He Said, She Said: How Do I Get My Partner To Open Up?

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Relationships: How Do I Get My Partner To Share Emotions?
Words and phrases that will help your partner share their emotions with you.

"He said," from Brock Hansen:

Words or phrases to use with a man:


  • "I need.."
  • "I am afraid..."
  • "It is so important to me..."
  • "I miss you..."
  • "I love it when..."

A man likes to be seen as the protector. When a woman tells him she needs him to hold her, to listen, or to do something specific in bed or for an anniversary, he knows how to succeed and is motivated to do so. If she says, "I love it when you tell me about when we first met and how you felt that night," he is more likely to comply, because it's specific. If she says, "I am afraid that we are losing touch with each other, and it helps me to hear you talk about your feelings, even your frustrations, so that we know what the problems are," he is more likely to risk talking about problems that he doesn't have a solution to because she has framed it that way, by saying "Talking about problems is part of the solution for me."

Starting a conversation by volunteering her feelings first also makes it less threatening. "I am afraid," "I need," or "I love it when" are more inviting than "What are you feeling?" to a man. A man's response to the latter usually ranges from "How will my answer get me into trouble?" to "Am I supposed to know what I am feeling?"

Words or phrases not to use with a man:

  • "Why do you always...?"
  • "Why can't you...?"
  • "What are you thinking?"
  • "You know what pisses me off?"

Questions that begin with "Why do you" or "Why can't you" imply judgment or criticism, to which the man will respond with shame and defensive anger. This tends to close down conversation or send up roadblocks of defensive counter-criticism. If you need to tell your man that you are angry, it can be helpful to stress the need part: "I need to tell you something." "I am upset because of something, and I need your help in getting it straightened out." This is less challenging and intimidating than an accusation, and it is also the truth. You need to approach it from the point of view that your anger is your problem, and asking him to help you fix it is asking for his help. The alternative would be, "I'm angry and if you don't fix it, whether you know how to or not, you are going to have a problem." That is asking for a fight.

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Jane Garapick

Dating Coach

Jane Garapick knows firsthand what it’s like to have a broken heart, a broken dream, and a broken you. She writes about adventures on the rocky road to finding Mr. Right at her website www.gettingtotruelove.com.

To get started on your own personal journey to true love, download Jane's complimentary guide "Find Your True Love: 10 Simple Steps to Getting the Love You Want...and Deserve"

You can also follow her on Twitter @JaneGarapick and "like" her page on Facebook

Location: Bellingham, WA
Credentials: Other
Advanced Member

Brock Hansen

YourTango Expert Partner

Brock Hansen, LICSW



Location: Washington, DC
Credentials: LICSW, MSW
Specialties: Anxiety Issues, Depression, Eating & Food Issues
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