Question: Sometimes my fiancé won’t tell me what he’s thinking or what he wants. It can be hard to get answers from him. What can I do to encourage him to communicate better?
Firstly, don’t feel alone! We’ve mentioned this a lot, and we will continue to do so because it’s so important, but many of our couples say communication is the one thing that needs the most support. Our current reports say it’s between 33-37% of couples.
A first step is for you to pause and try and understand the best way YOU can communicate to your fiancé. Many times, we will try to communicate to our partners the way we want to be communicated with, not necessarily the way they want or what feels safest to them. Strengthening communication is a two-way street, and if you’re trying to initiate the conversation, you’ll want to keep your partner in mind. A good place to start is the Love Languages we’ve been talking about this month [in our Digital Subscription emails]. If their love language is quality time, maybe you set aside some dedicated time to talk. If it’s physical touch, maybe you sit beside them on the couch and hold their hand.
Another good place to start is to try and identify why your partner doesn’t want to talk. Is it a sensitive subject to them? Do they feel like their emotions and feelings are sign of weakness? Is it a trust issue? It can be easy to say, “well they just don’t like to talk”. But, there could be underlying reasons, and if there are, you’ll want to make sure you acknowledge and appreciate those things. So make time to have a conversation with them about this. If you notice them “closing up”, calmly ask them why. Why don’t they want to talk? Why is it a difficult topic? Let them know that you’re there to support them the best you can, and to do so, you need to understand their pain or discomfort.
Secondly, building communication takes time. It’s not always a “one size fits all” or a quick fix. Knowing this, be patient and consistent with your partner. Don’t accuse or get angry at them because they won’t talk. Yes, it can be really frustrating at times, but hostility will only prevent communication even more. Conversely, if you provide a safe and comfortable environment, it can help them open up.
When you conversate, be sure to practice good active listening techniques. Offer affirmations that you’re listening, give eye contact, and stay focused. Ask your partner questions and stay open for them. They may not want to open up at that moment, but they may want to later.
Here’s an example from a real-life couple we know (we’ve changed their names to Jane and John):
John has a hard time expressing his thoughts and feelings. He can sometimes see them as a weakness, and thus internalizes them. He’d rather work through them on his own instead of talking with anyone else, including his wife, Jane. Unfortunately, sometimes the stress and turmoil he internalizes can be seen outward and can affect his marriage.
Jane, on the other hand, needs to be able to talk through both personal and marital issues with John. But because John feels the need to internalize his emotions, Jane can get very frustrated, at times accusing John of not wanting to talk to her or even saying things like, “fine, we don’t need to talk…I’m done trying”. This creates even more discomfort for John, making him not want to talk even further.
Instead, Jane tries a different approach. During a conversation, she stays calm and composed (even when it’s really tough). She tries to provide a safe and comfortable space for John to open up. She facilitates the conversation by asking John questions. At first the responses are short and leave little resolution, but Jane stays consistent. Each question she asks helps build off of the last answer John gives. Eventually, John is able to open up a little more. Even after that particular conversation, Jane makes John aware of the fact that she is still there to talk to whenever he is ready.
If you partner has a hard time communicating, it can be really frustrating, especially in a marriage (or a soon to be marriage). But remember that it’s a journey. Whether you’ve been together for a few months or a few decades, there’s always things you can do to improve. On the of the most important parts is making sure your partner knows you’re there to support them, no matter what. Be that safe haven for them and let them know that it’s okay for them to open up to you.
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This response, as well as all the content we provide, is not a substitute for professional assistance and should not seen as such. We highly encourage all couples to find a professional therapist to talk with if necessary. Our content is merely a tool to help motivate you to include more interaction between each other.