By Beth Nyaga
Have you ever experienced this? Things are going well with your guy. So well, as a matter of fact, that when you start feeling insecure about something or want to share something you think he’ll perceive as “negative,” you keep it inside. You’re afraid that by being honest with him, you’ll rock the boat.
Even worse, you end up feeling even more scared and lonely because he doesn’t seem to be sharing what he’s thinking with you, either. So you start pretending everything’s okay, even when you’re just dying to ask him if something’s wrong.
I know how confusing and frustrating this can be, because I used to feel that way all the time.
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.
1. 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!
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.
2. Pay attention to your own reaction when your partner shares his thoughts, opinions or feelings
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.
3. 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.
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.
4. Reveal yourself as well
There must be mutual disclosure between partners. Everybody has problems, fears and skeletons in the closet.
Many guys think, “If I share this, she’ll leave me.” You have to show that this is not the case by revealing something about yourself that shows you have as much trust in him as he has in you.
When he starts to open up, listen to what he is saying, then take a step beyond and offer something positive in return.
Make sure as you give him feedback, that you take his side. Many women listen to the stories that men tell only to respond by telling him how he’s been looking at it wrong. They take the side of someone else.
In a story about work, for example, it’s the coworker he’s been having a hard time with. It is important, however, that you look at the situation from his point of view. This is not a time to teach or train him, it’s a time to “make friends.”
5. Let Go of the Past
Have you ever had a “discussion” with your partner that ended up turning into a litany of past grievances, the things he did wrong, the ways he hurt you, and what he owes you now? It happens at some point in nearly every relationship, but the fact remains; men cringe when they feel this coming.
When a man fears that his words will later be distorted, misunderstood, told to others or thrown back at him, it is impossible for him to open up.
The only way to move beyond this communication trap is to realize that whatever happened in the past, whatever he did or said, you were involved as well.
All relationships are dances.
No one is entirely good and no one entirely bad.
In fact, rather than seeing anyone as good or bad, it is more useful to notice the roles being played in the relationship and the ways in which all of us become stuck in patterns that we don’t know how to get out of.
6. Men are not mind-readers
If you want your man to express how he is feeling for you, stop giving him the mental torture.
Women have their own way of talking to each other that most men will never understand.
If you want to get your man to share his feelings, speak in a language that he will understand. Most women like to say things even when they mean differently.
If you want to tell your man about something, speak in such a way that he would not have to guess or seek to find a different meaning.
When you are feeling upset, let him know that you are upset, instead of saying that you are okay.
Do not speak in codes so that your man can express his feelings for you without the risk of being misunderstood.