5 Ways Men Can Get Comfortable With Their Emotions — & Build Way Deeper Relationships

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Working with couples for more than 40 years, I have recognized a pattern of unintentional emotional limitations. For the sake of deeper, happier relationships, I have encouraged men to become honest and open with their feelings.

Talking about feelings and being vulnerable does not always come naturally to men. Our cultural training has taught men to bury feelings.

Boys experience complex emotions, but they need help to identify and express those natural feelings. Historically, they have not been encouraged to explore or talk about their emotions. 

That honest communication is called being vulnerable because we are opening up our hearts and souls to another person.

The path to vulnerable expression is well-tread. All men need is a map and encouragement.

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Five ways a man can become more comfortable with his emotional side 

1. Learn to identify feelings

And accept that they make us human. Brene Brown has written a book called "Atlas of the Heart." In this book, she defines and describes 150 emotions that once identified and understood, can help us connect to one another.

This journey may be more intense for a male in our society because of the pressures to look and act strong at most or all times. Start by learning about and by looking for and understanding the wide range of emotions and feelings that can be expressed.

Spending time looking within and asking, "What am I feeling right now?" can be a first step toward understanding feelings that have been buried. Getting coaching about inner feelings can also be very helpful.

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2. Start with listening to your body

Try on the feelings for size — this means experimenting with expressing different emotions, even if it means making a mistake or misunderstanding which feelings are arising.

In therapy or with your partner, it may start with just a tightness in your stomach or tightness in your neck and then exploring what feeling may be causing the physical reaction.

Using words like, "I may be feeling overwhelmed or irritated or frightened because I can feel a physical reaction." The body and mind live together in the same vehicle and therefore we can learn to combine body, mind and soul to get in touch with all aspects of what makes us human.

There is a great book called "The Body Does Not Lie" by John Diamond. Using feedback from all parts of our body and the body's response to people, events, situations, and even to the food we eat can be a great teacher about feelings.

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3. Acceptance of the feeling world

Vulnerability can be seen as a weakness and in fact, in our society and in many cultures, feelings and emotions have been seen as something to be avoided — especially for men.

If getting to the point of acknowledging and accepting feelings can mean a better and stronger relationship, let's keep working on embracing all that makes us human and increasing comfort with vulnerability. 

Look at others to see their reactions. Ask others about their feelings and our partners are usually pretty aware of our feelings, even if we have learned to ignore the feeling ourselves.

Feedback can be so helpful from people we trust. The more we have access to our feelings, the richer and more fulfilling life can become.

It helps others to really see and understand us when we express the inner experiences of our lives.

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4. Stop walking on eggshells

I hear so many men explain that they do not voice their truth or their feelings because their wives get upset by their feelings. Perhaps they have tried speaking up in the past and have felt steamrolled by their partners.

Steamrolling occurs when one of the partners is so intent on "their way." As men do start speaking up about their feelings, it may become uncomfortable for their partners to hear that they have resentments or frustrations and have been stuffing their feelings to keep the peace.

Keeping the peace means creating distance within the relationship. Not sharing a feeling is like keeping a secret and secrets hurt relationships.

In time, men sharing their truth and their feelings will start to build a better sense of trust and closeness. It may just take a period of adjustment

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5. See it as a learning curve

Just as any new skill takes practice, expressing feelings in a kind and respectful way takes repetition. Imagine the heart speaking in truth and openness.

That can be such a good way to start the expression of emotions.

Our hearts have cranial cells and so do our stomachs. Speaking not only from our heads but also from our gut and our hearts can feel liberating and authentic.

It may feel like learning a new language and yet with time and acceptance, it can become so natural. See it as learning a new and powerful relationship skill.

As a couple grows in their ability to speak the language of the heart, the relationship can blossom and deepen to a level of greater closeness and understanding.

Past generations did not have the opportunities that we have today to develop this deeper level of communication and understanding.

Let's practice these skills so that future generations can have more fulfilling relationships and a greater understanding of one another. 

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Janet Lee Whitney, MA, LMFT has been a licensed psychotherapist, since 1982. She is the author of the book and program entitled Facing Your Fears and Following Your Dreams.