# If you want him to open up to you, he has to feel safe taking that risk with you
Getting a man to open up to you and share his feelings, fears, and concerns is not as hard as you might think. Here’s the thing: Most men want to be able to feel so comfortable with you that they can be themselves and share what they think and feel! Why? For the same reason you want to feel more connected to him. It feels so good to be able to be completely yourself with another person!
The problem for him is that he was raised very differently from you. He has learned to keep his feelings to himself. He is afraid that if he shows you what’s on the inside, you’re going to think he is “less” of a man. And if he cares about you, he definitely doesn’t want that to happen.
So if you want him to open up to you, he has to feel safe taking that risk with you. You have to show him that you accept him, as he is. When he shares his thoughts and feelings, you don’t want to judge or correct them. You can model what you want from him by “being real!” Be your goofy, funny, sad, real self with him so he will get that you’re okay with real feelings…yours AND his.
Dr. Anita Sanz, www.sanzplans.com
# Pay attention to your own reaction when your partner shares his thoughts, opinions or feelings
In my counseling practice, I often hear women say they want their man to be more emotionally open with them. But inevitably, when their partner shares, they jump all over them. They get reactive, critical, or are unable to accept or take in what their partner is sharing.
So one of the first things to pay attention to is your own reaction when your partner shares his thoughts, opinions, or feelings. If it is not a safe place for him to share, he will withdraw.
Do you make it a safe place? If he shares something that you might not want to hear, do you get defensive, attacking, angry, or cry? Most men want to be pleasing to their partner. If sharing gets this kind of reaction from you, he may shut down to preserve the relationship or your feelings or his own ego.
This is not to say that you cannot have a response to what he shares, it’s just very important to not be reactive when he does share.
Dana Vince, www.marriagecounselingknoxville.com
# Be a pillar of calm
Often, my male clients express reticence when it comes to sharing their emotions for fear of backlash and “archeological digging” (the recalling of things your partner has said or done in the past, that you can “use against” him or her in later disagreements). The rationalization becomes, “If I don’t have any feelings or don’t communication my thoughts, we won’t have a fight and I’ll give you nothing to throw back at me down the road.” Harsh as it may seem, this hesitance is real, significant and can greatly impact your relationship, unless you both take active steps to restructure the dynamic.
While the responsibility of “opening up” falls squarely on each individual’s shoulders, you can aid the process by being calm, centered and supportive when your partner does share. You must show your significant other that you can handle their thoughts with care, non-reactivity and understanding (even if you don’t agree, as “understanding” and “agreeing” are two different issues, entirely). While you may always ask questions and contribute your feelings, you want to be sure that they are given in a loving, open and soft manner. Over time, your partner will learn that there is safety in sharing and your connection and communication will grow deeper.
Allison Cohen, www.lifeissuespsychotherapy.com
# Make him feel understood and accepted
For a man to open up emotionally there has to be an atmosphere of trust and faith. Trust that he will be heard from a man’s point of view and not expected to sound like a woman. Faith that judgment will not follow. I have worked with hundreds of men over the four decades of my practice. As soon as they feel understood and accepted, they are often more open than many of the women I’ve worked with.
Perhaps it’s because I grew up in my dad’s barber shop in Beverly Hills. I spent many days sitting quietly in a corner listening to men talk to each other. The subject of women rarely came up. They talked about sports, battle, business, and health. Sometimes, philosophy and how to maintain their identities in the face of competition and role expectation. When I speak to a man about his internal world, I listen deeply to what he means underneath his truncated expressions and try to ignore the words he has been taught to use that are not flowery or excessively exaggerated.
Men tend, more than women, to couch their emotions in practical ways. They are innate problem solvers and often want to skip details in favor of pragmatism. When grieving, they want to be told how to get through their pain as quickly as possible and to make sure everyone else is okay. When scared, they usually push through with heroism or minimizing their distress.
I have heard so many women try to get their men to feel, missing completely that they feel deeply but have not often been taught to share those emotions. When their women don’t have their own hidden agendas and truly want to understand what their men feel, they approach them with honest curiosity and a desire to listen to how the situation looks from their point of view. Too often, the woman in a relationship leads with her own emotional agenda and expects their man to follow suit. It usually backfires.
Dr. Randi Gunther, www.randigunther.com
# Understand that men express their feelings differently than women
The first thing you need to know is that most men won’t share their feelings like a woman. It isn’t that men don’t feel—they do. It is that they express their feelings differently than women.
Here is how you can get a man to share more about what is going on inside him:
• Accept he isn’t emotional like you. In fact, men really are afraid to feel emotions and don’t know what to do with them when they do. So, don’t ask him what he is feeling.
• Be his companion. Do things with him “shoulder to shoulder” rather than “face to face.” This is the way men bond. If there is a safe time for a man to share his innermost thoughts and feelings, it is when you are with him without demanding he talk.
• Let him know you believe in him, like him, and respect him. It will be safer for him to express vulnerability because he will know that it won’t shake your belief in him or cause you to lose respect.
• Don’t nag him about little things, mother him, or correct him. If you do this, you will certainly be unsafe to share his innermost thoughts with and he will purposefully withhold things from you instead. Criticize his disclosures and he will clam up vowing never to go there with you again.
• Listen to his thoughts and opinions. Somewhere in there will be something related to a feeling that will give you insight into what is going on with him. Let him talk, but don’t expect it to be with your level of details and your emotional language.
A man will share his “feelings” with you, but not in the way you expect. Make it safe to be who he is and you will begin to speak his emotional language rather than him speaking yours.
Karla Downing, www.changemyrelationship.com
# The potential to grow or change has to come innately from one’s own desire
Stop Now! Don’t even think about it. You will never get your emotional needs met by one person. If your significant other does not open up now emotionally then this is how you can expect it will be for a long time if not until death do you part. I have never met a couple at 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years together that has told me their partner has changed as a result of ongoing nagging, begging, crying or manipulation.
Some of us are wired to be feelers and some of us as thinkers. Of course there are ranges and preferences along the emotion spectrum. There is always hope that any human has the potential to grow or change but ONLY if it comes innately from their own desire.
Get your needs met by friends or others in your social circle. You will find so much more happiness if you seek the spring where it flows naturally. Surround yourself with a variety of personality types and then there is an increased chance that most of your needs will get met.
Julie Kurtz, www.juliekurtz.com
# Share your vulnerability from your heart with the message underneath that you don’t need to fix him or to do anything
Although it is a generalization many women do have this longing to get their men to open up emotionally. However, unfortunately what often seems to happen is that because a woman has this feeling of lack in her man, she ends up communicating criticism and disappointment. So, men too feel a sense of failure, as if they cannot ever “get it right” and that no matter what they give to their women they cannot succeed. I think we need to go back to the realization that men and women’s brains are simply wired differently. Women need to give up trying to get men to do anything, after all isn’t that just a recipe for disaster: trying to change a person?
Women are far better served by sticking with expressing themselves from their heart in a loving manner. When a man feels safe, then he is more likely to open up. Often men don’t know what they feel. They feel like they just can’t please a woman and that they don’t know what she wants. So, a woman needs to be able to articulate her needs and wants in a way that does not make her partner defensive. When she shares her vulnerability from her heart with the message underneath that you don’t need to fix me or to do anything, but that I am just wanting to connect with you openly, this is far different from the message of neediness that often comes through to a man.
So, women need to connect in with their feminine selves and speak from their heart space. They need to make it safe for their men to respond and they need to articulate they are prepared to take responsibility for their own journey and not take their men’s behavior personally. That way a man can feel respected and that his process is within his control: that he can choose to share in a safe space and open himself up to the love and intimacy that he also wants on a deep level.
Margie Ulbrick, www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
# Refrain from judging him when he expresses himself even just a little bit
Most likely at some point your partner learned that opening up emotionally was a “bad” thing. He learned that sharing his innermost thoughts and feelings was painful and that deep emotionally topics could potentially “hurt” so he began to avoid them altogether. A few examples of why are:
1. To become verbally vulnerable is to open himself up to potential ridicule or rejection (pain).
2. His feelings or thoughts were belittled or used against him (pain).
3. It is too difficult to recall or talk about past events (pain).
4. He is afraid of hurting someone if he is honest (pain).
What you can do:
We can never change another person, only ourselves, so the best bet to assist your person in learning to open up is to provide a safe place for his words to fall.
What I have discovered through my coaching/mentoring practice is that most people must feel 100% sure that they are emotionally “safe” prior to sharing their thoughts and feelings. The key to helping someone verbally open up is to always (and I mean always) refrain from judging them when they express themselves even just a little bit. For an emotionally quiet person, sarcasm, judgment or even humor regarding their thoughts and feelings can feel very painful. It ignites a trigger in them that sends them reeling and is the whole reason why they are not discussing their feelings in the first place.
Understanding, love and compassion can move mountains!
Kristen Brown, www.sweetempowerment.com
# Open the door and don’t slam the door in his face
1. Open the door. If possible, take a casual approach in the course of conversation when both of you have time to talk. Ask open-ended questions, following up on topics that he seems to willing to talk about. Let it flow naturally rather than pressing him with, “We need to talk.”
2. Don’t slam the door in his face. Be prepared that your man may say things you don’t want to hear. Listen with an open mind and validate his feelings and point of view, even if you don’t share them. If you don’t freak out when he tells you something, there’s a much better chance he’ll be willing to share again!
Dr. April Lok, www.doc-lok.com
# Opening up emotionally is about trust, and trust builds and strengthens in a relationship as the relationship progresses
Some people have an easier time trusting partners quickly, while others need a lot of time to adjust before they can share their emotions. To be emotionally open in a relationship can cause us to feel vulnerable and so trust acts as a safety net for when we start to share who we are. Trust is something that we can build and the following are some stepping stones along that path.
Before you start to hold expectations of others, it is important to get to know them and understand them. You cannot force anyone to change or be who you want them to be, so it is important first to start with what you know.
How we feel about our emotions and the emotions of others contributes to our willingness to participate in an emotionally intimate relationship. If the person you are involved with is not interested in an emotional relationship, there is little you can do to change that, BUT if the individual is open to building an emotional bond then growth is possible!
After you understand who your partner is, what they are looking for and what they are comfortable with, the next step is to grow to accept them for who they are, how they feel and what they want. Acceptance is a crucial component to building trust and emotional connection in a relationship because if we do not feel free to be who we are, it is much harder to build trust, and even harder to express emotions.
This kind of empathy requires deep listening and patience. Listen to them and allow them to share with you whatever they chose. Your openness will help them trust you which will in turn foster emotional relationship growth. When we are patient and allow others to be who they are and to achieve change at their own pace, then we also encourage acceptance, understanding, and decrease pressure all allowing trust to grow.
To encourage an emotionally strong relationship to blossom it is important to have realistic expectations of your partner, understand and accept them as they are, and have empathy (through listening and patience). Trust and effort on behalf of everyone included is key to building the relationship you desire!
Lisa Resnick, www.lisaresnickholistictherapy.com
# Understand the three main reasons why he may resist opening up to you
Do you often wonder what your man is thinking and feeling?
Do you feel like you need a crystal ball in order to know what’s going inside his head?
Have no fear. Dr. Love is here! There is a way to encourage even the most close-lipped guys to start spilling their emotional guts to you.
In order to help your guy talk, you need to understand the three main reasons why they resist doing so.
First: The male gender role itself encourages guys to keep their feelings close to the vest. This vest is more like a straightjacket that demands of men that they behave in a “macho” way by avoiding the appearance of weakness and vulnerability. Instead of talking about feelings, they focus instead on actions, goals and outcomes.
Second: When a man loves you he doesn’t want to hurt you. This is why many men hesitate to say what they’re thinking and feeling because they want to protect you.
Third: Men often feel inadequate when it comes to emotional communication. They are afraid to open up emotionally fraught discussions because they don’t feel able to hold their own verbally. They may also be afraid of facing your own emotional intensity–most especially your anger. Your anger upsets them more than you could ever imagine, especially when they love you and want to make you happy.
Now, that you know the three main reasons why guys resist opening up, let me give you a blueprint for handling each of these three blocks.
In the first case, you can help your guy dissolve the macho armor by reminding him that it takes a lot of courage and strength to face strong feelings. When he does exhibit the courage to put his toe in the water, make sure that you listen without judgment and thank him for sharing. When he feels good about having made this first attempt, he’ll feel braver to wade into deeper emotional waters with you.
In the second case–he’s holding back to protect you–you can help him to open up by reminding him that his silence isn’t protecting you or the relationship. On the contrary, if he doesn’t tell you what’s in his mind and heart, he could easily build up resentment, which can lead to a break up. One way to get him started is for you to ask him to grade how you’re doing as his partner. Ask him once a week what can you do to be a 10? Where are you falling short? Asking for feedback that’s couched in his own goal-oriented language will make it easier for him to start blabbing.
Third, if he’s afraid of the reaction he’s going to get from you when he opens up, it’s your job to learn how to contain your emotions so that you don’t overreact and dump intense feelings (especially anger) on him. If he sees that he can talk to you, and feel heard and not retaliated against, that will invite more and more honest communications from him.
I’ve given a few pointers on how to get even the toughest clams to open up. My book Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First) will give you a complete, step-by-step, guide on how you can help your guy to open up emotionally. Since emotional disclosure is so highly linked to relationship satisfaction, I encourage you to learn my proven methods today.
Dr. Jamie Turndorf, www.askdrlove.com
# Ask, use/learn feeling words and choose the right timing
Stereotypically, the ability to express feelings freely has been ‘women’s work’. We have grown up in a culture where ‘real men don’t cry’ and those who do are viewed as ‘weak’. As a counselor, one of the most basic elements I help clients realize is that it takes significant STRENGTH to express emotions! It can be hard work to dig through the clutter in our mind and touch the places where feelings hang out – and they do – in all of us. If your man is not particularly verbal about his emotions and you are attempting to connect on a deeper level, try this:
1. Ask : It seems simple enough but we may not be directly asking a question pertaining to our partner’s emotions. It’s possible that we assume if we talk about our feelings – our guys will just follow along. Ask a direct question about how or what they feel and keep the conversation moving. Don’t ask Yes or No questions.
2. Use/Learn Feeling Words: I sometimes find that men (and women) don’t have a large vocabulary of feeling words; they use the basics – happy, sad, and angry. Print a list of feeling words and keep it around. Make a game out of it and practice using a word a day.
3. Timing: Men are more apt to express feelings when they are relaxed. It’s probably not a good idea to ask why he’s frustrated as he is fixing a flat tire or while he’s watching a Monday night football game. Try to choose moments that are calm and when it is just the two of you.
Leslyn Kantner, www.theharmonycc.com
# Love him as he is and allow him to open at his own pace
Here are a few options to get a man to open up emotionally.
Pry him open with a crowbar. Force him. Threaten him. Withhold love from him. These options may be very tempting, but if you have tried any of these you probably found them highly ineffective. It is helpful to understand that the primary reason he is not emotionally open is FEAR. He is afraid of being hurt or being rejected or many other possibilities. Putting pressure on him to open up will only close him more or result in anger.
The paradox is that the way to “get” him to open up is to let go of the need for him to be open. Does that mean give up on him and the relationship? No, it means love him as he is and allow him to open at his own pace. Think of how the sun shines its light on flowers and allows them to bloom naturally. It doesn’t exert force but simply radiates its love, creating the perfect environment for the flower to unfold.
If you have been pressuring or trying to force him to be emotionally open, it is time to stop. Allow him to be himself and love him as such, and that will create the ideal environment for him to show his emotional “petals.”
Steve Smith, www.theenlightenedmind.net
# Create a safe place for mutual vulnerability, deep dialogue, honesty and trust
While understanding that there are many layers of knowing him and it takes time to develop emotional closeness, model a healthy expression of your feelings in your relationship. Demonstrate authenticity in who you are and how you feel by opening up at a pace that feels comfortable for you and articulating your own thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns to him. Resist the urge to push him to share more with you because it is likely that he will retreat if he feels trapped or prodded. Instead practice patience to help ensure that he does not feel forced to share and he can open up naturally.
Allow for a deeper emotional connection to occur by gaining comfort in your own emotions and withholding judgment of his. You can also create emotional safety and opportunities for him to open up by validating how he feels and appreciating who he is. Tell him what you like about him and articulate that feeling close to each other is important to you. You can show that you care and understand him through attentive body language, active listening and good eye contact. Your positive response to his words and feelings are crucial to his comfort in opening up.
Rachel Dack, www.racheldack.com
# Make sure this is what you REALLY want.
While we’ve known for a while that men are from Mars and women, from Venus, it doesn’t keep us from wanting not to have to work so hard to translate. This is what I’ve found from more than a decade in the opening-up-emotions business: men have emotions, and despite continuing cultural expectations that men toughen up, men can’t get rid of those emotions. They can, however, resent them. Women surprisingly haven’t always been helpful; I’m shocked at the times men have told me of instances where they have opened up to women, and have not gotten the caring response they were hoping for.
I’ve seen it myself, in couples therapy. So start by asking yourself, do I really want to be his safe place as he falls apart in grief, expresses anger appropriately but also emotionally, or (heaven forbid) even admit he’s scared? Don’t just tell him you’re safe, that you’ve got his back, that you can carry him; make sure you can. Picture him being emotional, even remember him when some vulnerability did show, then notice your body’s immediate response. Did it recoil, did it become a little cooler, or were you aware of an opening along your core, and a strengthening of your arms to hold? Because if he tests you, and you’re not ready, you might not get another shot for quite some time.
Inga Larson, www.ingalarson.com
# Explore why it is important to you for him to open up
Women often react to the perception that their male partners are not opening up to them with one of the following strategies. We may talk for the both of us, causing him to continue to not talk, because someone else already is. We may withdraw, feeling hurt, rejected, and frustrated, or we may pursue our partner, as though his feelings are an elusive treasure, and the more we pursue, the more he retreats, a pattern which comes to define the relationship. Needless to say, none of these strategies work and actually do more to perpetuate or even increase the pattern of him not opening up rather than lessening it. So, we can scratch out these strategies because as someone once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This is especially true when it comes to relationships.
Maybe a better place to start would be to explore why it is important to us for him to open up. What is the meaning we are placing on him doing so, and what need would his opening up be filling. My guess is that it is a need to feel connected to him. Connecting with our partner doesn’t necessarily entail his sharing something dramatic or traumatic. True connection can happen in moments of laughter and empathy expressed about the mundane frustrations of the day or the enjoyment of a shared minor experience. This can happen easily and spontaneously. Moreover, it is the true glue of a relationship and lays the foundation for having a deeper connection between partners, as the relationship evolves.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that anything we focus on increases. So, if we are focused on what we think our relationship lacks, aren’t we increasing the very thing we don’t want? Wouldn’t a better strategy be to focus on the moments of connection we have with our partner and work on the assumption that deeper connection is possible. We might ask ourselves, “If I have the connection with my partner that I want, what would my behavior be like?” and then act accordingly. In this way, we can be the partner we want to be in the relationship and create the space and possibility for our partner to step into a more open and sharing role.
Margot McClellan, www.margotmcclellan.vpweb.com
# Show him that you respect and value his thoughts and feelings
I don’t think people change their essential character, and it appears to me that men are not really as wired as women for deep emotional communication. I know this is a sweeping generalization and of course the family of origin environment plays a big part in how and what people communicate. Still this question comes up a lot more often from women regarding men than the other way around.
I think that men and women often have different expectations of friendship. Most women value verbal communication. They enjoy the intimacy and support that comes from sharing thoughts and feelings. I think women’s BFFs can be separate from the people that they might share activities with. Her favorite tennis partner may not be her best friend. For men, the tennis partner is likely to be considered a best friend. Men bond more over shared activities and experiences.
Getting men to really open up could be like getting women to really shut down. Good, respectful relationships are a compromise. You have to respect and adapt to individual personalities and preferences, rather than try to make someone become more like you. That being said, one of the gifts of marriage is the opportunity to learn from one another. Marriage can stretch you out of your comfort zone in a good way. Men can learn more about emotional connection from their partners, while women can learn to value the connection that can develop over shared activities and experiences. All people, regardless of gender will be more open in a non-judgmental, validating exchange. If you want your partner to talk, show them that you respect and value their thoughts and feelings. It’s not about agreement; it’s about listening with an open and curious mind.
Sally Leboy, www.sallyleboymft.com
# Feeling validated and respected will help him realize that sharing feelings is not just for you; but for him as well
Men & women process things differently, experience things differently, and express things differently. This can make relationships challenging; understanding and working with these differences is essential to a healthy relationship. If you feel that you’re struggling to get your partner to open up and talk about feelings, consider your own experience with self-expression. Think about the circumstances in which you are most open, honest, and expressive with your emotions. Where are you? What makes you feel most comfortable? Most importantly, who are you with when you feel you are able to express your emotions openly, and what is it about that person that makes you feel safe & accepted? People struggle to express themselves for many reasons, but there are some universal commonalities in circumstances that can help people to feel more comfortable and willing to share their feelings.
Creating an environment that feels safe, accepting, and nonjudgmental can make the difference between someone saying “I’m fine” and really telling you how they’re feeling. Share your own feelings, modeling that it can enhance the relationship and make you feel closer as a couple. Really listen when your partner is talking; don’t just wait for your turn to talk or to comment. Be aware of your expectations; what may come easy to you may be a challenge for your partner. Reinforce moments when healthy communication really takes place; tell him how you feel when he shares his feelings, and don’t minimize the effort he makes to do so. Most importantly, respect the feelings that he’s shared. Nothing makes a person want to stop sharing their feelings or thoughts like being told their feelings are wrong. Feeling validated and respected helps a person to realize that sharing feelings is not just for the other person; it’s for them as well, and ultimately, for the strength and well-being of the relationship.
Sandra DiWilliams, www.sandradiwilliamslpc.com
# Understand the language
When you have a partner that is closed off verbally with their emotions or not as open as you would like, it can be helpful to understand the language they speak. Emotionally closed off partners may be more apt to share their feelings through actions. I am not referring to long stem roses and candlelight dinners. I am talking about the ways they consider you and come through for you. If your partner isn’t interested in a serious, committed relationship with you, they are certainly not going to include you in their plans for the future (like house hunting), consult with you on major financial decisions (investments or change in employment), change their plans for you last minute (to celebrate your sister’s surprise engagement), or be available to you in times of need (death of a family member). Some people are simply not comfortable expressing themselves verbally for multiple reasons. The last thing that would help them open up is to challenge them on this or schedule times to have talks about their fear of vulnerability. This will only increase their fear and anxiety.
What can be helpful, in addition to learning their language, is giving them room to breathe and gently modeling behaviors. Don’t force them to talk about something they do not have the language for. Don’t make their fear the focus of the relationship. Do casually and occasionally share with them your feelings. Do give them room to build trust. And most importantly, learn to work within their communication style as a means to connect to their experiences!
Brynn Iacobacci, www.therapywithbrynn.com
# Opening up emotionally may make him feel inadequate- cultivate empathy and be less judgmental
Here are a few thoughts about the inner workings of the stereotypical male psyche. At the risk of stating the obvious, I’m using the word “stereotypical” because while there are thematic differences between the genders, not all men share every “classic” male characteristic. In fact, you will recognize female friends (or even yourself) in some of these. I have one particular relationship with a female where she embodies these patterns, while I embody more of the stereotypical feminine patterns in the relationship of wanting to have more emotional sharing, self-disclosure, processing of the relationship, etc.
1. When you’re asking your guy to open up emotionally, you’re asking him to do something that he has been culturally programmed to learn is not safe—I think Deborah Tannen’s work on how boys and girls grow up in very different cultures within the same culture and how that influences their approach to communication and relationship is a really helpful resource for understanding the very different world most men come out of, as it relates to opening up emotionally.
2. When you ask your guy to open up emotionally, you are very possibly asking him to feel incompetent— because most men don’t have lots of experience, or positive experience, with exploring and sharing their feelings, and because their brains are wired differently than women in terms of their ability to access their emotions, most men are just not as skilled or comfortable with sharing emotions as women are. Since no one likes to feel like a failure, no one wants to feel incompetent, many men shy away from having these kinds of discussions because to them, “opening up emotionally” equals “being inadequate and being seen as inadequate.
Remembering these principles can help you cultivate greater empathy and therefore less judgment around what you might see as a failing. This not only helps your emotional well-being, your guy also picks up on this and feeling more safe and accepted, he is more likely to step outside his comfort zone.
David Lee, www.humannatureatwork.com
# Honor the differences between men and women
Men do not have the same needs as women, especially when it comes to opening up and sharing emotions, generally speaking. Studies have shown that a man’s brain is literally wired differently than a woman’s, so honoring these differences is key to developing a strong, healthy relationship.
Men typically “say what they mean and mean what they say.” They do not analyze the words and tones of each conversation in the way women often do. In a general sense, you can take what a man says at face value – you do not need to read into it. Also note that men are not usually reading into what you are saying.
Because of this difference, if you want him to open up with you emotionally, you will probably have to ask direct questions. Dropping hints does not usually work very well.
In conclusion, it is best to honor your male companion for how he does communicate and what works well for him, rather than trying to change him to be more like you.
If he is not sharing enough for you, then maybe you need to look elsewhere. Either he may not be the right partner for you, or you may need to get some of our emotional needs met from other sources, such as a good girlfriend. A partner cannot possibly give you 100% of everything you need. You must have friends and other people in your life to balance you out.
Kimberly Atwood, www.KimAtwood.com
# Don’t write his script for him
Before I became a psychotherapist, I earned a living as a scriptwriter. My ability to give life to characters through dialogue was a gift and a curse. I learned early on that while many enjoyed reading and performing my work (the gift), screenwriting has no place within a relationship (the curse).
My former colleague once jokingly declared during supervision, “I’m a man, I don’t discuss my feelings.” Although he meant it to illustrate the resistance of some men to explore their feelings in treatment, it rang true for many men in relationships.
One way to counter this resistance and open up the lines of communication is to stress to partners, the need to check their screenwriter’s pen and director’s hat at the door.
Men typically express themselves when they feel free to share their thoughts and ideas. That type of environment cannot come about when partners insist on telling them what they should say, how they should say it and even when they should say it. That is not healthy communication; it is interaction between a writer/director and an actor.
The goal is to establish and maintain a mutually respectful dialogue and that can only take place when partners provide a forum in which that goal is evident.
Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey, www.rocanddoc.webs.com
# Exude a calm and non -reactive energy and let him know that you are there for him
Women are great communicators. A woman’s brain is prewired to use speech as a main form of expression; multi -tracking conversations thinking out loud, and listing problems and possible solutions. Men however, evolved as hunters, protectors and warriors. They could not show uncertainty, so a man will talk inside his head to work out a problem and only when he has an answer will he speak. Women need to understand that when a man doesn’t talk, that is not a cue that something is wrong.
If you want your man to open up more and talk about his feelings, you need to make him feel comfortable doing so.
Be the woman who makes it easy and a pleasurable experience for him to unburden himself and share his thoughts and problems. If you exude a calm and non -reactive energy, listen more than you speak, and let him know that you are there for him, he will be more inclined to share with you. He will feel safe with you and be able to say what’s in his heart.
Marla Martenson, www.marlamartenson.com
# Show, consistently, that you are supportive and understanding
The eponymous metaphor, men are from Mars, women are from Venus, is popular for good reason: like people from different countries (or planets), men and women are culturally disparate. Men share a unique set of values and expectations of themselves which shape their emotional experience and, in turn, how they choose to conduct themselves. As women, it is important to be culturally sensitive in our relationships with men.
When you find yourself getting frustrated at your man’s doings or non-doings it is important to stop and ask yourself two things
1. Why is he behaving this way?
2. How is my behavior influencing his behavior?
If you find your man avoids talking about emotional things, whether mild or severe, it is particularly useful to ask yourself these questions. Men tend to avoid experiencing and/or expressing emotion because, culturally speaking, that is not a man’s job–that is what women are for! So, to make them feel more comfortable, it is necessary to gauge your behavior.
Show, consistently, that you are supportive and understanding. You can do this by not reacting strongly to their expression of emotion or communication of honest opinions. Regardless of how their words make you feel it is necessary for you to validate what they have to say. “I hear what you are saying;” “It sounds you are feeling [insert emotion];” or “I understand that you feel that way” are all great validating statements. If you do this, they will be more likely to express themselves in the future.
Dr. Anna Morfe, www.behavioralhealthconnect.com
# It is important to honor our partner’s authentic feelings and autonomy, even as we honor our own
When people hold back from disclosing personal feelings there is often some sense that it is not safe to open up. For couples, this may stem from fear of being judged and rejected – for example, “you’re so immature,” “you never take responsibility,” “you would want to do this if you loved me”. These attitudes send a signal that it is not okay to be your own person, with impulses and desires that may or may not be suited to someone else’s agenda. It is important to honor our partner’s authentic feelings and autonomy, even as we honor our own. What this means for communication is to bring your sense of humor with you and get ready to hear some differences that will need to be talked through.
For example, your relationship partner may want to spend vacation fishing or having an outdoor adventure and not with your family. That is understandable. And when they choose to spend vacation days at a family event, will you appreciate the flexibility and investment in your relationship or distance yourself, focusing on how it is not top choice? Knowing and accepting your partner makes negotiations more inviting and meaningful – less about obligation and more about gestures of love.
Find more communication resources here: www.drmelindadouglass.com/resources–links.html (e.g. antidotes to Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in couple relationships)
Dr. Melinda Douglass, www.drmelindadouglass.com
# He needs to know that he will be heard without judgement or criticism
First of all, let’s agree that the idea that men don’t know what they feel and can’t open up emotionally is a generalization and not true for all men. But many do struggle in this department, and for the women who love them, it can be a source of constant relationship stress. Let’s take a look at how they might get that way. Men are reared as little boys in our culture to express their emotional lives less than little girls. How many poor little boys have been shamed when expressing fear or sadness? They learn to keep “a stiff upper lip”, “to be a brave little soldier” and “to never let them see you sweat!” We fall in love with them as men because they’re strong, silent, stoic, in control, strong and brave. Then, we put them in our “rehabilitation program” to try to turn them into our girlfriends. Once in a relationship, we pressure and bully them to relate to us like women.
This doesn’t work, Ladies! For a man to open up emotionally, he must feel completely safe with you. He needs to know that he will be heard without judgement or criticism.
Let’s face it, sometimes we are very good talkers and really could learn to be better listeners. Men will talk and open up if you provide enough time, space and curiosity about them. If you want to get your man to open up:
–get interested in what he wants to share (Tell me about what happened at work today? About your new car? About how the Dodgers are doing?)
–learn to listen with interest and without interupting
–ask furthering questions about what you are hearing (Then what happened? How did you feel about that? What did you do?)
–resist the temptation to tell him what he “should” be feeling or doing (You should have told him that hurt your feelings. You shouldn’t have yelled)
–do away with criticism, cynicism, complaining, and whining
Mary Kay Cocharo, www.mkcocharo.com
# Kiss your man’s E-spot
When my husband and I were discussing the topic of emotional openness the other day, I found it interesting that we had different views on what constitutes a man being emotionally open. My husband said he is open with me because he is able to freely express his love and affection towards me. But as a self-proclaimed Intimacy Expert, I told him that for a woman, opening up emotionally isn’t simply being loving or affectionate towards her, but rather, being vulnerable with her.
After giving some thought to our conversation, I realized that both of us are correct. I think thar BOTH being loving and being vulnerable are elements of the “E-Spot”- a man’s emotional spot.
So how can a woman best stimulate a man’s E-spot?
Simple, you KISS it! And I am talking about the acronym “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
From my decades of professional experience as well as my own personal relationships, I think women for the most part believe men are more complicated than they really are.
So the first question I would recommend a woman who is struggling to get her man to open up emotionally is: “Am I making this emotionally complicated?”
Be brutally honest with yourself and work towards developing a good balance of emotion and comfort. However this process takes time, patience and practice and a skilled Intimacy Expert can also help you achieve that…
Dr. Marla Reis, www.drmarlareis.com
# Understand that creating deep connection means something different for everyone
Do you find yourself in relationships with men who appear to have difficulty sharing their feelings? There is an unfortunate, yet, pervasive, stereotype that it’s not “manly” to talk about emotions. One question to consider when looking for emotional connection is “How long have you been in the relationship? “ Healthy relationships take time to bring down boundaries. Sharing deep feelings, fears or insecurities can make you feel vulnerable. Male or female, either partner wants to feel safe that they won’t be criticized or judged.
Creating deep connection means something different for everyone. If you are a woman who feels connection by having a dialogue about what you experience, that doesn’t mean your significant other has the same feeling or need. It also doesn’t mean that he is emotionally unavailable. If you notice something is bothering him, tell him you are aware something is wrong and ask him what he needs. If he won’t open up at that moment, let him be. Emotionally self- aware individuals will process when they are ready. If his pattern is to shut you out, he may not be able or won’t. In this case, if you are in a committed relationship, see an experienced therapist. Having a non-biased professional can help you both learn how to communicate in a healthy way in order to facilitate bonding and emotional intimacy. If this relationship is fairly new, you may want to consider moving on to someone who is more emotionally open.
Jacqueline V. Cohen, www.therapymama.com
# Be open, empathetic and non-judgmental
The greatest ways to get a guy to open up emotionally are:
Dr. Barbara Sherry Rose, www.borntoinspire.com
# The first step in helping your man express his feelings is to first assure him, through both words and actions, that it is ok
In our society men are taught to be tough and strong. They play with trucks, get dirty and are often told to “toughen up” or “suck it up”. Feelings are tend to be associated with femininity. If you show emotions you are “acting like a girl” because women are taught to vocalize their emotions and generally speak more. This can cause a lot of problems in relationships since men have all the same feelings as women but may not know how to articulate them. Therefore, the first step in helping your man express his feelings is to first assure him, through both words and actions, that it is ok. Specifically, that your definition of a strong man is one that is secure enough in himself to show his emotions.
Emotional intelligence is a learned skill. We are all born with the same feelings but we are not all equally educated on what to do with them. Additionally, because our culture does not foster this skill in little boys, it is important to recognize that he may not know the correct terms associated with his feelings. He also may not know how to deal with strong emotions when they arise in himself or you. Be patient and allow for a learning curve. You can lead by example when you articulate your needs and feelings to him. Help him along by telling him what you need to hear from him. For example you might say, “When ______ happens it causes me to feel__________. What I need from you is___________.” Allowing yourself to open up and be vulnerable will help your partner let down his guard as well.
Amber Lonsdale, www.dunestherapy.com
# Follow these 4 steps to have a deep connection with him
Before providing a tip on this very necessary topic, I did get the male perspective from my business partner (who is also my husband) on how to open up a man emotionally. My husband first spoke about bringing up this conversation of working on communicating emotions over dinner. I thought he was joking, but over time this concept began to make more sense to me.
Step 1. Nurture yourself and your relationship.
Gently bring this topic up while dining with your love. Begin the conversation from a loving and compassionate place. Tell him you enjoy his company and that you appreciate spending time with him. Maintain loving eye contact and romantic physical touch such as hand holding.
Step 2. You must communicate openly first before he will.
As you’re talking to your love, speak about what you LOVE and are GRATEFUL for about him. Walk him through what you value in him as a man and your partner. Personalize your examples and provide specific moments when he was most supportive, helpful, and loving.
Step 3. Speak his language and be specific.
Men are often concise with their words and decisive about what actions they need to take in order to get what they want. State briefly and succinctly what actions you are willing to take to improve the relationship. Name your shortcomings openly. Then note that you would love it if he could share with you a few moments from his day using feeling words. Ex: “I felt frustrated when my boss criticized me in front of everyone.” (PS- This exercise will create a habit for him so he will be inclined to express more feelings willingly in the future
Step 4. Entice through sharing your vision and how it will benefit him.
Paint the picture of how things will be massively better once he shows an effort in becoming more emotionally open. Let’s face it, you’ll both: be happier people, most likely make more money, travel more, improve your health, improve your appearance, have better and more sex, and will attract greater opportunities in your life once your relationship deepens and improves.
Brooke Campbell, www.creativekinections.com
# Make him feel heard, understood, needed and valued
After a lot of energy is put into flirting, dating, and going out , it is very exciting when a woman feel s she has finally met a man she can laugh with, have fun with, feel attracted to, and have good conversations with.
The rush of the excitement that comes from meeting someone she really likes, and the thoughts that ensue about pursuing a relationship with this person ,can feel exhilarating and as well as instill a lot of feelings of vulnerability . The questions that arise are: will I be able to truly be myself with this person, will we be able to emotionally connect, and will both of us be able to honestly share our deep feelings with each other ,as well as our core values about how we live, and our self doubts and fears ?
Women in general, develop strong networks and friendships with other women and develop this over years of bonding . Women become closer through conversation and spending time getting to know each other, confiding in one another, and sharing the ups and downs of life experiences together. They learn how to interact with each other and emotionally connect. Men, on the other hand, usually bond in their same sex relationships through physical activities such as sports, or going to a variety of events together , and learn that it is easier for them, in a lot of instances, to open up and be more emotionally intimate with women than men.
Therefore, the stage is set for men to see a relationship with a woman as a space and place to emotionally connect and open up. These are some suggestions about how to help a man open up and express himself:
-Make sure that you put aside time where you can sit and talk together. This should be when you are able to give full eye contact , and not have other distractions , such as the computer or tv on. This ensures that you can really listen and respond to each other. Men do not multi task as well as women do.
-Men like to feel heard and understood, but also like to feel that there is feedback given and that options for problem solving are discussed.
-Men like to feel that a woman has self awareness and self control of her own emotions. When a woman can model that she is able to express a variety of emotions in a way that is articulated and clear than a man feels safe to do the same.
-Men want to feel needed and valued, so it is important that women are aware of this and give constructive criticism as well as signs of appreciation and concrete strategies for how to help men deal with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The hope is, if there is initial attraction and compatibility, then men will be able to open up and express their feelings over time, and that the relationship will feel fulfilling to both partners in a variety of ways.
Stephanie Newberg, www.stephanienewberg.com
# Understand that men express their emotions through actions
Generally speaking, men express their emotions through actions and women express emotions through conversation. Because most women process their emotions verbally and/or in writing, they want the same from men. The best way to get a man to open up emotionally is to not expect him to behave like a woman in this regard.
Asking a man to open up in ways that aren’t natural for him will only drive him away, so do your best to honor his perspective. If a man is into you, he will likely communicate his feelings through loving behavior like being reliable and following through on what he promises. When you see that a man is behaving in ways that make you feel respected and appreciated, let him know that you are grateful. As he begins to feel more and more comfortable with you, he will likely open up more about his feelings in spoken and written words.
Dr. Amy Wood, amywoodpsyd.com
# Make it safe
As a rule, we women like to talk. Men, not so much. Especially when it comes to the awful “F-word”— Feelings. That is just not safe territory for most men. They avoid it, shut down, turn to anger as their default “feeling,” or they try to fix it. But odds are, many men would have trouble even identifying their feelings because no one has ever really asked. And if they have been asked, they have probably been shut down.
So make it safe.
1. Don’t assume because you’re ready to talk about something that he is ready.
2. Honor his process. Generally, men process feelings differently than women. Don’t expect his process to mirror yours.
3. When he does start to open up, listen, don’t talk. Don’t judge. Don’t correct him. Don’t analyze him. Don’t tell him why he’s wrong to have those feelings.
4. Express your appreciation that he was able to share difficult feelings with you. Validate his feelings even if you disagree. Validating isn’t about agreement. It’s about saying: “I hear you and I can see how you would feel that way.” (Don’t follow that statement with a “… but…”)
5. When it’s your turn to tell him how you feel about something, use “I” statements. Don’t accuse. Don’t criticize. Tell him how you feel and why. The way you talk to your man about something that is significant to you can either invite safety for him to participate in the conversation, or it will shut him down.
6. Talk while doing something else. Go for a walk. Cook dinner together. Sometimes it’s easier for a man to be emotionally open when he is physically occupied.
If your guy is emotionally shut down, consider what experiences taught him that expressing his feelings was bad or unsafe territory. Make it your goal to create new experiences that allow him to open up.
Bobbi Jankovich, www.bobbijankovich.com
# Make it safe for him to be honest with his deepest emotions, without risk of shame, judgment and ridicule
Most heterosexual men have been socialized to repress their feelings, particularly their feelings of vulnerability. They perceive vulnerability as a sign of weakness, and are arguably both biologically and socially wired to be providers and protectors. So you can see why being vulnerable is not considered a comfortable state for a man. And opening up about your feelings requires vulnerability. It leaves you vulnerable to judgement from others and undefended to potential “attack.” This is where a girlfriend or wife can help her man open up emotionally.
A man needs a safe place to be honest with his deepest emotions, without risk of shame, judgment and ridicule. You can be that place for him. Men do occasionally open up, often in a way that serves as a “test” of how open he can be with you. How you respond determines how safe he feels to reveal more of himself to you.
When a man expresses his emotions:
1. Actively Listen. This means no interrupting, no preparing your next statement or argument in your head in rebuttal as he speaks, making a mockery of him or exhibiting behaviors like bursting out in tears, throwing things or shutting down to what he is saying. It means being present with him no matter what he is saying in an effort to truly understand him.
2. Treat him as if he has the best of intentions (unless his pattern of behavior has shown you otherwise). Even if what he did or is sharing is hard for you personally, your willingness to accept his truth translates to him as you understanding him. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he generally meant well translates to him as you think he is a good guy. This will encourage him to open up to you more and to be more vulnerable.
3. Give him the space to open up. In the heat of an argument, a man may feel attacked and may withdraw or become angry or defensive. If you can remain calm while expressing your negative feelings to him and directly express what you need from him to feel better, you start the real conversation. Then give him the time to consider your request. It may mean 20 minutes, a couple hours, a week or a month or more, depending on what it is. But forcing a man to change or meet your needs will not leave a good, lasting result. The choice has to be his to move toward you.
4. Pick your battles and your battlefield. Knowing when to let an annoyance be or bringing it to the forefront of your relationship can be key in building emotional openness in a relationship. And selecting an appropriate time and place to address the issue might determine how he feels about being safe enough to express his feelings too.
5. Talk about your feelings from a place of no blame. Most good men truly want to make their women happy. If you are not happy, help him see how he could make you happy without feeling like he isn’t good enough or incapable of making you happy.
6. Show appreciation when he does make you happy. Like sharing your feelings when you are upset with him, acknowledging when he pleases you is equally important. If he feels like he is appreciated and admired, he will feel better about his connection with you. If he’s feeling connected to you, he’s more likely to be vulnerable with you.
7. Don’t rush to help him. If he expresses he is feeling down or powerless, don’t assume he wants you to help him do anything. Just be there as a support system, his teammate, his cheerleader. If he needs help to fix a problem, he will likely ask for it. Rushing to make things better for him might actually push him away. Most men feel better when they feel they overcame an obstacle on their own. You rushing to fix it for him can be experienced as embarrassing or shameful that you didn’t trust he could fix it himself. If they can’t, they will normally ask for your help.
8. Ask a man what he thinks, not what he feels. Most men can easily tell you their opinions, but accessing their feelings is much harder. It’s not their fault, society has discouraged it. Asking a man what he thinks first and then using that later in the discussion to ask about his feelings on the matter might make identifying his feelings and verbalizing them out loud easier.
Jennifer Musselman, www.jennifermusselman.com
# Cultivate a sense of safety and an environment of trust
If you want openness from your partner, you must first be open yourself. If you want honesty from your partner, you must first be honest towards him. Openness is rooted in trust. First, cultivate a sense of safety and an environment of trust.
The idea of looking for ways to get your partner to communicate more deeply suggests that you want to elicit a certain behavior, which he may or may not be able to deliver. Being open means being able to see your partner for who he is, and not expect him to communicate in the same way that you do. Sometimes, he simply won’t have the words. Other times, he may not even know exactly how he feels. Can you imagine the sense of impotence a demand for feelings might invoke in someone who feels truly unable to access them? It could easily create an atmosphere of pressure, and your partner will likely respond with fight, flight or freeze.
I think this excerpt from Osho’s love, freedom, aloneness is fitting:
“If you want to bring roses into your garden, forget about the roses and take care of the rosebush. Give nourishment to it, water it, take care that it gets the right amount of sun, water. If everything is taken care of, in the right time the roses are destined to come. You cannot bring them earlier, you cannot force them to open up sooner.”
Be gentle, be kind, be honest and be open; both with yourself and with your partner. He will meet you there in his time and in his way.
Elizabeth Baum, www.elizabethbaumintegral.com
# It’s important to know what’s at play
As a relationship coach I hear a typical theme that many couples encounter in their relationship dance. “He never talks to me; he just wants to watch TV.” “She’s always nagging me to talk about how I feel. She’s never satisfied!” These are conversations guided (usually unconsciously) by something called attachment-styles.
Recent research on attachment theory has helped us understand more about what makes relationships work and how to heal relationships that have gotten off track. A woman with an anxious attachment style is going to seek reassurance from her partner that the relationship is solid. If her partner is an avoidant style, he may feel annoyed or even angry if his partner wants him to open up and share his feeling, and will often opt to keep her at arm’s length. When he withdraws, her anxiety goes up and she may pursue him for reassurance, which makes him want to withdraw even more. This dance of pursue/withdraw can be very painful for both parties and can lead to divorce if not dealt with.
What is the way out of this cycle of pain?
1. Know your attachment style. This knowledge will help you to understand your reactions and interactions in the context of the relationship.
2. Understanding all of the attachment styles will allow you to also understand your partner better.
3. Seek professional help from someone knowledgeable in attachment theory if improving the relationship is something you desire.
Ana Loiselle, www.analoiselle.com
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