15 Little Ways To Get Your Partner To Better Understand You Emotionally
No matter how perceptive someone is, understanding the emotions of others is not always simple, especially in the context of relationships. There are so many reasons why it might feel like your partner never understands you emotionally. It could be that you're not communicating properly, that you're accidentally passive aggressive, or you may be way too quick to get upset. It could also have something to do with your partner, like maybe they're not in tune with their emotions, and thus can't understand yours. Whatever the case may be, it's never fun to feel misunderstood, especially in the context of a relationship.
But before we get into all the ways to better understand each other, take a second to think about your go-to communication style. "Lots of times in relationships we get emotionally triggered and we just react, instead of taking the time to name how we really feel and get clear on what we need," dating coach Corinne Dobbas, MS, RD tells Bustle. "We get upset, we don't know why we're really upset, but we still expect our partner to know why we're upset and to understand us."
Since no one is a mindreader, it's obvious why this approach might not work. A better way to handle a heated moment would be to slow down, choose your words, and pay attention to how you're being perceived. "In other words, you can actually have a productive conversation where the goal is to understand one another, instead of getting defensive, angry, or mad," Dobbas says. Below, a few more ways to keep calm, tap into your emotions, communicate effectively, and hopefully "get" each other as a result.
1. Use As Many "I" Statements As Possible
Rule number one: avoid "you" statements whenever possible. "People tend to complain using phrases like, 'You always...' or 'You never...' which can feel like an accusation," board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman tells Bustle. "It's more effective to say 'I feel hurt when you...' instead." That way, the conversation is about how you're feeling, instead of what your partner may or may not be doing wrong.
2. Keep It Short And Sweet
Even though you might be tempted to unleash all your worries in one sitting, doing so can be totally overwhelming for your partner, and thus counterproductive. "It's better to keep it short and simple when you have something emotional to say," Edelman says. "Otherwise, your partner might get overwhelmed with their feelings and tune out."
3. Focus On Understanding Them
If your partner is feeling misunderstood, too, it'll be hard for them to get out of their own head, and into yours. So make sure you understand them — what's bothering them, their point of view, etc. — before trying to make a point. "Emotional connection is a two-way street," says online dating consultant Stacy Karyn. "Until you have put in the effort of trying to understand your partner emotionally, it’s going to be hard for your partner to put in the effort of trying to understand you."
4. Keep Your Voice Calm
If you're both raising your voice, it'll be tough to stay calm and truly understand each other. So pay attention to your volume, as well as your tone. "Keep your voice low and friendly," Karyn says. "Once it raises, it’s going to be harder for your partner to understand or listen to you."
5. Pay Attention To Your Body Language
Body language is another thing that can affect your partner's reaction to you, thus making it harder for them to truly "get" what you need. If you're standing with your arms crossed, for example, you'll appear closed off — and maybe even a little bit defensive. So try to relax. As Karyn says, "Make your body as open and relaxed as possible when attempting to communicate complicated emotions."
6. Make Emotions Part Of Your Daily Convo
If you two aren't in the habit of sharing emotions, a great place to start is by creating an environment where it's totally OK to chat about feelings. And one way to do that is by asking them open-ended questions. "So instead of asking questions like, 'How was your day?' try something like, 'What was the best part of your day and why?' because it allows your partner to share more," Dobas says. It'll make sharing emotions feel normal, so you can have more meaningful conversations going forward.
7. Be Clearer About How You Feel
Instead of being passive aggressive, or hinting at what you need and hoping your partner catches on, try to be clear and to-the-point. As Dobbas tells Bustle, you can say something specific like, "When you look at your phone all the time I feel like I'm not important to you. I would really enjoy more time just with you without your phone. Would you be willing to be on your phone less when we're together?"
This addresses four things: what's bothering you, how you feel about it, what would make you feel better, and whether or not that's possible. "Even if your request isn't possible for your partner, you'll allow the issue at hand to be discussed," she says.
8. Don't Criticize Or Ask Them To Change
Resist the urge to cloud your conversation with criticism or requests for change, and instead keep it all about how you feel. "When speaking about feelings it is important to focus on it being a sharing of your own experience, and that you are just seeking, listening, or understanding — not anything else," psychologist Mark E. Sharp, PhD tells Bustle. "If there is a request for change or criticism attached to sharing your own emotions it is going to interfere with the emotional understanding."
9. Remind Them They Don't Need To "Fix" Anything
It's totally normal for partners to go into "fix it mode," Sharp says, since it's tough to see people we care about feeling upset. But this can put a lot of pressure on your significant other (even if it's self-imposed pressure) and it can make you feel like they aren't listening.
That's why you might want to try reminding your partner, from the start, that they don't need to offer any advice. As Sharp says, "Tell the person they don't need to try and help you feel better but that you just want them to understand how you are feeling."
10. Be Smart About When You Decide To Open Up
If you want to have a heart-to-heart, and truly feel understood, choose your timing wisely. "It's not a great time to open up when your significant other is half asleep, trying to make a work deadline, fighting traffic, or while watching a movie or TV show that they are focused on," relationship expert Kryss Shane, BS, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW, tells Bustle. "Chats during car rides can be great as they don't require planned talks or constant eye contact, either of which can make a person nervous."
11. Figure Out How To Speak Their "Language"
Not everyone communicates in the same way, so you'll want to figure out how your partner communicates, while also helping them to understand how you communicate. "There is a difference between not understanding and not listening or caring," Shane says.
12. Only Try To Connect When You're Not Feeling Emotional
If you've been feeling misunderstood, the middle of a heated argument is not the time to say so. "Ironically, the best way to get your partner to relate to you emotionally is to limit how emotional you are feeling in the moment," relationship expert Jane Reardon, MFT, of RX BREAKUP, tells Bustle. "Often, when faced with a highly emotional partner, a significant other will go into their own fight-or-flight response, particularly if they feel that the relationship is threatened. Very little gets heard or communicated when you’re both in that highly-charged state."
13. Don't Be Afraid To Take A Time Out
If things are getting heated, and you're not feeling heard, don't be afraid to press pause on the conversation and reconvene later on. "Check in with what’s going on in your body… is your heart beating too fast? Does your face feel hot? Are you going over the same sentences in your brain? Take a break, walk outside, focus on something else for a few minutes ... to get back into your body," Reardon says.
14. Say It In Letter Form
If you feel like you can't quite put into words how you're feeling, why not try a new format? "I started writing as a way to express emotionally heavy things to [my partner] in a way that I could accurately convey," sexuality educator Kirsten Schultz tells Bustle. Doing so can give you time to really think about what you'd like to say, while also giving your partner time to read and react.
15. Maintain Reasonable Expectations
Keep in mind, it's totally OK if you two aren't on the same page right now. "People have different emotional experiences and not everything resonates with everyone," Sharp says. "Your partner may really not get or understand an experience you have. If your partner is not particularly conversant with their own emotional experience it is even more unlikely that they won't 'get' yours. Think of emotional understanding as a goal to work toward."
And keep communicating, no matter what. That's the key to better understanding each other, and expressing your emotions in a clearer way going forward.