You want him to be more open with you, to be more expressive, to share his feelings, to tell you what’s up… except that he’s doing the usual guy thing, which is well, not that.
There is no “easy button” on getting a man to be emotionally available. It’s a process that takes time if you even undertake it at all. Too many women come to me after having wasted far too much time trying. Still, if you have solid clues that he has the capacity to be more emotionally available, there are some things you can do to invite him to open up further.
1. Lead by Example.
Most of the time, in a relationship, you like it when your guy is decisive, directed, and action-oriented. It makes you feel more feminine, and you feel his masculine energy. However, the emotional realm is one area where it’s good for you to take the lead! Your openness, expression and non-judgement of emotions can lead him to feel safe to be the same. Model emotional availability – in a really obvious way!
2. Hold Space.
Most women who come to me underestimate the value of creating & holding space. Men are rank amateurs in any kind of feeling/emotional conversation, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have potential, so treat them as such. When you ask a feeling or emotional question, understand that he will struggle BUT figure it out if given the space to do so. This might mean giving him an EXTRA 30-seconds after you think he’s finished speaking, or asking him to have a think about it and come back to you with an answer tomorrow.
3. Fight in A Way That Supports, Rather Than Competes
When he offends you, the less you can personalize it, the better. Instead of saying, “You’re so selfish! You made me feel so horrible,” you can say, “When _____ happens, I feel ___.” (Angry, sad, etc.. Insert the emotion)
In other words, don’t blame and shame. Criticism will disincentivize him to open up to you. If you treat him like he’s emotionally incompetent, that’s how he’ll show up. not to mention he’ll feel judged. And remember, much of a man’s self-worth comes from his feeling of competency. If he feels criticized and misunderstood, he might rebel by withdrawing or possibly even verbally lashing out at you. Go slow when expressing your feelings. Make him feel safe. Remind him he doesn’t have to say everything perfectly and that you’ll be patient with him. Give him time to explore his feelings, don’t withhold your affection, and acknowledge him for his progress.
“Don’t blame and shame. Criticism will disincentivize him to open up to you.”
4. Initiate Emotional Outcome Conversations.
Men love outcomes they can work towards–goals they can target. Take advantage of this. For example, when you become exclusive, you could ask what emotional goals he would like to achieve during your relationship.
For example: One goal of mine is that I’d like to learn to ask for help when I’m overwhelmed, though this is super uncomfortable for me. What about you?
Babe, I have a goal I want to share with you. I’d like to feel safe sharing my vulnerabilities as well as learn to talk about problems while they’re small before they get big. You want to set a goal with me?
One thing I’d like to learn is how to be more sensitive to my partner’s needs. If I ask for feedback from you on this, can you help me with this? You have any relationship goal you want to set?
Initially, he may not know how to articulate his own, and you might have to go first or give him some space in sharing. Books written by men about men or putting on a podcast by men for men could also open up discussion.
5. Encourage His Male Friendships
Encourage him to develop more quality male friendships or to get involved in men’s groups & activities. If his “guy tribe” is a good one, enriching male relationships usually has a positive impact on his relationship with you.
6. Don’t try to change him.
Sure, you can inspire him, motivate him, and lead the emotional way for him. But lobbing a demand like, “You need to be more emotionally available to me!” will just confuse and frustrate him. There are times, however, you may need to realize that he either can’t or won’t “come around.” Here’s how to tell he’s not going to step up…
- You’re doing more for him in the relationship than he’s doing for himself.
- He has a negative, hopeless attitude toward life. “Nothing ever works out for me. Life is unfair,” is his mantra. He always blames others for his problems and refuses to take responsibility for his situation.
- He has destructive addictions he refuses to face and conquer (drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, sex or porn.)
- He has a chronic need to be in control and creates constant power struggles with you over everything.
- He has a lot of guilt, blame, shame, and low self-esteem due to unresolved incidents from his past. These could include things like childhood abuse, family estrangement, or financial difficulties he never forgave himself for.
- He makes excuses for his behavior and shrugs it off, claiming, “This is just how I am.”
- He refuses to participate in getting help for himself and the relationship with counseling, books, seminars, etc.
- He tells you he doesn’t want to open up.
Put these tips into action if you want to encourage your guy in developing emotional availability. And remember, you’re not just doing this for him. Helping someone be more emotionally available is a gift you can give to your friends, your children, and your co-workers, making all your relationships better.
And don’t forget, if you want to work with me to apply this stuff, you can fill out the form at https://www.makehimyours.com.au/coaching/work-with-mark