Do you ever feel like when you want to talk about something important, your partner shuts down?
Does it feel like pulling teeth sometimes to get a word from him?
Do you sometimes wonder if anyone’s even in there?
In today’s post, we’ll discuss 3 key things you can do to get him to open up.
1.) Back Off
If you’re like most frustrated partners trying desperately to connect with your shut down partner, you’re probably in his face a lot trying to get him to speak.
To help him feel comfortable enough to reach out a bit, you’ve got to back off.
I know it might seem scary to do that because you worry that if you stop making an effort to reach him, there will never be a chance to connect, but in order for him to open up, he needs his room.
Give him some room!
Many people are in their partners’ faces about needing to hear from them, but what they really need is some room to breathe. Without that room, they feel suffocated and overwhelmed, and many just freeze up.
Many become desperate to say something just to please you, but don’t even have the head space to make the words come out.
That may sound hard to believe if speaking your thoughts & feelings comes easy for you, but trust me, it’s not easy for everyone. Chances are, if your partner shuts down, speaking about his thoughts and feelings may be difficult, and damn near impossible if you’re constantly in his face about it.
So back off. Just try it for a week or two and see what happens. You might be surprised.
2.) Be Nice
You’re frustrated and upset.
You feel like you’re the only one in the relationship sometimes because your partner doesn’t seem to want to open up and connect.
So you get mad and lash out. That makes sense.
But guess what?
It doesn’t do any good for you. Every time you criticize your partner, it’s like you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Even though underneath your anger and frustration you’re just desperate to hear from him, getting mean about it just pushes him away even more.
So play nice. Try to find little things to appreciate out loud and pump him up a little. He’s only going to open up if he feels safe, and little compliments will help.
Work extra hard for a week or two to find and show your appreciation. See what happens.
3.) Get Vulnerable
This step is the hardest. And only appropriate for those of you who aren’t in abusive relationships.
By “getting vulnerable,” I’m asking you to be honest with yourself. Really honest. And with your partner too.
You may not know this, but if you two are like many couples in distress and your partner is shut down, he’s probably terrified of you.
Let’s face it: you’re better with words, seem more aware of your feelings, and can (and do) destroy him in an argument.
This is all really scary to him.
He sees you as capable of anything, which includes doing a lot of damage to him.
So, if you can, pay attention to that tough exterior that you have. Take a second to even acknowledge it, and try to let it go.
Let him know what’s really going on underneath, that you just want in.
If it’s true, let him know that you realize you can be hostile at times, but you just so desperately want to hear from him.
If you’re lonely and sad, show him your true feelings. Most often when you open your mouth and tell him something, all he sees is red.
But if you show him your softer side, he’ll be less afraid.
You are more powerful than you realize.
And you are more important to your partner than you know.
Show him your truth and he’ll be more likely to respond.
3 ways to get your partner to open up include backing off, being nice, and getting vulnerable.
Was this helpful? I realize I spoke in generalizations here, but hopefully some of it hit home if you can identify with any of it.
Please let me know your thoughts below, and if you try out any of these strategies to get your partner to open up, let me know how it goes!
Cheers to your best relationship,
This hit home! My boyfriend who I’ve been with 12 years left the house. It’s been 5 months now. If he only knew this is how I feel. He doesn’t want to talk or go for counseling. It made me feel better reading this because it describes exactly how of feel. Thank you!!!
Jenev Caddell says
Thanks for sharing that — you are SO not alone. The thought of going to counseling can be really hard for some people. Check out Sue Johnson’s book “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” — it could really help. Let me know if you’d like to talk further too. I’ve got a weekly group where we talk about these things and it’s only $20/month right now – https://mybestrelationship.com/drj-on-call
You are so welcome and glad this hit helped you feel better.
This is extremely helpful. I’ve been there and done the things you said not to do. On top of that, I have anxiety and some other things going on. I’m going to try your technique and I hope I can do it and that it will work. Fingers crossed I can pull it off and then I’ll work on how to convince my SO to go to couples therapy with me. These are large tasks for me to do, I’ll put faith in myself to do it.
Jenev Caddell says
I’m glad to hear that this was helpful – thank you so much for letting me know. Let me know how it goes. Here’s another post about convincing your partner to go to couples therapy, in case it’s helpful. Good luck!!