Women love to complain that their husbands or partners never express their feelings. Often women get angry because they think that their partners don’t have feelings and don’t really care.
In my work as a psychotherapist, I help men learn how to express their feelings every day. I know from many years of experience that men do have feelings, and that when they feel safe and supported, they can definitely learn to express them.
Healthy relationships do require that men and women learn to discuss their feelings with each other. I believe that we, as women, need to help our partners overcome the old programming that says real men don’t show their feelings.
8 Tools to Help the Man You Love Talk about His Feelings
I’ve put together some tools you can use if you want to help your partner learn how to show you more of what’s really in his heart:
1. Remember that your partner does have feelings even if he doesn’t know how to express them. He’s just been trained and programmed since childhood not to communicate them. Show him what a healthy relationship is by talking about your feelings with ‘I-messages’ and without attacking him.
2. Show him that you love him and that you’re on his side every day. You can do this in lots of little ways, like hugging him hello and goodbye, complimenting him everyday about something you value or appreciate about your relationship and by doing little things to show him you care.
3. Ask him open-ended questions and listen without interrupting. If he starts to talk and you interrupt him or make him wrong in some way, he’ll probably shut you out and go into his cave. Healthy relationships require that both partners really listen to each other.
4. Paraphrase back to your partner what you heard him say with feeling words. For example “When you talk about your job, you sound frustrated and overwhelmed.” Then ask him whether you heard him accurately or not. Paraphrasing back what your partner says will benefit your relationship, because it helps you both to slow down and really understand each other.
5. Don’t let yourself REACT to what he says. Instead, learn to RESPOND calmly, by sharing what you feel and why you feel that way. Even though you may think you can’t control your reactions, you CAN absolutely learn to stop yourself and talk calmly. Reacting is just an old habit that can be broken with time and practice.
6. When you have feelings you want to share with him, use the ‘feelings formula.’ It has 4 steps: “When you… I feel… because I need… and I’d appreciate…”
- “When you” is completely non-judgmental, and non-evaluative.
- “I feel” is a message about yourself and your personal feelings, like “I’m scared” or “I’m hurt.”
- “Because I need” is a universal need, not “I need you to change.” It’s what anyone would need in that situation, like “I need compassion,” or “I need understanding” or “I need support.”
- “I’d appreciate” is a specific, do-able request, like “I’d appreciate if you would call and let me know if you’re going to be later than we planned.” Utilizing these simple steps will help you learn to discuss difficult relationship issues without attacking each other.
- For example, “When you tell me you’re coming home for dinner and then show up late, I feel hurt and frustrated, because I need respect and cooperation. I’d really appreciate if you would call and let me know if you’re going to be later than you planned.”
7. Treat everything your partner shares with you as sacred ground! Never, ever use the sacred feelings he has shared in confidence against him when you’re angry. Your relationship could be permanently damaged by doing that.
8. Always thank him for trusting you–even if you’ve known him for 30 years! Letting him know how much you appreciate his heart-felt sharing makes him want to try again next time. Your relationship will be so much better and stronger when you can discuss your feelings with each other in healthy ways!
If you’d like to learn more, check out Chapter 13 in my book Choosing Light-Heartedness, A 33 Day Journey to Overcome Anxiety, Depression and Dysfunctional Family Issues. You’ll find lots of great information there!
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