. "Validate their feelings. Don't argue with them about their feelings. Accept their feelings."
Piggybacking off Dr. Brown's advice, Dr. Benjamin Ritter, founder of Live for Yourself Consulting, says it can be helpful to let your partner know their feelings are valid and that they won't change the way you feel about them. "Your perception of your partner didn't change because he or she shared with you," Ritter tells Elite Daily. "You will not hold anything against your partner. You need to create a positive safe space for your partner to share."
4. Lead By Example
As a way of encouraging your partner to talk to you about their feelings more often, Dr. Ritter recommends sharing your own to prove that you're in that safe space together. "You need to set an example for what you want in your relationship," he says. "The more you can normalize sharing your feelings with your partner, the more comfortable he or she will be [doing so]."
5. Don't Force A Conversation
Instead of forcing them to talk about their feelings at a specific time or place, Dr. Brown suggests trying to find natural openings to bring it up. "When a topic comes up in the normal course of conversation, ask them to tell you what they think about the topic," he says. "It doesn't have to always be 'heavy.'"
6. Prompt Them With Specific Questions
If you want to slowly get your partner to open up about their feelings, instead of asking "How was your day?" you can ask "How are you feeling today?" Samantha Burns, couples' counselor and author of Breaking Up & Bouncing Back, tells Elite Daily.e By prompting them with, "How does that make you feel?" or, "I can imagine you're upset, how are you feeling right now?" you're putting emphasis on their feelings, she tells Elite Daily.
"Emotional intelligence falls on a continuum, so if your partner isn't particularly articulate when it comes to identifying and talking about their feelings, you can definitely help them out if you're looking to connect on a deeper level," Burns continues. "So often people intellectualize their emotions and talk about their experiences without labeling their feelings."
When trying to get your partner to talk about their feelings more, remember that their past is probably shaping their hesitancy. "It's important to reassure your partner that you won't judge them for their feelings — which can be done with active and empathetic listening, meaning you give them your full attention and offer validation," Burns says. Sometimes, just letting someone know you're there for them can make all the difference in the world.