A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Him to Open Up -- Finally!

woman annoyed with husband

One of the biggest deal-breakers in a relationship? Communication. As in, a LACK of it. It makes sense, really. How are you supposed to live happily ever after with someone who grunts "Eh" every time you ask a question? Might have been the norm back in caveman days, but it's kind of lame now.

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Still, even in this touchy-feely day and age, "some men are trained to be stoic and 'tough,'" says Yvonne Thomas, PhD, a psychologist in Los Angeles, California, whose specialties include relationships. 

They're taught that it's "manly" to keep their feelings to themselves, and that opening up makes them look (and feel) weak. That's great if they're piloting a starfighter or wrestling a bear but doesn't bode so well for intimate relationships with humans.

"Without feelings, you're missing a major part of how to function," says Thomas. And besides money probs and sex issues, "communication is a typical reason couples break up," she adds.

Here's how to get your guy to open up already.

1. Learn to speak like a man. Okay, so we're realllly generalizing here. But "men are often logical thinkers," Thomas says. "You can reach them that way rather than using emotion-based language. Logical thinkers love to know the 'why,' so explain to them the reason they should get in touch with their feelings."

Explain, for instance, that his feelings are like a compass or GPS. And if he doesn't get in touch with how he feels, "it's like he's missing data or feedback," Thomas says.

2. Tell him what you need, NOT what he's doing wrong. Thomas suggests using the "sandwich" approach: Start off with a compliment ("I feel so lucky that we're together"), then gently segue into the meaty stuff.

For instance, "I feel kinda disconnected when you don't want to tell me how you're feeling. I'd really like to know." Then close the convo with something else positive -- like how more talking will deepen your relationship.

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3. Make sure he understands what you want. Right after you have Your Talk, ask him, "Does all this make sense?" Your man COULD nod his head and say "Sure" even if he was thinking about his fantasy football league. To make sure he really gets it, "come right out and ask him, 'Why?'" suggests Thomas. "Let him reflect it back to you in his own words."

You'll be able to tell if he wasn't paying attention and if that's the case, gently give him the lay of the land again. "He needs to be invested in the relationship, too," says Thomas. "Otherwise, it's just you trying to make a change."

4. Help out. So let's say he's all like, "Okay. I'll try things your way and not just speak in one-syllable words." How do you put that into action?

Suggest that you'll help give him a non-naggy reminder when he starts reverting to his usual switch-off mode, Thomas says. Maybe you'll give him a raised eyebrow or an actual nudge under the table. Or maybe he'd prefer a verbal prompt like, "Um, can you please share a little more?"

5. Don't expect miracles. After a lifetime of stuffing down emotions and thinking feelings are for girls, men can't be expected to change overnight. "At first you might just get, 'My day was okay. I'm glad to be home,'" notes Thomas. "That's fine. You have to build on your progress. And maybe over time, he'll throw in a little feeling."

Positive reinforcement from you will help -- lots of "That was great" or "Thanks for sharing" will motivate him to keep going.

And if this doesn't work, here's Plan B: Subscribe to Seventeen magazine and have him read every issue from cover to cover. (That includes taking each quiz.)

If that doesn't teach him to open up about everything from his skin type to his frenemies, then we don't know what will.

 

Image via iStock.com/mediaphotos

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