“It’s like living with a rock!”
This is how Angela describes her fiancé, Jeff. She doesn’t intend to be mean, but it’s how he seems to her a lot of the time.
While she appreciates how even-keeled and dependable Jeff is, she wishes that he’d let her in once in awhile. Angela often asks Jeff how he feels, but he never responds in a way that’s satisfying to her.
The responses to her questions about feelings usually amount to, “It’s no big deal,” “I’m okay” or “I feel fine about that.” Angela isn’t buying it! She can’t believe that he truly feels “fine” about everything that happens.
Recently, when Jeff’s boss blamed him for a mistake that his boss (not Jeff) made, Angela was sure he’d share some feelings with her. She could see how tense and tight he was. But, all he said was, “That happens in the business world.”
Angela got really mad– not only about what Jeff’s boss did, but also at Jeff for refusing to open up and tell her how he really feels.
Countless women can probably relate to Angela’s story. They long for their man to tell them how he really feels and to open up to them. For these women, this is a sign of their man’s trust and an indication of relationship connection.
When they don’t get the kind of access to their man’s feelings that they want, some take it as a personal rejection. This causes resentment and distance which are deadly for a love relationship or marriage.
Don’t get us wrong…
Women can be just as closed or unwilling to share about their feelings as men can be. There are men who can probably relate to what Angela is going through too. And, not all men are like Jeff in the scenario above.
But, when we receive emails about a partner being unwilling to share feelings, it’s almost always one written by women about their man.
The point here is that when your partner won’t open up to you in the ways you want him or her to, it hurts. In your mind, it can feel like your partner doesn’t trust, respect or love you enough to share.
Some common reactions to a closed down partner are…
- Irritation or anger
- Pressure to share
- Criticism or judgment
Keep in mind that all of these reactions put up just as many walls to relationship connection as does your partner’s seeming unwillingness to share feelings.
When you feel shut out, try these things to encourage openness and connection…
#1: Stay open to your partner.
Though nobody likes to admit it, often the things we get angry about in others are the very same things we do ourselves– just maybe in a slightly different way.
Be honest with yourself about the ways you might hold back or shut your partner out. This isn’t about making yourself wrong too, it’s about acknowledging that you might have similar habits that also stand in the way of the connection you want.
Especially when things get tense in your relationship, practice staying true to yourself AND staying open too. This does take practice, so keep trying.
#2: Shift your expectations.
If you believe that your partner is a “rock” and won’t share his or her emotions with you, chance are you have some expectations. These expectations might be based on some past experiences you had– you aren’t making this stuff up.
Even so, shift your expectations.
Pause and check in with yourself to “hear” what you’re expecting BEFORE you start talking with your partner– especially if it’s a topic that’s sensitive for either of you. If you notice that, before you even walk into the room, you already expect your partner to be closed to you, stop yourself.
Tell yourself that you don’t actually know how your partner will be in this conversation you’re about to have. Walk into the room and the conversation with as few preconceived notions as you can of what will happen..
#3: Approach your partner mindfully.
Another thing to do before entering a conversation with your partner is to be aware of what’s going on. Notice if your partner has just sat down to pay bills or check his or her email. Pay attention to what your partner has going on. Was it a particularly difficult day? Is he or she feeling ill?
If your partner is distracted or unable to engage with you at this time, keep this in mind. Ask yourself if you can wait to have this conversation. You can even ask your partner a question like, “Is this a good time for us to talk?” or “When can you be free to talk with me?”
#4: Appreciate “his” or “her” way of being open.
Always keep in mind that the way your partner opens up and shares emotions with you might not look what you were expecting. Don’t discount it just because it’s not the way you would share emotions or because it’s not the emotions you think your partner is feeling.
Respect your partner’s words and where he or she is with whatever is going on. We all process things differently and we all show feelings differently too. This doesn’t mean that your partner is wrong or out of touch.
The more you can honor where you partner is, the more likely you will be to have continued and deeper openness in the future.