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

Relationships: How Do I Get My Partner To Share Emotions?
Love

Want to get your partner to open up to you emotionally so you can deepen your bond and enhance your intimacy? Some words and phrases can push your partner away, while others can bring you closer together as a couple. Men and women, having some major communication differences, tend to respond to different words and phrases.

"She said," from Jane Garapick:

While we're of the same species, men and women communicate very differently. Men tend to use language to make a specific point or convey specific information, while women tend to use language to bond to and feel a connection with their partner.

If she seems distant, here are some simple phrases you can use to connect with her heart and get her to open up to you:

  • "I understand how you feel; I'd feel the same way." Words such as this convey that you identify with her, and they validate her feelings, which is what she really wants. She simply needs to feel heard, and to know that you feel compassion for her, so steer clear of trying to fix her problem (which is often difficult, as men are wired to try to help) or offer any unsolicited advice, such as anything starting with "You should…"
  • "Know that I'm here for you, and I always will be." She needs to know that you aren't going to take off at the first sign of difficulties, and that you're in the relationship for the long haul. These words will make her feel secure, safe and comfortable, and will convey to her that you won't abandon her.
  • "I'm on your side. What can I do to help?" Let her know that you are united as a couple, and that it's the two of you against the others (whoever the others are). She wants to feel taken care of and supported, and she needs to know that the two of you are a team.
  • "I don't know where I'd be without you—you mean everything to me." While men tend to want to feel needed, women tend to want to feel cherished. Language such as this conveys to her that you value her and recognize her worth, which goes a long way toward making her feel connected to you.
  • It also helps to show her your vulnerable side by using "I" statements to let her know your feelings, such as "I feel overwhelmed by everything we have going on." If you express your feelings in this manner, she will feel much more connected to you and will naturally start to open up to you with her own feelings.
  • Lastly, if physical intimacy is on your mind, instead of saying "Wow baby, you look hot," try "Honey, you are so beautiful. I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have you." Then give her a long, warm hug, holding onto her until she lets go. Then you can tell her how hot she looks—you just dramatically increased your odds of getting what you want.

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Learn more about the Liberating Side of Being Together:

"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."

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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.