How to get your partner to open up
An important part of growing intimacy is sharing thoughts, dreams, fears and stories from our past. As we get deeper into a relationship with someone most people open up more and more until they get to the point where they feel that there is little that their partner doesn’t know about them and that they could talk to them about absolutely anything.
Women tend to be more emotionally open than men because for the most part they develop deep connections with other people through talking, while men develop them through sharing experiences and doing things together. There are of course many women who are reluctant to open up and many men who are very open. If you are with someone who is reluctant to open up to you it can be a painful and difficult place to be especially if you are a very open person yourself.
We tend to open up to people we trust and not being open in a relationship can be perceived as a lack of trust which is why it is so painful. The irony of it is that the more you back off and trust that someone will open up to you in their own time the more likely they are to trust you. Some people have had painful experiences in the past or are simply more introverted and it is not in their nature to share deeply but as the relationship develops they may naturally want to show more of themselves but not if they are forced or pushed.
Be patient and stay open yourself even when you feel frustrated, hurt or angry – fight the impulse to shut down and withdraw your love. Keep talking to your partner about how you feel and stay connected to them even when it is painful. Through consistently staying open yourself you will be showing your partner that your love is unconditional and that they can really trust you to be there come what may. Trust them and they might be more open in the future.
Get them to open up about past pain
Sometimes people want their partner to open up to them because they believe they may have painful events in their past that have been hinted at but not really unpacked– for example childhood trauma; dysfunctional relationships or even criminal offences. No matter how well you think something is covered up the past has a way of seeping out and affecting your life today unless you are open about it. The more you try to hide it the more it crops up.
If you have a partner who you know has had a troubled past one way of encouraging them to open up is to talk about people who have had similar experiences – maybe in the media or on a documentary – and how courageous you think they are for overcoming their problems and making a new life for themselves. Maybe not straight away, but eventually your partner will come to see that you are not likely to judge them on what happened in the past and they you will accept them as they are today, then they may open up to you.
Share your feelings
Some couple’s favourite topic of conversation is their relationship – they talk about how they feel; what they appreciate about each other and how excited they are about the future. They say if they are worried, happy or appreciative and bask in the warm glow of hearing what a wonderful effect their love has had on their partner’s life and their perception of themselves. One of the most romantic lines ever spoken by Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets is ‘You make me want to be a better man’ – many men may feel like that but how many actually say it?
In order for a plant to thrive it needs water and in order for a relationship to survive and thrive it needs at least some sharing of this kind. People need feedback and if you are with someone who is very closed off and doesn’t tell you how they feel about you or the relationship it will be very difficult to develop true intimacy. Talk to your partner and tell them what you need. If they aren’t great saying things face to face ask them to write you a letter or an email. If they still won’t open up in this way and it is something you really need it may be that they are not right for you, but remember that people show their love and affection in different ways, maybe through actions more than words and its important to accept someone as they are rather than try and change them.
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