Encouraging emotional openness


Intimacy is developed through each person’s ability to be open about how they are feeling and what they want. If you or your partner are shut down and find it difficult to share it can have a detrimental effect on your relationship. Here are some strategies to encourage more openness which will in turn lead to more intimacy.

Gender differences

Generally women tend to be more open than men because they develop deep bonds with people through talking and sharing their feelings. Men on the other hand often struggle to show their feelings and generally bond with people through action – doing things together or for people. Although there are many exceptions to the rule it is important to accept that the reason why someone might be closed down emotionally might be largely due to their gender and what they  have learnt from parents and society about gender expectations e.g. men don’t cry or women are ruled by their hearts.

In attempting to get someone to open up to you emotionally you might be coming up against years of conditioning which it can be very hard to break down.

Feeling safe

Most people will only open up when they feel really safe in a relationship. The reasons why some people don’t feel safe may not necessarily be to do with their present circumstances. They may have been badly hurt in the past and be protecting themselves by being more guarded. Perhaps they have things in their past that they are worried about exposing because they are afraid it will jeopardise the relationship. Whatever the reason is the very worst thing you can do if you want to encourage someone to open up is push them to do so.

People tend to do this because they think if their partner doesn’t open up to them it is because they don’t trust them and this is painful. In reality that is probably not the reason at all, they may be naturally introverted or be dealing with some of the issues mentioned above. By pushing or nagging them to be open you are implying that you don’t trust them to open up to you when they are ready.

Be patient and stay open yourself even if you feel frustrated, angry or hurt – fight the impulse to shut down and withdraw your love. Continue communicating with your partner about how you feel and stay connected to them even when it is difficult. Through consistently staying open yourself you will be showing your partner that your love is unconditional and that they can feel safe in the relationship – you won’t abandon them.

Trouble in the past

If you believe that things have happened in your partner’s past which are effecting your relationship now it is natural that you will want them to talk to you about it so that together you can work through any issues. You may have to be very patient and again try not to push them to open up too soon as things like childhood trauma or past relationships can be very sensitive subjects.

If you know that your partner has had a troubled past one way to encourage them to open up about past events is to talk about people who have had similar experiences – maybe someone in the media or that you have seen on a documentary. Say how courageous you think those people are for overcoming their problems and making a new life for themselves. Maybe not straight away, but eventually your partner will come to see that you are not likely to judge them for their past and that you will accept them as they are today and in time hopefully they will be able to reveal more.

Do you love me?

One of the most common problems couple’s have is that one person wants reassurance of their partner’s feelings and the other person is unable, or reluctant to give it for whatever reason. This can create a lot of friction because it is natural to want feedback on how the relationship is going and your partner’s feelings towards you- without any affirmations of this kind it is unlikely that the relationship will thrive.

The problems often arise when the person in need of reassurance keeps asking for it and putting pressure on their partner to demonstrate their love in a particular way. People show their love and affection in different ways, maybe through actions more than words and it’s important to accept someone as they are rather than try and change them while also getting your needs met. It is all a question of balance which is usually attained through patience and treating your partner in the way you would like to be treated – hopefully they will become more open over time.

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