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Being vulnerable and speaking about your emotions in your relationship is very important. But what happens when your partner struggles with this?
Our reader Sophie asked for advice because her husband “internalises everything, blocks his feelings and won’t talk about them.”
“We have now reached a place where we can no longer communicate about our relationship or how we feel,” she said. “His responses to stressful situations are impatience, anger and more stress.
“As soon as I try to explain how something has made me feel he can’t deal [with it], he’ll walk away saying ‘I can’t do this now’. I’m not sure where to go or how to move forward from here.”
This can certainly put a strain on a relationship, so what can you do to help?
Counselling Directory member Kathryn Taylor says if your partner is reacting to conversations about how they’re feeling by withdrawing or getting angry it’s often due to anxieties caused by fear.
“This may be from rejection, previous bad experiences with others, or shame at not being able to cope with their feelings,” she says. “Their way of distracting from having to face up to that is to react with anger and withdraw.”
How can I get my partner to speak about their emotions?
“In a moment where emotions aren’t running high and you are both calm, ask them for a time that suits them when you can talk about things. Try to ensure that this doesn’t come across as confrontational or aggressive,” Taylor suggests.
Taylor adds that during these conversations ensure that you’re both taking time to really listen to what the other person is saying. “Check your understanding of what they are saying, repeat back to them what you heard and ask if that’s accurate, ask questions for clarity and understanding.
“Ask them what they would like to do about the situation/issue? This can be difficult as our natural reaction can be to try to resolve the issues for them and make them feel better, this can have the effect of them not feeling listened to or their feelings being in some way invalidated.”
Irrespective of what they share, you should aim to remain calm and supportive and reassure them that it doesn’t change how you feel about them.
“It is important to remain calm and ensure that no matter what they say you create an environment that allows them to share their feelings and provide the love, security and acceptance that they fear they may not receive or may be withdrawn if they are open and honest with you,” says Taylor.
Additionally Taylor says you shouldn’t expect one conversation to be enough to address all of your concerns. “This process will take time to happen,” she says. “Start slowly and focus on areas that aren’t as emotionally charged for you both, start with small topics initially.”
Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.