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I have trouble expressing my feelings and my needs in a relationship. Any tips?
This is SO common, and the number one reason why is because of the V word…
Vulnerability. (What did you think I meant????)
Talking is hard. Talking about your feelings is H A R D.
Talking to your partner about your feelings is scary because it feels like there are no take backs. Once you say what you’re feeling, it’s out. (Remember: this is normally a good thing.)
The first thing I would do is some introspection. Assess why it’s difficult for you to open up.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I feel like my partner is a safe person to open to?
- If the answer is yes, skip #2 and continue.
- If the answer is no, consider the reasons why.
- Has this person hurt you considerably in the past? Have you opened up to them before, and didn’t feel that they cared or listened? In this case, consider the relationship as a whole. A relationship can’t survive without a basic respect for one another. Consider bringing this worry to your partner, or consider finding a new partner.
If you’ve thought about it and decided your partner IS someone who is safe to open up to…
- Then it’s the dreaded answer we all hate: it’s time to look within yourself about why it’s difficult to open up. Here are some prompts to get you thinking:
- Are you projecting insecurities, worries, or doubts from a past relationship?
- This isn’t fair to your current partner. This doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person, but it’s time to do some internal work to figure out how to move forward in your current relationship and leave your baggage in the past.
- While finding a therapist to help would be my recommendation, I realize that may not be attainable for everyone. Try writing in a journal, taking some time to yourself, or talking to a trustworthy friend about what’s happening.
- Consider your upbringing.
- Were you raised in household where emotions were discussed? Or was it filled with silent treatments and unresolved arguments that just fizzled out over time?
- Our childhood has a profound effect on our romantic relationships. Consider how your childhood shaped you, and if you carry any negative coping styles.
- Again, a therapist would be the best way to work through this, as understanding how your childhood has affected you is perhaps some of the most challenging work to begin.
- Are you prioritizing your relationship?
- Are you staying late at work? Do you have too many commitments? Is this keeping you from considering your own emotional needs?
- If you have kids, are you so consumed by their needs that you don’t even have time to consider your own, let alone your partner’s?
Once you feel like you’re ready to try to talk to your partner, use these helpful tips.
- If your partner is someone who likes to fall asleep as soon as his/her head hits the pillow, don’t bring up your inner most feelings at bed time. This will frustrate them.
- Consider your partner’s mood.
- Are they late coming home because there was an accident on the freeway and they sat in traffic for an hour? àWait to chat.
- Did they just get back from a run and are feeling great and energized? àCapitalize on these endorphins.
- Consider writing down your feelings first.
- Are you one of those people who has an amazing speech planned, and then loses it all the moment you sit down to talk to someone?
- If you write down your thoughts before hand, or even read directly from a piece of paper, this ensures the right message will come across to your partner.
- Focus on your feelings, not your partner’s.
- This ensures it doesn’t feel like you’re putting words in their mouth (every person on the planet hates that).
- Use the word “I” as much as possible.
- Consider starting the conversation by acknowledging how hard it is for you to talk about your feelings.
- As I always say, honesty is the best policy. This lays a solid foundation so your partner has realistic expectations.
- Something like, “I need to talk to you about something, but I’m reallllllyyy bad at saying how I feel, so I would appreciate your patience.”
Saying how we feel is always scary until we actually do it and see the positive results. Practice opening up to your partner with smaller, more manageable emotions and work up to the big ones.
You can do this!