The Simple Thing Any Man Can Do To Be A Better Partner — Immediately

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man and woman smiling at one another, her on his back

The stories I hear from women are often painfully similar. As soon as she feels the relationship is reaching a deeper level, the guy withdraws and becomes unavailable.

He starts sharing less, and becomes quieter and more distant, hiding behind a wall that she cannot penetrate.

Lack of emotional intimacy with their partner is the No. 1 reason why women I work with feel unhappy in a relationship.

Over time, if emotional intimacy is not restored, and the woman is consistently feeling she is on the periphery of her partner’s life, the relationship will sour. Without a deep emotional connection, there is no deep trust.

What can a man who finds he is not meeting his partner’s emotional needs do? How can he be a better partner?

Why is it so difficult to reach deep levels of emotional intimacy?

RELATED: 5 Warning Signs Your Relationship Lacks Intimacy

Why vulnerability is so key to emotional intimacy

In our society, most men are not socialized to express their emotions. They may not know how to effectively put their feelings into words, and consequently withdraw when they get overwhelmed. This is often their way of trying to “man up,” to stoically remain in control and never show weakness.

However, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is crucial to maintaining a successful relationship. Any relationship is a dance of giving and receiving love. Vulnerability is key to building a lasting emotional connection, and receiving all the riches love has to offer.

What is vulnerability?

Allowing yourself to become vulnerable has nothing to do with staring in each other’s eyes and talking about your feelings. You don’t have to carry a box of tissues with you everywhere, cry, hold hands and talk about your childhood. Not unless you really want to.

Vulnerability, first and foremost, means having the guts to face your worst fears. Your fear of rejection, abandonment, your fear of looking silly, unattractive, of not being “man enough.” Vulnerability means gradually releasing the need for everyone to like you.

It means releasing your need to control.

When you’re vulnerable, you’re not hiding your true feelings and desires from others. To be able to do that, you must first learn to not hide them from yourself.

Knowing how you feel makes it painfully obvious that your feelings originate within your inner world. You have a choice in how you respond to them. This will mean taking responsibility for your feelings, without blaming the other guy, your stupid ex, your unloving parents, or a cruel, indifferent God.

Authentic vulnerability means being genuine. It means not trying to control the outcome. It is just you being you, without expectations, without agenda, and without the need for validation.

And this is the bravest, most difficult work any man can do.

RELATED: Why The Scariest Thing You Can Do For Your Relationships (And Yourself!) Is Also The Most Powerful

Why is vulnerability so scary?

For many men, weakness is shameful. In some contexts, weakness is also dangerous. In a rough neighborhood, your best bet is to look strong. And vulnerability has often been associated with showing weakness.

But in a relationship, you are building a lasting intimacy with your partner based on trust. An intimate relationship is not a war where the one who shows the most weakness is doomed to loss, humiliation and shame.

Our fear of vulnerability reflects the state of inner war that we wage with ourselves, both men and women, constantly judging and condemning, switching between a victim and an abuser within our own being.

Vulnerability is scary because it means opening up to receive love. To live in love. Every time you fall in love, you also take the risk of pain. Because the one you love may reject you. She may leave you, fall in love with someone else, or the relationship may end in some other way. And yet, love takes that risk.

In this sense, vulnerability is the essence of love.

RELATED: How To Get Over Your Fear Of Vulnerability In 6 Steps (Even If You've Been Hurt)

How to be more emotionally vulnerable (and be a better partner)

1. Talk about your difficulties in expressing emotion

There is no shame in having trouble identifying and expressing your feelings. Recognizing and owning your challenges with emotional intimacy is itself a beautiful expression of vulnerability.  

Building emotional vocabulary is a process, which for some may require therapy or group work. Don’t try to be someone you are not, part of the process of learning vulnerability is being able to admit that you don’t have the answers.

RELATED: 6 Communication Tips The Most Alluring, Charismatic People Know

2. Learn to identify and process your feelings

It can be very difficult to know what you are feeling if you never addressed your emotions. One way of identifying your feelings is to develop a meditation practice where you begin by tuning into your body. You can then ask yourself, “what is the underlying emotion I am feeling right now?”

In the beginning, your mind may give you answers that seem sufficient, such as “I am feeling I should not have said this, but should have instead said that,” or “I am feeling this conversation is going nowhere.”

But feeling is not the same as thinking. You would need to probe deeper. How does having said what you said to make you feel — contracted, tense, anxious?

What is the emotion hiding behind this contraction? Is it shame? Grief? Jealousy?

RELATED: The Different Types Of Basic Human Emotions Explained

3. Tell your partner when you feel hurt

Bottling up your hurts may work for a while — whether you want to seem strong and unaffected, or are simply overwhelmed by hurt to the point where you need time to adequately express how you feel. But in the long run, resentment builds up. Have that difficult conversation. It may well be one of the strongest experiences of emotional intimacy you have with your partner.  

Becoming vulnerable is the single most courageous and beautiful thing you can do for yourself and your partner. When a man learns to understand and express his emotional needs, he becomes a better partner. But he also learns how to receive love.

RELATED: 3 Expert Tips For Expressing Your Feelings To Your Partner Effectively

Inga Nielsen is an intuitive healer, energy worker, and Akashic record reader whose mission is to empower clients to start living from their souls, opening their hearts, rejoicing in their creativity, and following their bliss.