“My husband doesn’t like to talk. He is very closed off and I don’t really know how to get him to open up.”
I hear this so often from both men and women. There is usually one partner who is more verbal and likes to talk a lot and one partner who is more intrinsic and tends to deal with things internally.
In my personal relationship – I am the more internal person by nature, and my husband is the talker. So I can answer this question from a personal point of view and from a researched-based point of view.
As an internal person, I like to think about things and digest them before I can open up. Sometimes I’m not quite sure where I stand or what my true feelings are – so I’ll hold on to them until I’m very clear.
My husband likes to talk about situations, problems and thoughts because it helps him to get it off his chest if he talks through the problems. He prefers to get immediate input.
However, he gives me space and time when I am not ready to open up about a thought or feeling. In turn, I let him know a specific time where I will talk to him more about it. For example, I may say, “I want to think more about this vacation plan before talking about it – can we talk tomorrow night around 8?”
And, I give him full attention and empathy when he is opening up about his thoughts. I do not get defensive and I do not give advice. I simply let him talk, lean in to him and ask thoughtful questions such as, “Did you mean…” to make sure I fully understand.
With that said – there are a number of reasons your spouse doesn’t feel comfortable to open up. These may include:
(a) uncomfortable with feelings and verbalizing them because this was never done in his/her family of origin (e.g., parents),
(b) fear of being criticized or getting a poor/defensive or angry reaction when they do open up,
(c) need of the other spouse to open up first so they can feel safer about being more vulnerable.
Once you understand the reason that your spouse may not open up – then it will be much easier for you provide a safe space for them to become more vulnerable and open.
Ready to help your spouse open up more? Try these 4 Secrets!
SECRET 1: Take time each day to ask your spouse a question about something that they have shown interest in. For me, I often ask my hubby how the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team is going. This opens him up to feel free to talk and get excited. Then I make sure to pay attention and also show interest – which shows him I am truly interested in him.
SECRET 2: Make a list of “kinda” vulnerable questions to ask him/her on a daily basis. Each question can dig a little deeper. Start with questions such as, what is your dream vacation or what was your favorite thing to do as a kid. This gets the ball moving, sets a tone for your conversations and gets both of you talking about fun and personal things. Here’s a list of some questions to get your started.
SECRET 3: DO NOT get defensive, naggy or angry when he/she does finally open up. When your spouse does open up – it may not always be want you want to hear. However, as long as it is not abusive – keep your mind and ears open. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything and you will hear them.
SECRET 4: Open up to your spouse about something personal and vulnerable. Something that you may never had told them before. Really take them to the moment with you – like you are a tour guide of that particular moment. Showing your spouse that you trust them enough to share such a person moment will help you to become closer and help them to trust you enough to truly open up.
Warning: You can just try one of these things one time and say it doesn’t work. Choose one of these actions steps and do them, and then keep doing them for 2-3 weeks. You will see change – I promise!
ACTION CREATES CHANGE. I would love to hear what action you are taking to create change, comment below and I’ll make sure to reply back to personally!
Valerie Kolick, therapist and relationship expert has created this blog to help couples and individuals create happiness and joy in their marriages and lives. If this is your first time here, LEARN MORE here and don’t forget to Download Your FREE Extraordinary Relationship Workbook.