Every good relationship needs good communication in order to thrive. But sometimes, couples find it extremely difficult to talk to one another. Things gets doubly difficult especially if one’s spouse is closed off and always guarded.
To remedy this problem, some therapists have shared with The Huffington Post five tips on how to get uncommunicative spouses to open up about their feelings.
First, people should never approach their spouses and demand, “We need to talk.” Kurt Smith, a therapist who counsels men, said that doing so will make spouses go on defensive mode and clam up. Instead, Smith said people should pick relaxed, casual moments to talk.
“I’ve counseled men who’ve been willing to open up over coffee at Starbucks on Friday mornings before work or while walking the dog together,” he said. “Many couples with kids will say that they never have any alone time, but you can usually find it during the day-to-day activities of life if you think creatively.”
Next, Diane Spear, a therapist from New York City suggested people talk about their feelings only when they’re not tired. It’s not ideal to open up when spouses slip into bed after a long day at work.
“You don’t want to be so focused on talking that you fail to consider if it’s the right time or not,” Spear said. “You want your partner to feel considered and comfortable when you have big conversations.”
Meanwhile, Debra Campbell, a psychologist and couple’s therapist in Melbourne, Australia, said people should go in detail why a certain topic is important to them. That way, spouses will understand why they need to talk about a certain thing.
“Talk to your spouse about how it can deepen relationship intimacy when you discover more about what makes both of you tick and what’s bothering you,” she said.
Fourth, it’s a good idea for people to open up first about their own vulnerabilities to get the ball rolling. Kari Carroll, a couples therapist in Portland, Oregon, said vulnerability actually breeds more vulnerability.
“If you talk about past hurts, your S.O will be more likely to understand the context of this pain for you because you have shared how you’ve felt pain from others,” she said. “When your partner sees you find safety in the relationship, they are more likely to do the same.”
And lastly, people should talk about issues with their spouses from time to time, but they should not appear anxious about it, according to Marie Land, a psychologist from Washington D.C.
She said people need to address the elephant in the room, but still give their spouses ample breathing room so they don’t feel uncomfortable about it. “If they say there’s nothing wrong, don’t act like it’s a personal insult. Be light about your check-ins and you may plant the seed for them to open up in the future,” she advised.