Let's just be honest about men for a second. In an age where it's hard to say boo without being labeled politically incorrect, i'm going to be "politically incorrect," and say that generally speaking, men aren't as emotionally intelligent as women.
However, often this is not their fault. The alarming majority of men have been conditioned to not properly express their emotions. On the flip side, women from a very young age are taught and encouraged by society to discuss their feelings all the time.
Cut to years later and you put these two in a relationship and no wonder it's emotionally frustrating for both of you! Your man hasn't had enough real world emotional training and is probably confused AF about the uncomfortable process of being vulnerable in a real relationship. You on the other hand are equally frustrated by having to deal with a man who struggles to properly emotionally express himself in the kind of way that you need in an emotionally supportive partnership.
I hate to say it ladies, but you're probably not even dealing with an emotionally whole adult. He might talk, look, and smell like a man, but when it comes to emotions, he's got child written all over him. Don't blame him too much though, he might not have stretched those emotional muscles in years, hence some of his reactions in your relationship seeming, well, sort of childlike.
So let's try approaching this issue from a constructive angle. This isn't an article to prove "you're right," or to put down your partner's emotional inadequacies. Not any less annoying but, let's assume he's basically grossly out of practice. I mean, you're probably reading this because what you really want is your partner to be able to express their emotions in an intelligent way and be able to intelligently listen to your feelings as well.
Here are some tips you can use to help teach your man the tools he needs to talk about his emotions:
Acknowledge his feelings
Although the emphasis should be on your feelings—“I am feeling this way” vs. “You did this”—so as to not put blame, you should also acknowledge his feelings at some point. If you go into a rant about yourself, he’ll feel that you never paused to consider where he is coming from. So say, “When you do this, it makes me feel X way, but I know you probably do it because you feel Y way.” Show that you don’t think he is coming from a malicious place, but that you understand his potential train of thought or why he did something.
Let Him Actually Talk
Don’t just charge into your speech at full pace, not stopping to think about what you’re saying until you are done. If you do that, he will feel spoken at instead of spoken with. Be ready to be derailed: if you pause, he may say something that makes one of your points null, and that’s okay. Making that pause shows that you want to come to a conclusion and that you’re leaving space for his points too, rather than just wanting to fight and only hear your own voice.
Agree with him
If you watch debates often, then you know the way one opponent gets a foot up is by agreeing with the other opponent, when it applies. If your partner is talking, whenever he says something that is true, say, “That I agree with” or nod in agreement. He needs to know that you at least see some of the story from his perspective to feel there is even a point in discussing things with you.
Be willing to wait
Guys communicate more through action than words. Females can end an argument by laying out, vocally, all the things they will do to amend the problem. Men, however, might not do that. So long as you get the feeling he understands and that he actually cares to fix things, don’t force out a kindergarten style spoken essay on how he will fix things. Just wait and watch.
Get to the point
He can handle it. Some women skirt around issues, thinking that just saying what the problem is might come off rude. It’s not. It can be uncomfortable, because it’s real confrontation. But men can handle that. Just tell him in plain words what is upsetting you.
Be a communicator yourself
How can you expect him to communicate if you don’t let anything out yourself? Don’t be passive aggressive. Don’t make jokes about something that actually upsets you. Don’t hold things in, waiting for him to ask what’s wrong because clearly you’re not being yourself. Be a communicator. Set the precedent. If he respects you, he will feel that he owes you communication in return.
Don’t bring up the past
In relationships, there should be no scoreboard. Maybe he didn’t bring you soup when you were sick once, even though you did do so for him. It doesn’t matter. Once you start keeping score, you’ve opened up Pandora’s box and you will never get to the issue at hand. All that matters is why the present issue bothers you. If you bring up the past, your man will feel like you’re constantly gathering ammo against him.
Don’t do it over text
No matter what you do, don’t bring up a big issue over text message! And while you’re at it, don’t do it over email, or Facebook or any other medium that should only be reserved for light conversation. Bringing something up over text is like saying, “I want to alert you to the fact that I’m mad, but I don’t really want to give you the chance to talk about it.” It comes off that way because nobody can truly express themselves through that type of medium.
Never use it against him
Never use any information your partner tells you in confidence against him. That’s a sure fire way to get him to be very hesitant about opening up to you in the future. Plus, it’s just an extremely petty thing to do, and you wouldn’t want someone to use sensitive information as ammo to hurt you.
Be his friend
Play his video games with him; go to his sports bar with him. Incorporating yourself into his life makes you a friend, as well as a girlfriend. And the more he sees you as a friend, the more likely he is to open up to you.
Be his friend’s friend
Sometimes, we don’t explain something to somebody because they simply won’t understand it. Think about it: you probably tell your man about your issues with your mother much more after he has actually met her, and seen the two of you interact. Now you feel he has some understanding. Spend time with his friends and family so that he feels you’ve seen much of his life firsthand, and so he can feel comfortable talking to you about his own personal issues with more freedom.
Admit when you’re wrong
Enter every argument conscious of the fact it all might be a huge misunderstanding and that you might be wrong. Be willing to be proven wrong. Remember: you’re not fighting so you can be right—you’re fighting so that you can be close to your man again and so that your relationship can actually see improvement. You’re fighting to resolve something, not to win something. So if your partner completely derails your points and proves you wrong, humbly accept that.
Be there when he wants to open up
If you want a man to open up to you more, then you need to recognize the opportunity when it arises. If your man tries to bring something serious up with you, even if you’re exhausted, even if you have a million other things on your mind, clear your head and listen. When somebody is rejected whilst trying to open up, they fear opening up even more.
Sit him down and really talk
Don’t bring something up while chopping vegetables, or while driving, or while looking at your computer. This is similar to bringing up an issue over text: it seems like it’s not an open discussion, but rather you just telling the person you’re upset and not looking like you’re open to listening to what the other party has to say. Give him the respect of putting your computer/book/vegetable chopper down, giving your full attention and talking to him.
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