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Being honest with your partner can be pretty scary, whether you’re sharing good or bad feelings.
For a lot of us, previous relationship issues dictate how comfortable we feel communicating with our partners.
We might be worried about rejection if we share our love for someone. We might be concerned that we’re not being sensitive to our partner’s problems if we’re too positive. We might be anxious sharing things that make us feel sad or uncomfortable.
Whatever the case may be, in this article, we’ll be running through our top tips for talking about your feelings with your partner so that you can find something that works best for you.
Sharing your positive feelings.
Wanting to share positive feelings with your partner should be lovely, right?
Well, it’s harder than it sounds for a lot of us!
You might be nervous about being rejected if they don’t say something similar back—the main one being “I love you.”
It’s okay to be anxious about telling your partner how you feel. Remember that there’s no rush to communicate these kinds of things—being with someone is all about building trust.
The more time you spend together, and the more you let yourself communicate small things to start with, the easier it will begin to feel. Work your way up to the bigger topics!
While it’s great to share how good you’re feeling, try to be sensitive around how your partner may be feeling. For example, if they’ve had a bad day, it might not be the ideal time to tell them that you’ve had the best day ever!
That being said, it’s all about balance—you and your partner should be able to celebrate each other’s successes, regardless of your own situations.
You know your partner, so judge for yourself when the best time is to share your great news. Be mindful of how it may impact them, and work together to set boundaries and build up the trust between the two of you.
Talking about negative feelings and communicating after conflict.
This is way harder than sharing the good news, so it’s completely valid to feel stressed or upset at the thought of expressing negative feelings with your partner.
The important thing is to be respectful where possible. That means that even if your partner has upset you, you need to try to be mature about how you approach the situation. It also means waiting for an appropriate time when you’re in private and can both be honest and open without worrying about others judging or reacting.
Take turns when it comes to speaking—as much as you may want to voice your issues, your partner will want to voice their reasons or apologies.
Agree when to let things go. Not every conversation needs to be an argument when it comes to expressing hurt or anger. Sometimes, it’s better to accept an apology, trust that there will be a change in behavior, and agree to drop it before it festers into more resentment or frustration.
Again, this is all about trust. You and your partner need to trust that you’ll both regroup after stressful situations, arguments, or upsetting news. In psychology, this is known as object constancy, and it’s something that comes with time, as you will both learn how to communicate with each other.
You may want to set boundaries, such as giving each other space after an argument, or you may want to create a ritual to reconnect, such as hugging or spending quality time together.
No one thing works for every couple, so you’ll have to try out a few options to see what suits you both best.
12 Tips For Expressing Your Feelings In A Relationship
Whether you are talking about something positive or wish to discuss something that’s troubling you, there are ways to make that communication as good as it can be.
1. Start slow.
Whether you’re in the early stages of a relationship or you’ve been together for years, talking about your feelings can be really challenging.
If you’re newly dating, you have no real parameters to go by—there are no past experiences with this partner to learn from, and you’re still discovering how they work and the best ways to interact.
Equally, you may have been with someone for years but just never really shared that much about how you feel. That could be for a huge number of reasons—maybe it’s just become a habit or you’re both too stuck in your ways to really address anything properly.
Maybe it’s because you’ve never formed that level of closeness with each other or you don’t feel comfortable being honest (this may be a different issue that requires some additional support, such as a professional, to help you work through).
Either way, if you’re new to explaining your feelings to your partner, don’t worry! Start slow and go from there.
It might be small things that have upset you or made you really happy—these are things you can start small conversations over without the fear of it blowing up into something bigger. The more you do this, the more confident you’ll become while also building up a new level of strength and closeness with each other.
Be kind—remember that communication is a skill that can take time to hone, so be patient and respect how far you’ve come on this journey so far.
Advocating your needs and being brave enough to be open with your feelings—whether they’re good or bad—is a huge step for a lot of people and something to be really proud of!
2. Communicate with yourself first.
Rather than launching straight into a big conversation with your partner, take some time to figure out what’s going on with yourself first.
It’s so easy to rush into a conversation when you are feeling excited or passionate about something, just as it’s easy to lash out when you’re hurt or angry.
But rushing often leads to a more irrational kind of communication—you’re saying words to get a reaction, not to explain yourself and how you’re actually feeling.
Ultimately, this will never lead to the result you want. It will either create further conflict or drive resentment due to bad timing.
If you need to, talk to a loved one before you speak with your partner. Alternatively, you could make notes for yourself first…
3. Make notes for yourself.
If you’re not used to expressing your feelings in a relationship, then it can be difficult to know where to start.
No matter how much you love and trust your partner, you might find yourself getting flustered or embarrassed when it comes to really opening up and sharing how you’re feeling.
This is totally normal for a lot of people and is just one of those things that takes some getting used to.
In the early stages of introducing more communication in your relationship, you may want to make a few notes before you speak with your partner. This can help you work through how you’re feeling and what you want to share, meaning you’re more likely to feel comfortable sharing how you feel.
If you’re talking about something great, you may still worry that you’ll get overexcited or miss the point—this is why making notes can be really helpful.
You don’t need to take notecards with you when you chat to your partner, but it can be a good way of organizing your thoughts and making sure you share everything you want to.
4. Be honest but measured.
When you first start talking about your feelings in a relationship, it can be hard to know how far to go. Some of us start small, and some of us launch into sharing every tiny detail—others start small and then panic and overcompensate with huge overshares!
Strong communication is something that takes time to build, so go easy on yourself and keep practicing.
While being honest with your partner is important, so is not opening the floodgates. If your partner suddenly shared how they felt every second of the day, or had an opinion on everything you’d ever said or done, you’d be overwhelmed and, frankly, annoyed. You’re a human being living your own life, and that needs to be respected—that goes both ways.
Consider what you’re sharing and why. Is it something that will lead to a healthier relationship, or are you just offloading your anger? Is it something you’d be okay hearing yourself, or does it cross a line? Is it still relevant or are you bringing up issues from the past that have already been resolved?
While your feelings and experiences are valid, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the outcome that you’re after. How can you communicate that end result with your partner through your feelings so that you both feel heard and respected?
How would you want them to handle the same conversation? What are topics you’d hate them to bring up (such as ex partners, previous sex lives, etc.), and how can you try to avoid these yourself?
Remember that feelings can be complicated and not always clear. For example, some insecurities may be worsened by your partner’s actions (if they flirt with other people, it may make you feel anxious). However, you may also be placing blame on them without cause (if they’re fully committed to you but an ex cheating on you is the cause of your anxiety, that’s not your partner’s fault).
Do your best to avoid misplacing feelings on your partner—it’s so easy to do, especially when you get comfortable being honest, but it’s unfair and will lead to all sorts of issues in the relationship.
5. Create a safe space.
In order to feel comfortable explaining your feelings to your partner, the setting needs to be right. You might be desperate to get something off your chest, but, if one of you has had a bad day or is rushing around to leave the house, you might want to consider waiting for a better time.
It sounds obvious, but we can sometimes forget that the other person isn’t necessarily in the same headspace as us. We get so focused on hyping ourselves up to share something, whether it’s good or bad, that we often forget to take a step back and evaluate our surroundings and the other person’s mood.
If you’re going to have a potentially difficult conversation, or you’re sharing something that you feel very sensitive or anxious about, creating a safe space with your partner is key. This is a way of setting up the conversation for success.
Choose somewhere comfy and with no distractions—ideally at home with no radio or TV on in the background. While it might feel intense at first, you’ll be grateful for the space and quiet when you start getting into the important topics.
Give your partner a heads up that you want to chat with them—that way, they can make sure they’re in the right headspace to really listen to you.
Normally, when we start talking to our partners, we’re just getting out of bed and rushing to get ready for work, or we’ve just gotten home and are zoning out on our phone, laptop, or while cooking dinner.
If you let your partner know that you want to chat, they can ensure they’re ready to give you their full attention.
Do your best to make the space feel comfortable for you both—of course, it’s important that you feel good about communicating your feelings, but remember that your partner is also involved and may be hearing something for the first time, may be worried about whatever you’re about to tell them, or may feel uncomfortable if things get a bit serious.
Choose a neutral space like the living room to have a chat. Try to avoid doing it in bed, or even in the bedroom as this is meant to be a space where you can relax and sleep, and emotive chats are rarely relaxing. And never try to have a discussion while one of you is driving.
6. Use “I feel” phrases.
This is a classic therapy technique that most people have heard of, but it’s really worth considering if you’re yet to put it into practice.
Rather than telling someone what they’ve done, you can gently explain how the action made you feel. This is a way to avoid placing blame on your partner in an aggressive way, and instead allows for a more open dialogue.
That’s not to say that you can’t hold your partner accountable for something they’ve done, it just means approaching it in a healthier and thoughtful way that is more likely to result in a better outcome for you both.
For example, instead of saying, “You don’t respect me because you never clean,” you can try, “I feel disrespected when you don’t contribute to cleaning.” Although this small change might feel a bit weird at first, it’s a great way to avoid blame language and open up the dialogue more.
Imagine the roles were reversed and someone immediately started telling you everything you’d done “wrong”—you’d feel attacked and unprepared. You would likely get upset and understandably defensive. To avoid this happening, verbalize your feelings in a way that shows that interactions are a two-way street, rather than putting all the blame on them.
A lot of us don’t realize that some things we do are upsetting or frustrating to other people until we’re told. This isn’t great when it’s over a long period of time as it can lead to huge levels of resentment. This is why it’s important to express yourself early on and in a neutral way.
Rather than placing the blame on your partner for causing these issues and needing to change, let them know how things are making you feel. Explain that you just want both of you to feel comfortable and happy in the relationship by working on it together.
7. Establish boundaries.
While communication is key to a healthy relationship, there are limits! Being open about things with your partner is a great way to get closer and build more trust, but there are some boundaries that you’ll want to establish as you continue to develop your communication with each other.
For example, you might want to have some off-limits topics, like ex partners, family members, previous sex lives, and so on. These are typical conversation topics that can cause conflicts between partners, whether it’s a new relationship or an established marriage. You’ll be able to work out what your own ones are together.
In order for your boundaries to be respected, remember that you also need to respect their boundaries.
Of course, there’s room for discussion, and there may be some things that you want to veto that are actually really important to get out in the open. If this is the case, or vice versa, try to be open-minded as to the reasons behind un-vetoing these!
8. Be affectionate afterward.
Sometimes, expressing how you feel to your partner can leave you feeling incredibly vulnerable. You might feel a bit awkward, or even embarrassed, especially if you showed a lot of emotion or talked about some very personal things. This is totally normal and it’s a great sign that you feel comfortable with your partner.
Occasionally, you may feel more anger or sadness than you did before the discussion—again, this is normal and it’s a way of processing all of the emotions and vulnerability.
In order to move on from this together, make time to be affectionate after intense conversations.
It can feel very abrupt to go from a deep chat to a conversation about who’s taking the trash out, so give yourselves some time to transition. You may want some extra affection in order to reinforce your bond together as well as reassurance that you’re both still in love after a very honest conversation.
That being said, if one of you does need some space, make sure you respect each other’s boundaries and take a pause before coming back together for a hug and some comfort
9 Give feedback to each other.
Sharing how you feel with a partner can be scary, and nobody knows exactly how to do it perfectly every time! Communication is only as good as you make it, so you need to work together to figure out what works for you both.
That might mean starting the day with a big conversation to get it out the way, or it could be sharing your feelings while you’re winding down in the evening. In a healthy relationship, this is something that you should feel able to discuss.
Feedback is a great tool in this instance—again, without using any blame language, share with your partner how you’d better like to communicate or how you think things are going.
You might want to let them know that you often need a hug after an intense chat, or they might want to share with you that they’d find it helpful to work with a therapist on some issues. Either way, work together to find a solution that feels right.
10. Respect that it goes both ways.
Talking about your feelings is a great way to bond with your partner, whether you are in a new relationship or you’ve been married for decades.
In order to keep things fair, you need to accept that, by opening up to your partner more, you’re creating a two-way channel of communication. That means that, the more you share your feelings, the more likely your partner is to share their feelings.
Remember that communication shows that you are both invested in the relationship. Sure, it may feel negative at times, and one or both of you is likely to feel upset or attacked at some point, but the fact that you’re being honest shows you care.
Feeling comfortable being honest is something that everyone deserves in their partnership, so respect your partner and create a safe space for them to do so.
11. Accept and resolve.
You might find explaining your feelings in a relationship a challenge at first, and your main concern may be that things will escalate and cause even more issues. This is often why we keep quiet about things—sometimes it’s easier to just “get on with it” than risk causing an argument or upsetting someone.
That’s all well and good, but a lot of those things will fester and lead to resentment. Rather than stewing away, agree with your partner that big conversations need to be resolved. This is a great way to approach communication, as it’s more likely to lead to things being accepted and sorted!
You will never be able to resolve every single conversation as it happens, but moving on from conflict is a great approach to take. That means going into conversations about your feelings with the mindset of finding a resolution rather than simply offloading or complaining.
While it’s good to feel comfortable being honest, some conversations are better had with people who aren’t your partner! For example, if you just want to rant about a one-off thing your partner has done, call a friend to vent.
If there are things that feel important or are becoming longer-term issues, that’s a conversation to save for with your partner—again, with the intention of finding a solution that works for you both, rather than simply snapping or getting angry with each other.
12. Find what works for you.
We’ll be honest—learning to communicate with your partner isn’t as easy as simply working through a checklist, sorry!
However, these tips are a great place to start—the rest is up to you.
It’s often a case of trial and error and figuring out what works for you and your partner together. It may take a while, and it will definitely take some compromises, but you’ll get there. What’s more, you’ll learn a lot about yourself, and each other, along the way.
Knowing when to seek additional support is also really important here. You may find that it’s really difficult for one or both of you to move through certain issues. Maybe your partner cannot validate or reciprocate your feelings of love, respect your boundaries, or listen to the issues you bring up.
Either way, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s okay to get extra help in the form of a marriage counsellor, couples therapist, or from a professional who can support both of you individually.
Honest communication can be difficult at first and may bring up a lot of previous emotions and experiences for you both, which can be really challenging. Reaching out for support is never a bad thing and is a strength, not a weakness. It shows that you’re both prepared to put in the effort to make it work, and that’s what a healthy, long-lasting relationship is all about.
A good place to get help is the website Relationship Hero – here, you’ll be able to connect with a relationship counselor via phone, video, or instant message.
While you can try to work through this situation yourself or as a couple, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can fix. And if it is affecting your relationship and mental well-being, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people – both couples and individuals – try to muddle through and do their best to solve problems that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, speaking to a relationship expert is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service Relationship Hero provide and the process of getting started.
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- Is Arguing Healthy In A Relationship? (+ How Often Do Couples Fight?)