What can I do to increase my emotional connection to my husband? When I ask if anything is bothering him, he always says no and refuses to talk to me. When I press him to share more with me, he becomes irritated. What can I do? I feel so lonely!
You’re understandably concerned about an issue we all face from time to time. Relationships depend on emotional honesty and transparency — within bounds, of course. And when you sense your mate isn’t transparent, not only do you wonder what he’s thinking, but even what he might be hiding. While he may not be deceptive, you intuitively know more is brewing within him than what he’s telling you.
Let me be clear: You cannot make your husband share with you. He will share when he feels safe and accepted. Rarely does anyone share because he feels challenged to do so.
However, it’s likely your husband has little understanding about the true nature of intimacy. Someone has said intimacy is “into me see,” and when you don’t sense your mate is being emotionally honest or transparent, you’re deprived of the opportunity to know him — and be known. He may not have thought of intimacy as being “into me see,” and not fully appreciate what he deprives you of when he fails to share what’s happening inside him. He may believe what he thinks and feels is of little importance.
Having said this, I wonder how you relate to your husband. Men are prone to feelings of inadequacy. They want to be good husbands who please their spouses, but most have fragile egos. Have you criticized your husband rather than encouraged him? Before any of us can receive constructive criticism, we must trust that our mate loves us and is giving us feedback for our good and the good of the relationship. If there is any doubt about these factors, your husband may become defensive and protect himself.
Here are some additional factors to consider as you work to increase your emotional connection with your mate:
Create safety. Your husband won’t bare his soul if he doesn’t feel safe. Safety means he knows you’ll value and honor what he shares. Safety means he’ll be encouraged and appreciated rather than criticized. Have you created a safe place for him to share his feelings?
Provide an environment for sharing. Many share more freely sitting in a favorite chair, at a special time, and in a particular way. I share more when I’m sitting in the comfort of my living room after my workday is finished. Does your husband have a favorite time and place when sharing feels more natural?
Model openness and emotional honesty. Many men need these qualities modeled for them. Seek opportunities to share bits and pieces of yourself and see how your spouse responds. Intimacy can feel good when done in the right way, at the right time.
Ask for what you want. We often talk about emotional honesty and transparency as if everyone knows what that means, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Share with your spouse when he’s relaxed how important it is that he share his heart with you.
Accept small gains. Relating in an emotionally transparent way can feel like quite the feat to someone unfamiliar with the language. Your husband needs to believe he can do this well. Be sure to accept his small efforts as he moves toward greater levels of sharing.
In summary, there are no shortcuts to relational intimacy. Be clear with your husband that connection comes with sharing thoughts and feelings. Refuse to criticize or shame him, but use strong doses of encouragement and rejoice with small gains.