Creating Space for Emotional Openness

An excerpt from this article was recently published on Relationship Advice Cafe and I am happy to share this with all of you in its full, unedited version.  I am proud to have been included in this “expert” collaboration to help people learn about ways to achieve, create and maintain healthy relationships.  Thank you for reading!  

Opening up emotionally is about trust, and trust builds and strengthens in a relationship as the relationship progresses. Some people have an easier time trusting partners quickly, while others need a lot of time to adjust before they can share their emotions. To be emotionally open in a relationship can cause us to feel vulnerable and so trust acts as a safety net for when we start to share who we are. Trust is something that we can build and the following are some stepping stones along that path.

Before you start to hold expectations of others, it is important to get to know them and understand them. You cannot force anyone to change or be who you want them to be, so it is important first to start with what you know. Is this person looking for an emotional relationship? Has this person been involved in an emotional relationship before and how did it go? What has this person’s life been like, and what messages have they been given about emotionality? How we feel about our emotions and the emotions of others contributes to our willingness to participate in an emotionally intimate relationship. If the person you are involved with is not interested in an emotional relationship, there is little you can do to change that, BUT if the individual is open to building an emotional bond than growth is possible!

After you understand who your partner is, what they are looking for and what they are comfortable with, the next step is to grow to accept them for who they are, how they feel and what they want. Acceptance is a crucial component to building trust and emotional connection in a relationship because if we do not feel free to be who we are, it is much harder to build trust, and even harder to express emotions. If we can accept our partners for who they are and where they are (emotionally), we can support them to grow and change without creating pressure or imposing expectations. We should accept others as they are, meet them where they are, and appreciate what they have to offer.

Learn to understand what being “emotional” is for this individual and consider how humans are all different emotionally. Being emotional can be so many different things, and until you know what it means for your partner, than you could miss it being demonstrated. We are all unique, and it is important to understand each other as individuals. Just because your partner appears unemotional to you, does not always mean that they are unemotional. It is unnecessary to be judgmental about how your lover loves, instead learn to see through your partner’s eyes to understand who they are and where they come from.

This kind of empathy requires deep listening and patience. Listening is not just to what your partner is saying, but to the meaning behind whatever words they express. He may say he “isn’t emotional” but what he may mean is that he does not know how to express himself, or that he is out of touch with his emotions or does not know how he feels. Ask him what he means and listen to his response even if it is “I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it”. For some people who have never been in touch with their emotions, you may be asking them to learn another language overnight. Try not to assume your partner is similar to you emotionally, they may not be! Listen to them and allow them to share with you whatever they chose. Your openness will help them trust you which will in turn foster emotional relationship growth. When we are patient and allow others to be who they are and to achieve change at their own pace, then we also encourage acceptance, understanding, and decrease pressure all allowing trust to grow.

To encourage an emotionally strong relationship to blossom it is important to have realistic expectations of your partner, understand and accept them as they are, and have empathy (through listening and patience). Trust and effort on behalf of everyone included is key to building the relationship you desire!



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