“My husband seems to have no emotions at all!” is a frequent complaint of women. “When I try to get him to tell me how he really feels, he just shuts down. Like he can’t even find the words!”
Unfortunately, this observation is not a rare one. Our culture has long sent messages to men that they must be strong, logical and paragons of reason. Especially when faced with a woman who is pouring her heart out, men seem to react with an instinct to pull into their shell, much like a turtle protecting himself, and not let anyone see their vulnerable side.
This dynamic can be frustrating, and not just for the woman. Imagine being someone who has lots of feelings inside, and wants to share these with the woman he loves, but has been brought up to be believe that this would diminish his masculinity and make him seem like he is “acting like a girl”?
The problem with keeping everything inside is multi-fold.
- First, it does not allow for those around the man to know what is truly going on with him, and this leads to a sense of distance. How can you know who someone is if they don’t share any genuine information with you?
- Secondly, it isolates the man from his partner. He does not get the benefit that emotional connection provides: a sense of belonging to another, of being a team player, of having a symbiotic relationship where one person always has the other’s back, and vice-versa.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways that a wife can help her husband learn to connect emotionally with her. If you need some tips getting your man to connect with you, read on!
1. Being sexual is the direct way to connect
Many men find that being sexual is a direct way for them to connect emotionally with their partner. Slipping between the sheets allows them to naturally open up, so sleeping naked together may just be the ticket to promoting emotional connectivity, even those times when it doesn’t lead to sex. It’s hard to stay inside your shell when you’ve got skin to skin going on.
Daily contact, whether it be hand-holding, a tight hug, a back rub, or a smooch in the hallway is a great way to begin the process that will lead to your man to connect emotionally with you. If it does lead to sex, all the better, but that isn’t the goal of this type of intimacy. What you are doing when you put your arm around his waist is reminding your man that you are connected, both physically and emotionally.
3. When checking in on his day, ask a specific question
A great way to encourage emotional connectivity when checking in with your man about his day is to bring up something concrete that you know is going on. Instead of the general “How’s work going?” question, formulate this to include a specific detail: “Did you meet that project deadline you were worried about?” When you share genuine interest with your partner, it enhances his sense of emotional connection with you.
4. Say thank you at least once a day
Expressing gratitude for the things your man does for you, both small and large, not only makes him feel great, but also encourages him to continue doing these things. Being recognized for going the extra mile makes it all worth it to him, and your expression of gratitude reinforces your emotional bond both for you and for him.
5. From time to time, tell your story
Couples who relate their “how we met” story to others are not only giving themselves a chance to re-experience in their minds the pleasure of their first date together, they are re-bonding with their partner as they relive the happiness of this life-changing meeting. If you don’t have an opportunity to tell your story to others, reminisce together from time to time. Pull out your photo albums or put on your wedding video. There’s no better way to reinforce your emotional connection that remembering how it all began.
6. Keep it interesting
Nothing feeds emotional distance more than routine. You don’t need to change things up every day to create emotional connection, but make sure to have new adventures and projects to work on together and look forward to. From the small (hey—let’s book a couples’ massage for next week!) to the large (Next vacation: Bali!), the point is to not settle into complacency.
7. Micro-moments of kindness
Stimulate your man’s desire to connect with you emotionally by performing small acts of love. Bring him his coffee just the way he likes it when he is going over the household accounts. Let him sleep late on Sunday if he has been putting in extra hours at work. Pick up his dry-cleaning so he doesn’t have to. All these small acts will remind him of how lucky he is to have you, and bring him in closer to you emotionally.
You can see from the above that building an emotional bridge with your man is not a large-scale project, but rather made up of lots of small but important actions. If you have a husband who does not seem to know intuitively how to relate to you in an emotionally-intimate way, it is worth it to practice the above steps, and, if you sense it would be helpful, consult with a counselor who can help guide your husband towards becoming a more emotionally-transparent man. The payoff for both of you is unmeasurable, and your marriage will be stronger for it.