How to get him to open up to you. The right way.
Sometimes us men aren’t big on communication; especially if we come from the era that our father’s told us that, “children should be seen and not heard” anyone my age and older would have probably heard of that saying — it was something my Granddad said a lot to me, especially when I was asking difficult questions. It wasn’t his fault though, it what his dad told him and it’s not as if there were any services in his era offering free courses to better yourself.
Yes, as children we weren’t encouraged to talk about the feely weely stuff when I was young, and it typically shows for men around my age. It took me a while to realise the importance of having a safe person to talk to. In this case it’s my wife. She is my safe person. I can talk to her about anything and everything, and whatever it is that I tell her I know she would have my back.
So now you’re asking yourself how did she manage that since my only main role model was a Victorian man with extreme ideals on feelings and thoughts. Well, at first she fostered a
Open and honest communicative environment
At first it was strange to hear my wife talk about her deepest and most personal thoughts, things I had never heard anyone else talk about with me. If she was struggling mentally then she would talk it over with me in stages. What she was thinking, how it made her feel, and did I have any thoughts on it? She was opening up herself to me in ways that I had never thought possible; I just thought those kind of things were deeply private and weren’t talked about, even in relationships. But yet here she was, telling me things that only she knew, and she felt, and asking my opinion on them. This is called leading by example. What you give out to the world then you generally receive in kind. Give out honestly, then get it back. People copy each other, but rarely listen to each other.
A safe space, but probably not the type that you’re thinking of
Safe spaces these days are private areas in which a person can hide away from the traumatic areas of life. Providing your partner a safe space to talk is slightly different. Generally, you might not like what they have to say. It’s something to talk about his feelings without hearing your judgement alongside, or afterwards. I do this with my wife. She can occasionally need to talk about what is on her mind but she is often scared to because it might hurt me. I provide her with a non-judgemental ear in which she can say what she wants to without me reacting to it. I will just listen and then go away and think about how I can tackle the issues she’s raised. Sometimes what she tells me cuts deeply, but if both of us are to work together then at least one of us needs to be listening to the other. She does this with me and I learned to do it with her
Train yourself to listen and not to react
I’m not saying that you should always do this but certainly in times of vulnerability we can be more reactive than we are observant. I’m a minimiser. I like to tell my wife that what she’s experienced isn’t that much of a problem at all and she should stop worrying about it. It took me years to realise that it doesn’t matter what I think when she is telling me something about herself, it’s all about how she is experiencing it. Sometimes my wife will tell me that I need to spend more time with her instead of being locked away in my office day and night. Now, instead of patting her on the head and telling her that I’m doing this so that in 5-10 years I won’t need to work my life away in an office, I’m more inclined to recognise that she is missing my company and I will take several hours/days off to spend time with her. It is absolutely the same with men. Sometimes it’s just not about you, and it’s all about your partner.
Foster trust in your relationship
Trust is built over a long period of time, as is opening up to each other about the deeper parts of our lives. Trust is relatively easy to build in a relationship. In my relationship I tell her wherever I am going, and if I’m going to be late then I check in. We share absolutely everything together, and if she were to have any doubts on anything then I would absolutely heed her wishes. There was once a woman I was friends with on Facebook that she didn’t think I should be friends with — so I deleted her. I guess for me it stems from how I have been treated in the past. I remember always living in a world of lies, deceit and mistrust — I absolutely understand how the mind can play tricks on us when the smallest seedlings of doubt are cast. Always be truthful 100%, even if it harms your relationship in the process. Bad relationships are formed from lies — people will respect you more if you are honest.
Don’t constantly berate him for not opening up
I know it can be frustrating. Especially when your partner has something on their mind and they aren’t giving you the full story — after all, a partnership is supposed to be two people helping each other out through life. Resist the urge to tell him regularly that he needs to open up to you. I know through experience with my son that urging him to open up is absolutely the opposite I can do to have him tell me how he is feeling, particularly if it’s difficult to talk about. The best thing you can do is not make an issue of it. Everyone has to feel some sort of safety (even if it’s just a little) in opening up about what they are necessarily afraid to talk about.
Talk about things whilst you are doing an activity
Perhaps when you are both busy doing housework together? One of my favourite ways to approach some of the closed men I was working in my last job was to sit and do an activity with them, and whilst we were doing the activity they were generally more open and honest about what they were telling me. You see, half of his mind is on the activity and not on your prying questions. You can do this when he’s driving too. Anything that consists of him doing another activity.
And above all, don’t tell him how he should feel about it when he does open up. Rather, try to understand it.
People in general these days have an uncomfortable habit of telling each other how they should feel about something, even when it’s not them that’s experiencing it. My wife, I love her to bits, but gawd she isn’t perfect — just a few days ago told me how I should feel about my back problems I’ve recently been having. I know what her worry stemmed from, but that didn’t help that she was taking my feelings and telling me how I should be experiencing them. It stems from her refusal to accept that in the future there may be some problems we may have to overcome, mixed in with her blind hope that everything will be okay with me. She would have better positioned herself to trying to understand what I was experiencing and helping me look through the help I may need.
Yeah, don’t do that. It didn’t make me feel good about myself, and if he’s new to opening up to you then he’s probably going to retreat back into his shell again.
All in all
Just be yourself. Getting your partner to open up shouldn’t be a laboured activity. Create a trustful and safe environment and he’ll open up in time!