The other day I asked my husband, “what are some things that you do for me simply because I like it?” And he told me, “Opening up to you”. At first, I laughed but then I realized that this is truly something he does because he knows how much it means to me. He is not naturally deep-heartfelt-keenly aware of my feelings—kind of guy. Over the years he’s grown in this area because he knows how much I need it and he sees how much it brings us closer. Now what used to be difficult and almost as impossible as eating a dry cupcake, is much easier and pleasant for him. But he still mostly does it because it’s something I like. And I’m okay with that.
You may be wondering what magic cupcake did I bake for my husband to get him to be more in tune with his feelings and to have more courage and confidence in expressing those feelings. How did I get my husband to open up more? I’m going to tell you.
You can’t make him
First, I can’t make my husband do anything he doesn’t want to do. As much as we may think that we can control our husbands in this way, it’s just not likely. Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t convince them to consider the impact on our hearts if they engage in whatever behavior we’re requesting. But ultimately, it’s up to them to weigh out the pros of cons of doing whatever we’re asking. The reason my husband is willing to do what is usually not comfortable for him is that he’s weighed the pros and cons and has considered that the pros far outweigh the cons. Your husband will need to do the same. He will need to see how the benefits of opening up to you outweigh the cons of feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable and at risk of being rejected or misunderstood. It may seem like not a lot to ask. But for someone who struggles with opening up, it’s actually asking a lot. Thus, it’s important to approach this with much grace and patience. Not the answer you wanted to hear? Well, keep reading…it gets better.
Make it easy for him
When my husband and I were first married and he would open up to me about something that resulted in my feelings being hurt, I had the most dramatic and tearful responses. So much so that he shut down and stopped sharing his heart with me on things he thought may hurt me, because he didn’t want to see me hurt or upset. He wouldn’t do what he needed to do, which was to be open and honest about his feelings because he didn’t want to risk hurting my feelings. Now that’s no excuse to withdraw openness in your marriage, but it can help you understand why it happens. I believe it’s important that we own our emotions while recognizing that how we express our emotions impacts others. And while I’m not suggesting that you hold your emotions back when you feel them, not exactly. What I am saying is try to pause for a moment, process what is being said before responding to it at all—verbally and emotionally. Give him a moment to explain. Which is why we have this rule in our house: Ask questions first. When someone is talking about something instead of responding defensively or aggressively, the goal is to ask a question first.
Try this question: “What makes you feel that way or why do you feel that way”? This is hard when what is said stings your heart, but it can save you some grief if you take a moment to try to understand where one another is coming from.
Ask for it
If he isn’t naturally inclined to do something and it’s also hard or uncomfortable for him to do it, then it’s going to be helpful if you ask him for what you want. But also ask for how you want it. This sets up expectations and gives him an opportunity to say how he feels about your needs and if he’ll be able to meet them in the way you want. This is where a lot of patience, grace, and compromise will come in. For example, if you tell your husband that you want him to come to you every time something is bothering him and to sit down and tell you exactly what is bothering him and why. This may be unrealistic for him to do right away. Instead, you can be patient with his progress in this area and compromise by meeting him where he is. You can ask him questions and make it a rule that if you ask him, “Is something bothering you?”, that he tells you if something is bothering him. We do this in our marriage.
My husband used to be notorious for telling me that everything is fine when inside he was harboring ill feelings about something. And then after enough time of bottling up those feelings, he would blow up over what seemed to be the smallest thing. When you’re carrying around too much, even just one more pound of grief can lead to a breakdown. That’s why it’s important that your hubby knows that he has a place in you to open up, but it just may not be without some prompting and encouragement from you. So ask him for what you want and be patient with his process.
If you want your husband to be open with you then you must do the same. You may have a different style and approach to sharing your heart with your husband than what you want from him, but the goal isn’t to mimic one another. The goal is to practice what you preach and to spark your husband to do the same. I think it’s unfair to expect your husband to read your mind or to just know how you feel because,“ he should know”. Instead, model the open and honest communication and help your husband to be open with you by showing him that despite how uncomfortable it can be, opening up to one another is possible and good for your marriage.
Have you been struggling to get your husband to open up to you about anything in particular or in general? Is he not one to express his feelings? Is this affecting your communication and your relationship with one another? Chances are it is and after a while of doing this, the damage to the relationship will be much more noticeable. It’s like a small hole in a tire. Sure, you don’t notice it right away, but if you don’t repair the tire, the air is just going to continue to release. And eventually, you’ll have an undeniable and noticeable problem that will need to be repaired. Whether it’s just a small hole in your marriage or a total flat tire, relationship coaching can help. Let’s schedule a time to chat about working together to build your strong, happy and healthy marriage.