How To Open Up Emotionally In A Relationship

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happy couple smiling

For many of us, being vulnerable in a relationship can be scary.

Fear of intimacy is the main reason people do not open up, emotionally, with another person. But it's not a life sentence — you can absolutely learn how to open up to people, even in romantic relationships (where it can sometimes be an even greater challenge).

I define intimacy as feeling safe with another person when you expose who you are to them. Intimacy involves protecting your loved one rather than exploiting their vulnerabilities.

There are a huge range of emotions and behaviors that enhance the intimacy, or deepening, of your relationship. Your own feelings are the key to discovering what intimacy-building behaviors will work for you.

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If you want a closer, deeper and more emotionally safe relationship, make a decision to identify your feelings and share them with your partner.

Learning how to express emotions will help you in every relationship you have in life — and will serve you in your intimate relationships for life.

How to open up emotionally in a relationship

1. Identify your feelings.

You put your finger on what you're feeling by becoming aware of your body's movements and sensations.

Are you feeling a tightness in your chest? Does your heart hurt? Are you smiling or frowning?

Once you notice your body's sensation, you can pinpoint the feeling associated with it.

You can find many terms to describe your feelings through a quick Google search. Look up "feeling words" and pick a list of terms you identify with. Keep an emotional tracker and jot down words four or five times a day.

Document what you are feeling at breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime for one week and look for any trends or patterns.

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2. Talk about your feelings.

After identifying your feelings you can choose to share them with your primary love interest or partner. If this is new to you, you are going to feel uncomfortable, which is normal.

The more you practice sharing your feelings the more natural it will feel.

You always have the choice to not share your feelings. By withholding your feelings, you are choosing to limit the level of intimacy between you and your partner. Your partner can't know the real you unless you let them into your world by opening up.

3. Listen to your partner.

Sharing your feelings is the starting point. You also can choose to listen to your partners feelings.

This may be challenging if you have not done this before.

You will want to give your undivided attention. Listening to your partner is not the time to multitask (playing a video game while watching TV and trying to listen to your partner at the same time will not work well.)

Turn off the technology and maintain eye contact with your partner. Listen to understand your partner's feelings.

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4. Validate each other's feelings.

As children you may have gotten the message that it's not okay to feel.

Were you told 'stop your crying or I'll give you something to cry about?' Phrases like this invalidate a child's ability to define her own experience and feelings.

Validating feelings helps a person to trust their own emotions.

Rule of thumb: listen and repeat back your partner's feelings in your own words, expressing that you understood what you heard. Ask your partner if he wants advice or ideas for problem-solving. Be ready for them to say no.

5. Expect to make mistakes.

Learn from your relational mistakes.

Each emotional or behavioral mistake is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your partner. Learning about each other's feelings is the way to develop your emotional intelligence.

The more you learn, the deeper your relational intimacy becomes.

Learning to do these steps will rock your world and can really expand your happiness.

The loneliness that you are feeling now will be replaced by safety, tenderness and a newfound closeness between you and your partner.

Feeling emotionally connected will have an amazing effect on your physical relationship, too. The rewards of opening up to another person are profound.

Vulnerability is the key to emotional intimacy. Sharing your inner most feelings and being accepted is a basic human need and can be incredibly healing. Once you choose to open up in your relationship and put in the effort, the rewards are boundless.

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Teresa Maples-Zuvela is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) and a Certified Multiple Addiction Therapist (CMAT).