Unemotionally available? Falling out of love? Cheating? These are some of the questions my clients ask when their partners are non-expressive, withdrawn and/or emotionally unavailable, causing common relationship problems.
I haven’t always been the extravert and outspoken person that I am today. Actually, I am an ambivert; both introverted and extraverted. During my dating years, I dated both introverts and extraverts. However, today, I’m married to an introvert. When I wear my extravert hat, my husband retreats and sometimes withdraws. Lucky for me, I’m a therapist and know how to handle this… most of the time. What about those times when I have to work a little harder to achieve vulnerability and openness? Well, there’s a formula for that! No, seriously! Here’s a formula for how to get your partner to open up.
Bringing Out the Best in Our Partners
It’s simple, really. The equation is: Vulnerability + Vulnerability = Vulnerability. The problem with this equation is that the variables change when there is a lack of trust in the relationship. Due to the fear of being rejected, hurt or betrayed, we often find ourselves erecting barriers for protection. These barriers may provide temporary protection; however, ultimately, we barricade ourselves into an internal prison that blocks intimacy, communication, and healthy conflict resolution.
Relationships are tough. No matter who you are (therapist or not), relationships are hard work!
Remember that most of us want that special someone we can spend the rest of our lives with. Unfortunately, many of us who find ourselves saying, “I do,” also quickly find ourselves saying, “I don’t!” That’s right, over 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Dreams get shattered, lives are changed, and hearts are broken when we fail to address our trust issues. And whether we believe it or not, ALL relationships experience conflict and challenges.
Common Relationship Problems & Possible Solutions
Here are three common relationship problems and possible solutions to get your partner to open up:
This is the #1 conflict couples have and the basis for many arguments. It results in a lack of understanding that causes even further distance and withdrawal. There is a misconception that poor communication means a lack of verbal dialogue. It really means that somewhere along the line the conversation has become guarded and there isn’t the openness necessary to have the discussions and hard conversations. Open communication is needed to stay connected and make relationships last. The only way a person feels comfortable expressing themselves without inhibition is from a point of safety. Are you creating a safe-space for vulnerability?
Solution: Fix That Lack of Communication
Speak your mind: This means trusting yourself enough to be vulnerable in the relationship and share with your partner what is on your mind with kindness and empathy. If you feel your partner is unable to share their emotions, let them know that you will be patient and empathetic as they step outside of their comfort zone. If your partner is naturally introverted and does not talk much, gently encourage them to share a little at a time. However, it is essential you speak up so you and your partner can be on the same page. Address your concerns with empathy.
Be receptive: When a person speaks their mind and it isn’t received well, it can be discouraging for open communication in the future. Even in difficult situations, it is important to maintain respect and listen to what the other has to say. This gives you the ability to have a complete understanding and work as a team.
Different personality types can create a wide range of responses when it comes to solving common relationship problems. Some people cope with avoidance, defensiveness, blame, etc. The method in which problems are handled can either strengthen or weaken the relationship.
Solution: Engage in Problem Solving
Stay on topic: When common relationship problems like these arise, they can often trigger past conflicts and create a bigger problem. Discuss the present issue with the intention of resolving it instead of strengthening your argument.
Agree to disagree: There will be things that you and your partner have different views on. You don’t have to sacrifice your values or what you think is right. Accept the difference in opinion so you can reach an emotional closure.
Work together: In the event of an argument, be careful to provide a safe space for your partner to express their feelings. Conflict shouldn’t become a battle of who wins or loses. Work together and encourage each other to grow to a point where obstacles become lessons and experiencing common relationship problems become a signal for teamwork.
Poor Sex Life
When a partner does not feel safe expressing how they feel, a couple’s intimacy may suffer. Even couples that have a great emotional relationship can have completely different needs when it comes to intimacy. A healthy sex life is open to discussion and should meet the needs of both people. Studies have shown that a good sex life contributes to about 20% of a happy relationship. But a bad sex life is said to contribute to about 70% of an unhappy relationship. This means that a bad sex life has a much bigger impact on the connection.
Solution: Address the Problem for a Better Sex Life
Provide a safe space to express your needs: If you’re not feeling fulfilled in your sexual relationship with your partner, that void will just increase. Express your needs and have a continuous open dialogue. Again, a safe space for discussion is NOT during an argument or lying in the bed after sex. Select a neutral place for conversation or seek professional help. There are great professionally-trained therapists to address difficult situations like sex.
Be open-minded: Sex with someone you love is a very intimate and vulnerable experience that allows you to love your partner in a physical way. Be open to new experiences. This helps foster the spark in your connection and keep the excitement alive.
Seek a therapist: A bad sex life could have an underlying problem that may need the help of a therapist or sex counselor to help discover what it is.
Relationships can bring the greatest joy you’ve ever known, but they take work. If you consider the tips above, tune into your partner, and allow yourself to be vulnerable, you have the formula for what it takes to get your partner to open up and make your relationship last.