Things That May Be Keeping You From Opening Up to Your Partner

Things That May Be Keeping You From Opening Up to Your Partner

A common problem plaguing many couples is the inability to communicate effectively. Communication strategies are difficult to maneuver and can be troublesome for couples who face challenges when trying to understand one another.

But not learning new strategies for connecting with your partner and not acknowledging differences can be detrimental to your relationship. There are several stumbling blocks to being able to open up and have positive communication with your partner. Below, take a look at some of the more common hindrances and how to overcome them.

Fear of rejection

Think about how you converse with others. Are you open, honest, and willing to say what you have to say without regard for how it may be perceived? Or do you tend to be reserved and are afraid to speak your mind because you are worried about what others will think? Fearing rejection can be debilitating to a partner’s willingness to share their life events or challenges with their loved one. While it may be irrational to think and feel this way, it is a real and true barrier for some. Be proactive and learn the ways in which your partner tends to communicate. Verbalize that your relationship is a safe place to be open and honest; it is a place free from judgment or assumption. Then put those commitments into practice!

Past relationships

Some fear the consequences of opening up because of patterns in past relationships. You may be with someone new, someone with a unique way of talking and sharing their feelings or emotions. But problems from the past like to rear their ugly heads and create a sense of hesitancy and secrecy in relationships. If you find yourself feeling timid about sharing openly with your partner because of past hurt or embarrassment, talk it out with the person you love! If your partner truly loves and cares about you, then this conversation will likely be an easy one. You should feel safe and secure in the relationship and feel as if you have a voice. Do not let fear from the past keep you from having relational joy in the present.

Differences in communication styles

How we communicate with one another is one of the most unique characteristics of being human. Complex communication styles include differences in facial expressions, environments, body language, tones of voice, word choice, and timing. These differences in communication patterns can prevent openness between partners by not allowing each person to fully engage with the other. If contrasts are diverse enough, it can be difficult for a couple to find common ground and the ability to clearly speak about their feelings and emotions. Styles can vary from aggressive or confrontational to timid or assertive. If you and your partner have significant differences in the way you verbally share your life with others, it is good to have a conversation about needs and wants in communication in order to feel as if the relationship is a safe place for being open and honest.


Many couples suffer from a lack of openness because one or both partners are afraid of conflict. Just as with communication styles, the ways people choose to hash out problems can vary greatly. Some prefer to meet a disagreement head on and work out problems through confrontation and discussion. Others may move away from the conflict and return later after thinking through the problems rationally. Some, however, are more timid and would prefer to ignore the conflict altogether and try to figure out a solution without having a discussion or argument. Do you know what your primary style of conflict is? What about your partner’s? If you find them to be very different, it might be wise to establish “rules of conflict” in order to create a safe place for both partners to feel as if their voice will be heard and acknowledged.

Lack of self-confidence

Low self-esteem in your personal life is likely to lead to distrust and a reduction in information shared between partners in a relationship. Low self-esteem or self-confidence, generally speaking, is an inability to feel safe and secure in your own skin. It can cause you to feel awkward in your environment or uncomfortable being who you are. This kind of negative self-concept can severely impact your ability and willingness to talk openly with your significant other about life events or concerns. There is no easy fix for low self-esteem; it takes commitment to change the way you think about yourself. One of the most effective tools in your “toolbox”, however, is the person who loves you most. If you desire to change your self-image and, in turn, the way you communicate with your partner, your most valuable asset is to rely on the support you have with your partner by your side.

While none of these stumbling blocks alone explains the difficulty some people have with opening up to the people they love and trust the most, they are a good place to start. Evaluate where you are in your ability to communicate with your spouse or partner and review what challenges may exist preventing either of you from opening up to the other.

Elizabeth McCormick is a Licensed Social Worker and mental health counselor at the University of Evansville. She has worked for several years with children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families and has pursued continued education in the fields of suicide prevention and community awareness. She is an advocate for learning and has had the opportunity to teach college courses in the fields of Human Services, Sociology, and Communication Studies.

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