It’s no secret that the foundation of a healthy relationship is open communication and willingness to look for a solution that works for both. If you are to accomplish that you both need to share your feelings and thoughts.
No one expects you to be an expert in communicating, only to wish to become better at it, both in sharing and listening. We can all develop the skill to express emotions in a healthy way if we are dedicated to it.
When you share your feelings and encourage your partner to do the same, it has numerous benefits for the relationship’s success and durability.
Before we share tips on how to be more expressive in a relationship, let’s answer why you should even try to learn how to share emotions.
Why you should be talking about feelings?
Both women and men can shy away from sharing or think they are bad at expressing emotions. However, studies show that a slight gender difference exists with women being more emotionally expressive, in particular for positive emotions.
Regardless of who in the relationship has difficulty expressing thoughts verbally, this topic should be addressed by both. Otherwise, a lack of intimacy and a sense of disconnectedness can set in and affect a couple’s relationship satisfaction.
A study showed that in situations where one spouse takes care of the other, the caregiver’s stress reduces and their well-being improves when the care recipient is willing to express interpersonal emotions.
When you share your feelings, thoughts, and emotions you allow the other person to get to know you, what you care about, and what matters to you. Although being vulnerable and welcoming brings a certain amount of emotional risk, the rewards are well worth it.
To answer why it is worth the risk to show emotion in a relationship we need to look closer into the benefits of sharing.
Benefits of sharing your feelings
Daring to risk being exposed and share your feelings is rarely easy, but if you know how being honest about your feelings benefits the relationship’s wellbeing you may change your mind.
Helps with understanding your partner more profoundly
The reduced intensity of emotions and better emotion management
Decreased aggression with a more accurate understanding of emotions
Preventing partner’s negative conclusions regarding self-value (i.e. I am not good enough to them; I must not be important to them)
15 tips on how to share your feelings with your spouse
1. Change your perception of emotions
Emotions are neither good nor bad. We experience them because they have a purpose. If they didn’t have an evolutive purpose they wouldn’t exist.
Emotions are not a tumor, you can’t cut them out and stop feeling altogether. If you want to deal with them better you need to see them as a natural response of your body to different situations.
2. Learn about yourself through your emotions
In order to manage emotions better, you need to ask yourself “why do I feel like this at this moment”? What is the trigger and what is at stake?
Emotions hold a key to understanding yourself, your values, and your beliefs better. When you are happy they were validated, and when you are upset they were endangered or invalidated.
It is easier to share your feelings with your spouse when you know what you are sharing and you understand it already. The risk seems lessened because you are not verbalizing emotions for the first time in front of them.
3. Use your words
If you are trying to learn to communicate your inner world more, you must be wondering how to talk about your feelings. The more articulate you feel in talking about them, the easier it is to share your feelings. You feel more confident and in control. Thus, you are more likely to share your feelings.
Start by describing the feeling – verbally or in writing. Whatever comes out is just fine. You are learning.
The more you do this, the more proficient you become and it takes less time to understand what you are feeling. This is one of the keys to learning how to explain feelings to your partner.
If you need more guidance on how to share your feelings, you can find a list of feeling words to use as inspiration. Working with a counselor is another way to improve emotional literacy.
4. Accept feelings as a passing experience
When learning how to express your feelings you may worry that you might say something that you can’t take back. If this is one of your concerns, remember that feelings change.
You can always rely on using phrases like “at this moment”, “it’s not always like this, but now I feel” as they can lift the weight of sharing from your shoulders.
Realizing emotions come and go can bring relief. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your feelings. On the contrary, it should make sharing easier because you know that is about the present moment, and not let it color the entire relationship or person.
5. Mind the time and place
In learning how to express emotions in a relationship more, keep timing in mind. If you choose an inadequate moment you may feel invalidated and wrongly think that emotions are dangerous for the relationship.
When one wants to share something their partner may have a hard time hearing it is important to ask what would be the right time to talk or check if they can commit to a conversation now.
Otherwise, they might not have space to listen and hear feedback, regardless of how constructive it is.
6. Don’t postpone for too long and announce it casually
Once you have something to share, don’t wait too long to address it. You will build it up in your mind. As time goes by it will seem more scary and difficult to pronounce.
When you know what it is you want to share, don’t put off asking your partner what the best time is. Avoid the “we need to talk” dread. Instead, go for something more casual yet effective “I wanted to discuss/share a thought/feeling I had”.
Only postpone the conversation if you are extremely upset. In that state, you won’t be able to articulate and control what you share, and you won’t be ready to hear the other side either.
7. Create a judgment-free space
No one opens up if they expect judgment. If you wonder how to become more articulate in expressing one’s thoughts, look for the answer in open-mindedness.
When either is sharing, try to avoid getting defensive or irritated. That can only impede future sharing.
If it is easier, you can dedicate a corner of the house as a “judgment-free sharing space”.
8. Use “I” statements
To avoid triggering the other person into defensiveness, steer clear of “you” statements. Although you may reflect on their behavior and the effects you experience, focus on how you feel about it.
Instead of saying “You make me furious” when you..”, say “ I feel angry when you…”. That shifts the focus from the action to the realm of personal impressions, thus preventing unnecessary friction.
To make it more practical, divide it into 3 sections:
Name the emotion
Mention the action that produced the emotion
Elaborate on why the action caused you to feel that way.
‘It made me feel happy and proud when you introduced me to your friends as your partner because it tells me you think of us as important.’
‘I was angry and sad when you were late today because we don’t get to spend much time together and this way it was cut shorter.’
Also watch: Use ‘I statements’ when communicating with your partner.
9. Stay away from “always” and “never”
When you generalize you leave no space for the other perspective. If they are always insensitive, why should they try to hear you out now? If you want to achieve a result in your partner being more attentive, avoid calling them the opposite.
Instead, share how you feel when your need is not met and how you felt when it was. Bonus point if you do this right after they did exactly what you needed as you are reinforcing their effort by praising them.
10. Renounce the expectation of them reading your mind
Many of us think true love is when we don’t need words to know what the other is thinking. While this is nice to have, it is less likely to accomplish in a tense situation. Why?
When fighting we are more likely to jump to conclusions in search of certainty and safety. Upsetting events and conflicts with a partner trigger deep fears and patterns of thinking. That is we are more likely to make mistakes in assuming what the other thinks.
Focus on using your words and leave the guessing and mind-reading for purchasing of gifts.
11. Be open with your intentions
If you want to express more in a relationship, don’t be deceitful. If you ask them about their feelings because you have an agenda or you want to gain something, be upfront about it. They will see through you and next time they will be reluctant to share.
If you need to know how they feel about a topic or you, ask them, but don’t hide it behind genuine concern about their wellbeing. The same goes for when you share your feelings.
12. Address the pressure or expectations first
One of the reasons why it is easier to share in a therapist’s office is because it is a neutral environment. There is no pressure to say the right thing or expectations hidden behind “how are you”.
If you feel pressured to share your feelings with your partner, address first how that makes you feel. The conversation moves from “not wanting to share” to “what is needed to share more freely”. This promotes communication and openness.
13. Trust your partner’s good intentions
Assuming your partner is a caring person who wants to invest in the relationship, you might benefit from remembering that when you feel scared to share.
Think of situations when you shared and it all went well. Recall situations in which they showed how much they care and it can help you to open up this time too.
14. Be prepared to hear feedback
Communication is a two-way street. If you decide to share your feelings, there is a high chance your partner will have a reaction they will want to share with you too.
If you realize all you need, at this time, is for them to hear you out and refrain from responding, ask them directly. Make sure to set some time later so they can share their impressions and you can listen to them this time.
15. Make it a regular thing
The more you practice the better you will become. Therefore, arrange with your partner a time, every so often, where you can check-in. Having a pre-set time can decrease the pressure of having to organize time and place.
Furthermore, reflecting and sharing more often helps you to become more self-conscious. That, in turn, helps come to recognize the deeper underlying feelings that are often more difficult to approach.
For example, when angry, you don’t always see that underneath you are sad, hurt, or embarrassed.
The more you reflect the easier it becomes to identify the deep seethed feelings that drive our behavior and decisions just as much as the surface ones.
Should you share everything with your spouse?
Throughout this article we have established that sharing feelings, emotions, and experiences with a spouse is essential for the well being of a relationship and for the partners.
So, should you share everything with your spouse? Well even though transparency and sharing builds trust and intimacy in a relationship, too much of it can have an opposite effect.
Listed are some of the ways that oversharing can have a bad influence:
Loss of individuality
One of the major concerns that come with sharing too much of yourself is the regret of not living the life you always wanted because you consume yourself in becoming “everything and everyone” with your partner.
When you overshare your feelings with your partner you become overly dependent on them. They become your safe heaven that you run to every time you have a new experience.
Such a behavior can soon lead you to expect your partner to be always available when you feel the need to share and make your partner feel overburdened.
Loss of personal space
A constant need to share and the unrealistic expectation from your partner to be a good listener can suffocate your partner and make them feel like they are losing their personal space.
Need for validation
Sharing your innermost people can be very gratifying especially with a romantic partner, however, a negative comment or an unfavorable advice from your partner can push in a cycle of seeking validation from them.
Conclusion: Sharing is caring
Emotions are normal and healthy. We all experience them and there is always a reason behind an emotion we feel. The more we reflect and share the better we become at identifying both emotions and reasons.
If you are afraid to be vulnerable and open, talk to your partner about it. Find a designated time and space where you can share your feelings judgment-free.
The skill of communication is something we develop by talking and listening. There is no other way around it. If we wait for the other to read our mind we are missing a chance to feel better now and improve our relationship.
Sharing your emotions is important for the health of your relationship. Long-term happy relationships rest on the shoulders of taking risks being open and growing together through openness.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.