A partner who cannot express his/her feelings can be a source of great frustration. It feels like they expect you to read their minds and know what they’re feeling. They wear an impenetrable mask, and you never know what’s going on in their minds and hearts.
You express your feelings and expect to get something in return, but it’s like talking to a brick wall. Getting your partner to open up and share their emotions is like trying to get the proverbial blood out of a stone. Often, this is a characteristic that stems from childhood. Your partner was taught that expressing emotions is not acceptable. After that, the damage is done.
Gradually, this lack of expressing their emotions can grind a relationship down until there’s nothing left. You stop expressing your emotions because it appears your partner doesn’t welcome it. You don’t even feel safe expressing yourself anymore.
Their unexpressed emotions may be building up in your partner until one day they reach a breaking point. The resentment will have grown to the extent that your relationship goes beyond the point of no return.
But all is not lost. Here is some advice on how to work with a partner who can’t or won’t tell you how they feel:
- Welcome what little your partner is willing to give
When the planets are all aligned, and your partner does share their emotions with you, make yourself fully available. Listen to what they have to say and try to read the cues they’re offering by means of body language. If the one time your partner decides to make themselves vulnerable emotionally and you are dismissive, they won’t make the same mistake twice. Recognize it for what it is: the door is ajar. This is your best chance to get a foot in there.
Create a routine where you and your partner sit down for face to face talk time each week. Initially, your partner won’t give you much. But when they see how you communicate your emotions, they’ll start to share some of theirs.
- Don’t be judgmental
If you express emotions easily, you probably have no idea of the courage it takes for your partner to open up. They feel intense fear and vulnerability. The worst thing you can do now is to judge their emotions.
You can’t tell them they’re wrong for feeling a certain way, even if that’s what you think. Put it into perspective: you’ve been waiting for them to express an emotion. Don’t shoot it down as soon as they do. Make it clear to your partner that you see their emotions as valid and important.
- Be careful how you react
If your partner finally shares something about the relationship that frustrates him/her, pay attention to your reaction. If you hit back with a barrage of angry, defensive comments, you’ll lose this valuable opportunity. Rather acknowledge what your partner is saying. Even if you need to take a time-out to go and digest what they’ve said, it’s okay.
It might be hurtful to hear what your partner feels about you and the relationship. But in telling you, your partner is giving you a chance to get a look inside their heart and mind. Don’t squander it by going ballistic and shutting them down.
Even if you manage to let your partner express their emotions without saying the wrong thing, the battle is not yet won. Your facial expression and body language say as much, if not more, than the words you utter. Train yourself to keep calm on all fronts so that your partner feels safe and keeps opening up. After the first time, your partner will feel emboldened and will share more with you in the future.