June 7, 2019
Emotional (Un)availability: How to Get Your Partner to Open Up
Jess and Brandon discuss what emotional unavailability might look like and they challenge the “fix-it” mentality. They share specific strategies for overcoming emotional unavailability including language and approaches to support your partner. They discuss the five languages of love, simple questions to make daily interactions more emotionally open, and emotional compatibility.
**Please find a rough transcript of this podcast below**
Welcome to the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast brought to you by Desire Resorts and Cruises. I’m Brandon Ware.
And I’m Jess O’Reilly, your friendly neighborhood sexologist. Today we’re going to talk about emotional unavailability, because a number of folks have been referencing this topic on Instagram and I posted about it last week.
Emotional Unavailability isn’t a formal diagnosis, so it’s one of those terms that tends to be tossed around rather flippantly without a universal definition. Some of us are emotionally unavailable by choice and others don’t even realize that we’re putting up a wall. Emotional availability often refers to the ability to talk openly about your feelings and this is a skill as opposed to a state of being. This means that emotional availability can be cultivated with effort and need not be a universal relationship deal breaker.
Some signs of being currently emotional unavailable include:
They avoid intimate conversations or withdraw when you bring up difficult topics. This is a good example of the fact that emotional unavailability is not a matter of character, but of skill, experience and comfort level. We’ve all avoided intimate and difficult conversations at some point in time, so you can understand why your partner might utilize avoidance behaviours. They may be trying to avoid conflict or tension. They might be distracted or stressed out by other issues in their life and simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth to open up at this time. Or they might simply not have the communication tools/skills to speak openly about intense topics. The good news, of course, is that circumstances change (you can help to put them at ease) and with practice, they can develop the skills to communicate more effectively. It’s important to note that just because you believe you’re more emotionally available, does not in fact make it so. Your perception of your own skills in biased and you can’t expect them to communicate in the same way you do; they may have a different communication style and you’ll be better off finding middle ground as opposed to expecting them to get on board with your expectations.
They refuse to express vulnerability. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable requires trust, so emotional availability can increase over time as you get to know and trust one another. If you feel your partner is not opening up, I’d avoid labels like emotionally unavailable and the associated accusations altogether. You’ll find that you’re more likely to get a positive response and a willingness to consider behavioural change if you talk about how you feel as opposed to what your partner is doing wrong.
For example, you might be frustrated by the fact that your partner won’t talk about sensitive and personal topics. Related to this frustration, however, may be a sense of insecurity, as you might expect someone who loves you to trust you with their most vulnerable feelings. Talk about this insecurity and what behaviours (e.g. opening up more about the past) might hep to assuage your fears as opposed to accusing your partner of being emotionally unavailable. Opening up about your own emotions including your vulnerabilities (e.g. insecurity) may foster a safe environment that encourages your partner to do the same.
They cut people off without working on relationships. Not all relationships (including friendships) are intended to last forever, but if they cut people off often (e.g. parents, siblings, friends, exes, co-workers), it’s easy to identify the common denominator. They may make excuses and believe that they have all the answers which leads them to an expectation that they can unilaterally dictate the terms of all relationships. If they point you out as the exception (the only one they need/want), you may want to be wary of whether or not you’ll be next on the chopping block.
If you think your partner is emotionally unavailable and you want them to open up to you…
First consider whether your expectations are realistic.
Your idea of emotional unavailability may not be your partner’s. It’s possible you just want more emotional expression and emotional support than your partner is willing to give. And you can request that they open up in a specific way. You can tell them that you’d like them to share or support you in a way that works for you. And hopefully they’re open to considering your needs, but they’re also not required to meet every last one of your needs.
I’m always concerned when one partner “diagnoses” the other with a problem. This deficit approach usually places all or most of the responsibility for change on one partner instead of considering the ways in which both partners can make behavioural changes to meet in the middle.
Perhaps you should reframe your approach to acknowledge that you’re not emotionally compatible right now and you both need to work to become compatible. It’s not their job alone. You’ll want to look for middle ground.
If you accuse your partner of a deficit, chances are that you will get nowhere. If you tell them what you want, they might be more open to meeting your needs.
And that brings us to our second strategy…
Identify what you want first. When you say they’re emotionally unavailable, you’re criticizing them. So rather than focusing on what they’re not doing, identify what you want them to do. Do you want them to be more honest when they’re feeling down? Do you want them to open up and talk about their insecurities? Do you want them to attend therapy with you? Do you want them to listen more attentively when you’re feeling emotional? Do you want them to acknowledge your struggles rather than dismissing them? Do you want them to check in on how your feeling more often? Do you want them to be more physically affectionate? Do you want them to discuss future plans that they’ve been avoiding? Do you want them to talk to you about sex and what turns them on? Do you want them to engage in conversations that are scary – perhaps you want to create a budget or do estate or will planning? What is it that you want?
If you can identify what it is you want – specifically – choose 1, 2 or three items to begin with, also consider why you want your partner to express emotions in this specific way. Do you think opening up about their insecurities might help you to better understand them so that you can be more supportive? Or do you simply want them to reveal them because you’ve revealed yours and it’s a tit for tat situation. You’ll not only want to share your request with them, but you’ll want to share the reason behind your request.
Once you’ve identified what you want and why you want it, you can approach your partner — not when you’re fighting – not when you’re frustrated because you’re stuck in traffic, but when tensions are nice and low — and make your request. Don’t make an accusation. Don’t assume that you’re right or entitled. Just tell them what you want and why you want it.
I want to talk about how often we have sex because I really love you and I know it’s an important part of our relationship. I’m uncomfortable talking about it too, but I think it’s worth pushing through the discomfort so that we can better understand one another.
Once you’ve stated that you want to engage in a potentially emotional conversation, they might be open to it or they might not. If they don’t want to talk about it right away, ask them if there is a better time.
When do you think we could talk about it?
Give them options. Could you talk about it while you go for a walk so that you’re shoulder to shoulder and not face to face? Could you talk about it just for ten minutes on the weekend so that they don’t feel pressure to have a long drawn-out conversation? Do they want to write down their feelings ahead of time before you chat? Would they rather talk about it with a therapist on their own or with you to help facilitate the conversation? You can now see therapists online from the comfort of your home.
If you’re coming from a place of love, you’ll make an effort to make them comfortable too – especially if these types of conversations and interactions are new.
Look for ways to make them feel emotionally safe. Consider whether you could be less judgmental and more flexible. How have you responded in the past to emotional expressions and how could you respond in a more supportive way in the future?
You might want to talk about the 5 love languages if you haven’t yet. If you’re not familiar with the five languages of love, they’re Gary Chapman’s framework for how we give and receive love. He suggests that there are five primary languages and we each have a primary and secondary language. You have to learn to speak your partner’s.
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Quality time
- Physical affection
- Receiving gifts
In addition to exploring your love languages, you might also want to talk about other relationships. Open up a dialogue to discuss how they experienced love growing up. What made them feel safe? What made them feel threatened? When they consider their parents or guardians, what did they do well with regard to emotional expression? What did they not do well? Sometimes we can identify a deficit or area for improving in the people we love, but not directly in ourselves. If they can acknowledge that their father withdrew whenever there was conflict and it made their home life more tense, they might be able to identify that this is something they don’t want to do. They may not admit that they do it, but simply naming the behavior can help them to address it moving forward.
They may also need help with an emotional vocabulary. They may have zero practice saying, I feel sad, I feel angry, I feel nervous, I feel anxious, I feel happy or I feel conflicted. There are apps like VENT that allow you to pick from a list of feelings and share your thoughts online, but if they’d rather not interact with an online community, you might just use a list of emotions and start there. You can take the lead and admit that sometimes you also have trouble expressing yourself so you’re using emotional language on a daily basis. Emotional expressions don’t need to be relegated to intimate topics. We are emotional about everything.
Most importantly — and I really want to drive this point home — don’t act like you’re trying to FIX them. I see this often. One partner believes that they’re more emotionally mature or more advanced than the other and they believe that they’re entitled and qualified to fix their partner. When you feel like you have it together and you feel like your partner isn’t living up to your expectations, you might believe that if they just become more like you, they’ll be happier — and you’ll be happier. But this is a matter of your own bias. It’s a form of normative idealization: we not only idealize and rationalize our own choices, but we derive comfort and confidence in our choices from the belief that everyone else would benefit from following in our footsteps. We rationalize our choices so that we feel better about them and we sometimes project them onto our partners.
Instead of trying to fix them, focus on asking for what you want.
Remember that not all people, not all families, not all cultures express emotion similarly. And so you are going to have to accept some degree of difference or you’ll never be happy. Think about how much you’re willing to work with.
If they say that they never want to talk about it and this is a repeated pattern of behavior and these issues are important to you, it’s possible you’re at an impasse. If they’re not willing to talk about any of the issues that are important to you and you want a certain type of communication and they want another, you have to decide whether you’re willing to deal with this differential. You can become compatible, but only if you find a way to meet somewhere near the middle.
And of course look for other sources of support. Your partner can’t fulfill your every need. Do you talk about your feelings with other people? Do you open up and express vulnerability to others or are you burdening your partner with all of your emotional needs. If you have no other real sources of emotional support, you may be unknowingly putting too much pressure on your partner. This might be why they seem emotionally unavailable – they may be withdrawing because it feels like too much for them.
If you’re looking to make emotional expression a part of your daily interactions so that you can be more emotionally connected, try changing the way you approach the mundane on a daily basis.
Instead of asking how was your day, ask what was the best part of your day? The specificity can help them to access some of their emotional vocabulary and even if they don’t use feeling words, they’ll be using corollary ones and providing insight into sources of joy or pleasure.
Instead of asking how they’re feeling more generally, ask what made you feel great today? Ask them what they’re looking forward to. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help them relax.
When they’re feeling down, ask them what you can do to cheer them up. Don’t ask them to explain themselves or provide a full explanation for how they’re feeling so that you can help find solutions. You’re not entitled to an explanation, but you’re more likely to get one if you wait and show support when they’re experiencing not-so-positive emotions.
I’m glad we got a chance to talk about this. Each topic we cover is one that I’m also personally working on, so I derive benefits from fleshing it out.
Thanks for being here, Brandon.
Thanks to Desire Resorts and Cruises for your support. Brandon and I will be joining Desire on the Red Carpet Cruise leaving from Cannes next May, so check it out.
Thanks for listening. Have a great week and we’ll be back next Friday and every Friday with a new episode.
This podcast is brought to you by Desire Resorts.
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
Emotional (Un)availability: How to Get Your Partner to Open Up
00:00:05 – 00:05:15
You’re listening to the sacs with Dr Jess podcast, sex, and relationship advice you can use tonight. Welcome to the sex with Dr Jess podcast brought to you by our friends desire resorts in cruises. I’m Brandon wear your co host for the podcast. And I’m just so Riley. Your friendly neighborhood sexologist. Today. I wanna talk about emotional unavailability. Talk about it. Because I’ve been receiving a number of questions and I was chatting about it on Instagram the other day. And it seems that many people are diagnosing their partners, as emotionally, unavailable, not just their long term partners. But. People that their dating casually. They use emotional unavailability as a reason for breaking up or a reason for not continuing to date someone because they’re emotionally unavailable. But emotional unavailability isn’t a formal diagnosis. It’s one of those terms that I think it’s tossed around kind of flippantly like narcissism, right? And, yes, some of us are emotionally unavailable by choice, or we don’t engage emotionally, the way you want us to. And I think other people don’t even realize that we’re putting up walls. And when we say, emotional unavailability were often referring to not having the ability to talk openly about your feelings. And if we look at emotional availability, as the capacity to talk openly about your feelings. It’s easy to see that. It’s a skill. It’s not a state of being. It’s not something you are. It’s more something you do. And what that means to me is that emotional availability can be cultivated with effort, and it doesn’t need to be a relationship dealbreaker. So I, I wanted to talk a little bit about some signs of being emotionally unavailable in your current state. So, for example, if you have a partner who avoids intimate conversations, or they withdraw anytime you bring up a difficult topic. This might be. You know, evidence that they’re emotionally unavailable, but it’s also a good example of the reality that emotional unavailability isn’t a matter of character. It’s a matter of skill and experience and comfort level. Anybody can learn to have an intimate conversation every single one of us without exception. We’ve all voided intimate and difficult conversations at some point in time. So you can understand why your partner might utilize avoidance behaviors. They might be trying to avoid conflict or tension. They might be distracted or already stressed out by other issues, and they don’t have the emotional bandwidth to open up at this time. Or maybe they don’t have the communication tools or skills to speak openly about intense topics. I think it would be fair to say that do we not also experience emotional availability. It comes and goes it changes on a daily basis, like I may not I just may not wanna talk to you about something at a particular period of time. And then that changes does not. Absolutely. And that’s when we use language like this. I always want to remind people that you’re not confident or insecure you experience moments of confidence. And you experience moments of insecurity. I mean, confident, of course you wanna like yourself overall, but everything that we are is fluid. But I hear people reading a someone to BuzzFeed article, and then all of a sudden into conversation will your emotional emotionally, unavailable or my partner, and I’m like, really the that’s what you think you read one article, and your partner, or whomever is unwilling or unable to talk about something, and that’s the basis upon which you’re gonna use to decide to terminate that relationship, or it’s this hierarchy, it’s this idea that I’ve read something in this is it right? I know a word or I know a phrase. He’s and therefore expect you to live up to my definition of this phrase, or how about reflecting back on your own state, and whether or not you’ve been that way with your partner at any given point time. We’ve all been that way. I’ve, I’ve sometimes come home after a speaking tour and I don’t wanna talk to anyone. So I’m friendly. I love talking to people. I talk to everyone. I think they really wish I would go away. But I wish you were emotionally unavailable this woman so emotionally available and just so physically available get away from me, but after being away for a week and not only being on stage and sometimes facilitating longer workshops and hearing people’s emotional stories and, and responding to people’s very serious disclosures.
00:05:15 – 00:10:08
And then generally just being chatty person talking to the people at the coffee shop and talking to the people on the plane and talking to the to the folks, I meet on the street. Sometimes I come home, and I just need a break. So everyone knows just we’ll talk to people at the copy shop. Leave me out side with when we had our dog in the cold be like, minus ten. The two of us are outside shivering away. You’re in their chatty, Cathy, okay. But did we ever talk about the fact that even at the coffee shop, and they gave me seven floor level tickets to the t of see it? It wasn’t true. It was the international league. Do you remember it was the TV was playing the tea does? Yes. That’s right. They were playing the Mexican team. So this is a big game. And I just met him five minutes ago. But because I’m a chatty person and then it turns out his wife Atanta instructor. So you meet so many people if you just talked to people in so Brandon, I we live in Toronto, where people really don’t talk. They don’t even say, good morning or Hello. When I say hi to people, they look at me like I want to eat them. I think Torontonians are nice people, I don’t think they are friendly people, exactly. And I think that everyone assumes that we’re over Canadian, we’re super friendly. Man. I we do things for work, and one of which involves getting out and for my own real estate company, getting trying to meet people. And when you say good morning to someone on the side of the street and, you know, them they think you’re in alien, give them, some context. So every Tuesday morning for many, many years, Brandon and his company have given back to the. Community by giving out free, quantum coffee in the king west area of Toronto. We do it. We don’t expect anything in return. We simply ask people all the realtors at work with me. We all just hand coffee and we offer a simple good morning to people. And I’ve had people that I can think of not acknowledged us for the last six years, because it’s like they think we’re gonna I don’t know, you know, force them into something to be fair because you are a branded type installation or activation. I’m sure people are afraid they have to buy something or you’re gonna wanna pressure them. But just generally in Toronto, people have difficulty just saying. Hi, I wanna start this movement called up Toronto, I do it just to play with the dogs. It’s Joe show. He has his regulars who come every Tuesday. And he knows them, only by their dog names, Gruson, ruby ruby the dog can barrel roll high five. Anyway, she’s accord. We love quirky. You know, I was just in Bangkok. In bangkok. They have corgi cafe where you go and have coffee or to your cake. And they, it’s filled with corgis, and I really wanted to go, but I didn’t have time I would be motionless unavailable for that entire trip. We would just go to the court, you know, in talk to me, you’d be emotionally available only to the dogs, and dogs are a good example of a tool that can help people to open up. So some people who may be aren’t physically affectionate, or don’t say how much they love you. They’re able to do it with a dog. So it’s really good practice. Our dog recently, passed as we’ve talked about before, and that is the one thing that I think one of the things I miss, the most is the physical component of having a dog and holding and touching her. Like it’s really so I see what you’re saying about how the dog having a pet for that matter, can really help with the, the emotional connection and physical touch component. In fact research shows that when you take a dog into a workplace it makes people more collaborative more trusting and more physically close. All I believe that entirely when you bring a pet into the mix people that are interested, or like pets are all of a sudden focused on that. And I, I think it breaks down that initial barrier to, to relationship to a conversation. Absolutely. Yeah. And for you, for example, you’re physically affectionate with me, but you don’t touch anybody else. So that dog that you snuggled kind of all day, all night, you took her everywhere, with you, when he talks about standing outside the coffee shop, while I was chatting on the inside he would have the dog inside of her his coat because she was so small that was that was where she hung out when we were waiting for our copy, and where we are touched deprive society. I mean that’s a whole other topic to address. But if we go back to. Apartment h- avoids intimate conversations or withdraws when you bring up difficult topics. You know, the good news, of course. Is that circumstances change you can help to put them at ease and with practice? They can develop these skills to communicate more effectively. So it’s important to realize that just because you believe you are more emotionally available doesn’t. In fact, make it so because your perception of your own skills is biased, and you can’t expect your partner to communicate in the same way that you do.
00:10:08 – 00:15:03
They may have a different communication style. And so you won’t to look for middle ground as opposed to expecting them to just meet your expectations. You might also have a partner who refuses to express any vulnerability because allowing yourself to be vulnerable really requires trust. So the more you build trust in your relationship. The more your partner will appear emotionally available. And if you feel your partner isn’t opening up. I like to avoid labels like emotionally unavailable. And because I think that comes with acusations, I think that begins with this deficit model and I think you’re more likely to get a positive response and a willingness to even consider some behavioral change. If you talk about how you feel as opposed to making accusations, these fake diagnoses and telling your partner what they’re doing wrong. So if you’re frustrated, for example, that your partner won’t talk about sensitive or personal topics, you know, you might realize that maybe they’re feeling insecure. Right. Maybe they’re afraid of losing you. Maybe they’re afraid of exposing themselves, so you play a role in this. Maybe you can talk about that the underlying feeling instead of just complaining that they, they won’t open up. But how do you even begin that conversation? It’s look, I’m thinking about being in a relationship with somebody and not having this d. Leaper meaningful conversation. So the first time I want to address it or maybe, you know, I think that might be a positive in our relationship. How would you even approach that from the very beginning? Well, first and foremost, if you’re looking for your partner to meet you at your emotional state, you have to consider, whether you’re explications are realistic. So before we even begin remember that your idea of emotional unavailability may not be your partners, and it’s possible that you just want more emotional expression, and you want more emotional support, then you’re partners willing to give, and you have the right to request that they opened up in a specific way. And we’ll get to that. And you can tell them that you’d like them to share or support you in a way that works for you. And hopefully they’re open to considering your needs, but they’re also not required to meet every last one of your needs. And I’m always concerned when. One partner as I said, diagnosis the other with the problem because this deficit approach usually places all or most of the responsibility for change on the other partner, instead of considering the ways in which you can both make behavioral changes to meet meet in the middle. So perhaps you should reframe your approach to acknowledge that maybe you’re just not emotionally compatible right now. It doesn’t mean they’re unavailable. You’re just not compatible in you both need to work to become compatible. It is not their job alone in wanting, you really wanna look from middle ground, and you’re not gonna get anywhere as I said, if you accuse them of a deficit. So if you tell them what you want, they might be more open to meeting your needs. So that brings us to before your talk to them, identify what you want. I when you say that they’re emotionally unavailable. You’re criticizing them, so rather than focusing on what they’re not doing identify what you want them to do. Do you want them to be? More honest when they’re feeling down. Do you want them to open up and talk about their insecurities do you want them to attend therapy with you? Do you want them to listen? More attentively when your feeling emotional. Do you want them to acknowledge your struggles rather than dismissing them? Do you want them to check in on how you’re feeling more often? Do you want them to be more physically affectionate? Do you want them to discuss the future? And you know, talk about plans, they’ve been voiding, do you want them to talk you about sex, and what turns them on? Do you want them to engage in conversations that are scary? Maybe you wanna talk about having a budget or you want to discuss your estate or will planning in. So what is it that you want? Because if you just make these sweeping statements any few just want them to be more like you, you are not asking them to be emotionally available. You’re asking them to be you. And hopefully you don’t want them to be you. Did you grew DEA to think about the root cause of what you’re trying to address because I think we’re very I mean, in the past, I’ve been very accusatory when the questions start surfacing in these feeling. So you just automatically think yourself a you’re being emotionally unavailable. If I read that BuzzFeed article or that, you know, that article, and that’s not really going to accomplish anything.
00:15:03 – 00:20:06
Whereas if I actually take a moment, I’m not lazy. And I think about what’s really what want to accomplish. I’m gonna get a lot more out of the conversation and it’s going to be so much. It’s going to be so beneficial to our relationship to, and even conveying what it is. I’m trying to what I’m trying to get when I when I initiate that conversation with you. Right. And if you can identify what you want, just choose one or two maybe maybe three things to begin with. And you can consider why you want it. Why do you want them to express their? Feelings in a specific way. Do you think opening up about their own insecurities might help you to better understand them? So you can be a better partner. Or do you just want them to open up about their insecurities, because you do if it’s tit for tat situation, you’re really not going to get anywhere? So you’ll not only wanna share what it is you’re asking for. But you also want to share the reason behind your request because if I say that I want you to sit down and talk about let us just say it’s a difficult conversation routes around sex in their mind. They’re going to go straight to worst case scenario. Oh my gosh. They don’t like it. I’m not good. They’re not satisfied. They’re cheating on me. They want something else. Whereas if I can say, I wanna talk about sex, because this is this is just something that’s really important, and it feels really good with you. And I know let’s say, for example, I wanna have it more. I know that we talk about it. We’ll do it more, and it’s so worth it. I think the biggie a here so many people comment as you said, it’d be. Winning. You’re trying to fix your partner, or you’re trying to fix your other half. And that was that was like a light light bulb just went off for me when I think about this where if I assume or rather, if I approach the conversation from the perspective of trying to fix something of my own rather than trying to fix something of yours and convey, that from the beginning, it’s gonna make that conversation and that comes so much more so much better for me because I’m, I’m resolving something that’s bothering me. That’s my issue, not I’m gonna fix something. That’s your issue. And again, even that accusatory approach, I think, is what a lot of I mean, I’ve done that where I come into this conversation or a have done it. I come into a conversation and I’m like I know you’re, you’re emotionally unavailable. We’ll know. Or, you know, I wanna talk about, you know, these issues in our sex life. When in reality, it’s I wanna talk about my own issues. I’ve never felt like you’ve tried to fix me. No. I don’t think I’ve. Added to ever fix you, but I’ve wanted to talk about something but shirked responsibility about my own issues by Suming. It’s somebody else’s, or yours. And I think if we were to go back fifteen years to when we were younger, and I was in my early twenties and women are always told that when more emotionally mature than men, and I’m sure that I thought I was, I’m sure that I thought I had things figured out when I reflect back now I joke about you being an old man. But you have you’ve always been an old soul. You’ve always been really grounded and you’ve always been really mature. I picture you. I didn’t know you. But I can imagine that when you were fifteen years old, you were just a very thoughtful mature person. I know you screw around a lot. I know you make a lot of jokes. But when it comes to this relationship, it was your maturity that carried us through when I was, I, I guess, I could say young and dumb. I’m a very mature individual. And oftentimes, I shows you all things into my calendar. So if you’re, if you’re ready and you’ve identified what you want, and why you want it, it, you know, it’s time to approach your partner and you wanna think about timing you don’t want to approach them when you’re fighting you don’t want to talk about this. Well, you’re frustrated because you’re stuck in traffic, but find a time when tensions are nice and low and make your request. Don’t make an accusation. Don’t assume you’re right? Don’t be entitled just tell them what you’re thinking you want and, and why you want it. And timing is really important. I think a lot of the times, we don’t talk about issues when we’re feeling good. Because we don’t wanna wreck the moment, but the best time to make change or accomplish anything or breakthrough is when you’re feeling good. So, you might you might say something like I wanna talk about how often we have sex because I know it’s really important in our relationship. And, you know, I feel a little uncomfortable talking about it, too, but I think it’s worth pushing through the discomfort so that we can better understand one. Another. So once you’ve stated that you want to engage in a potentially emotional conversation. They might be open to it right away. Or they might not in, if they don’t wanna talk about it right away. Don’t get mad at them. Don’t pressure them. Ask them if there’s a better time. You know, say, when do you think we could talk about it, right? Leave it in their court and give them up Sion’s could you talk about it while you go for a walk so that your shoulder to shoulder and not face to face? It can feel less intimidating could you talk about it for just ten minutes on the weekends.
00:20:06 – 00:25:05
So they, they don’t feel pressure to have a big long drawn out conversation. Would they rather right down their thoughts ahead of time? Would you like to do the same would they rather talk about it? Maybe with therapist, either on their own or with you to help this’ll take the conversation. I mean been talking about therapy with some friends this week. And it is just becoming more normalized, as something we do to take care of ourselves. You know, you might see a personal trainer to take care of your fitness. And it’s not when something is wrong. You do it because it’s it’s supporting. Your overall health. A therapist is supporting your mental health, your emotional health. So if you’re coming from a place of love you’ll always make an effort to make your partner comfortable in the conversation, especially if these types of conversations and interactions are new. So you wanna look for ways to make them feel emotionally safe. You wanna consider whether you could be maybe a little more flexible, a little less judgmental. How have you responded in the past two emotional expressions? And how could you respond in a more supportive way in the future, because everyone who has been messaging me about this term emotional unavailability is always talking about someone else. It’s always their partner. I got a message from someone who said that she just keeps going on dates, but all the guys are emotionally unavailable and emotional availability, in openness develops with time and with trust. So I, I do wanna remind people that if you keep running into the same problems, you do want to acknowledge that the. Common denominator is you. And I’ve, I’ve had to do this, I’ve had to do this and say, why do I keep struggling with the same issues with multiple people while it’s me, I’m doing something that makes people or encourages people to react in a specific way? No, I’m not responsible for their behavior. But something about me is encouraging it and one more thing for emotional openness, or expression. I think it’s important to also use a simple framework, like, for example, the five lovling, which is if you haven’t looked at these yet. And if you’re not familiar with the five languages of love their Gary Chapman’s framework for how we give and receive love and he suggests an old book. I think it’s from the nineties, he suggests that there are five primary languages, and we each have a primary and secondary love language, and you have to learn to speak your partners because I may give love in a different way than Brandon gives love. And I’m speaking, it’s like I’m speaking Japanese. But don’t you have a sixth language, didn’t you say something the other day or like months or a couple years ago about the sixth love language talk about a six love language, so I’ll go through the levelling, which is really quickly, so the first being while they’re not in any particular order whatever’s in my head right now, words of affirmation? So I feel most loved when you really tell me how much you love me. I love you with more than three words. It’s all I got very expressive. You have to work on it, because that’s in fact, my love language, and I really do have to work on it. I’m not very good. Right. And so if you say, you’re not very good, though. You’re not going to be very good. No, no, no. I’m not very good. But I’m trying. Maybe I should finished. My I listened to a lot of Rb just trying to get all the words down. You know ’cause I mean it’s so smooth. You do try though. I know it doesn’t come naturally to you, but, you know, it’s important to me. So a few years ago when I was on a tour for a couple of weeks. Brandon wrote a whole bunch, maybe. A dozen little notes and hid them in my suitcase, and some of them are very sweet and loving, and some of them are a little sexy, but he had them in different parts of my clothing. So I found them throughout the trip. And I looked at that any new that was not easy for Brandon that might be easy for me. But I knew a lot of work went into that for you hope that none of the notes fellow at inopportune times during a presentation or something. So the first is, I feel most loved, when you tell me with your words, words of affirmation, the next is active acts of service. I feel most loved when you do little favors for me when you go out of your way for me so Brandon, you do a lot of acts of service, find value. I feel like you’ll appreciate when I do things and hopefully not handy man things because I’m great at breaking stuff. But if it’s putting the garbage or picking you up, or at the garbage isn’t really an active service for me because it’s not something I do. But you do you drive into the airport. You pick me up from the airport. You’ll offer to pick me up from a game McCue a coffee. You make me an coffee in this house is a process because Brandon ways the beans, then he hand grind the beans with HD one. And then he pulls the shots of Espresso, and then he foams, the milk. So it’s quite a process barista Brandon berries to Brandon is right. So we have words of Afra mation acts of service quality time, I feel most loved, when you really set time aside for me.
00:25:05 – 00:30:01
You turn off your phone and you’re just focused on me. The next is physical affection. I feel most loved when you when you physically touch me when you kiss me when you hug me when you snuggle me, and then the fifth that nobody ever admits to accept Vicky. Sparks Vicky sparks is one of the co hosts on the global morning show, and this is receiving gifts. So I feel most loved when you give me a thoughtful, or generous gifts. So to recap, we’ve got words of affirmation acts of service quality time, physical effect. Action and receiving gifts. And so if you’re able to identify which of these languages resonates most with you, which another also good, of course, we want all of them and you should learn to express yourself in multiple languages. But most importantly, you wanna understand what your partners primary love language is so that you can communicate in a way that works for them. So, for example, Brandon does a lot of acts of service for me. But that’s, that’s not even in the top three of my love languages. Mine are words of affirmation, and then my secondary language is physical affection. And so if I can express it to him, this is what I need to hear. This is how I want you to touch me. He’s more likely to, you know, meet my, my love emotional needs. You still haven’t told us with the sixth love language. So I think for a lot of young people and it to some degree. It’s an extension of words of African nation but because so much of what we do today is public. I think that the crawler lovling, which is. Public declarations. So when you publicly declare your love for me, or you publicly for example, Brennan, when I first started in this field, and I was just building it felt really good that you’d always take my work and posted on your Facebook, or if I you know when early on when I wasn’t cited in the media so much. It was kind of a big deal that I was in cosmopolitan and you’d always post like him. So proud of my partner for doing this, and you still do it to some degree. But I think that, that can feel really good too. You’re not getting on Facebook and saying, I’m luckiest man alive. I have the best wife in the world Bubba not necessarily that, but you’re just being really supportive publicly and that felt really good especially because I’m in a field where, you know, my relationship matters to people, and social news when you do see that post from somebody where they do express, how much they care about you. Absolutely. So if you can explore your love languages, you know, one way to you can go online and just look at the. Languages and do the quiz to try and figure out yours. But you might also wanna talk about other relationships and how you expressed love and feelings and other relationships so opened up a dialogue to discuss with your partner. How how did they feel growing up? How did their parents treat them what made them feel safe? What made them feel threatened when they consider their parents or their guardians, what did they do? Well with regard to emotional expression. What did they not do? Well, because sometimes this is really interesting to me, and I see this, in my family, all I’m sometimes we can identify an area for improvement or a deficit in the other people we love, but not directly in ourselves. So we’ll say, oh, my mom did this or my uncle did this. And then we don’t realize that we’re also doing it. So if they can acknowledge that, you know, maybe their father withdrew whenever there was a conflict, and that made their home life, more tense. They might be able to identify that. This is also something they don’t wanna do. So they’re not going to say, oh, yeah, I do that, too. But they might be more aware of adding it. And so they may not admit they do, but simply naming that they haven in someone else can them to address it moving forward. Your partner may also need help accessing their emotional vocabulary. So they might not have any practice saying I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel nervous I feel anxious. I feel happy I feel conflicted because maybe they didn’t grow up hearing those words and I think, you know, of course, gender can play a role men are given permission to access far fewer emotions than women. Don’t feel or express those emotions on the regular. I’ve had to learn to more potent. I’ve learned to be vulnerable, you’d come into it on that earlier in how much it changes, your interactions with other people, whether it’s your, your partner, or your friends. Yeah. And, you know, one thing I struggle with. Is the fact that I don’t open up with a lot of people, I opened up with you open up a little here. And in small group when I’m working, but I don’t have. I don’t have a ton of friends that I’m super open with I have a few and I, I think I’ve probably said this before, I don’t spend enough time with them.
00:30:01 – 00:35:06
And so that can put a lot of pressure on you to fill all of my emotional needs. So I was thinking of some apps, I’ve had some clients, he used an app called then. The EMT. And so it allows you to pick from a list of feelings, and share your thoughts on line. Now obviously not everyone wants to post online and interact with an online community. So even just using the emotional wheel or the list of emotions online to start there. And you can take the lead and admit that sometimes you have trouble expressing yourself. You’re using this emotional prompt list, just to start regular conversations on the daily, and you wanna talk about how you feel every day because emotional expressions, don’t need to be relegated to intimate topics or sexual topics or two special times. But we’re emotional about everything every interaction isn’t emotional interaction. It’s why if you go to a coffee, shop, and the barista is not particularly nice to you. You feel something. Dick to you. Because you’re wearing a suit Brennan’s sensitive because we have a hipster seen here in Toronto, and they don’t like people wearing suits. I’m just joking around. What’s it gets in? No. You, it’s cool. But I’ve had a few encounters, where I feel like they’ve judged me a bit in advance because I’m not wearing tight enough clothes. Well, rest assured that wearing a suit is probably not the outfit that gets you the most judgment. True true. I agree. I agree. I’m just I’m just playing. So to go back to perhaps, the most important piece here, and perhaps I’ve driven this home a little bit hard. But I still really wanna reinforce it. If you want change, you can’t act like you’re trying to fix someone. And I really see this often one person as I said, believes they’re more emotionally mature, more advanced, and they believe, not only are they entitled to, but also qualified to fix their partner. When you feel like you have it all together, and you feel like your partner isn’t living up to your expectations, you might believe that if they just became more like you, they’d be happier and you’d be happier. But this is a matter of your own bias. It’s what we call. It’s a form of, of normative idealization. So we not only idealize and rationalize our own choices, but we derive comfort and confidence in these choices from the belief that everyone else would benefit from following in our footsteps, and we see this bias everywhere, you know, we rationalize choices so that we feel better about them, and then we projected onto our partners. We see this when we look at relationship arrangements. Right. Monogam-. People feel they have it worked out. And they think something’s wrong with consensually non monogamous people. Some contentiously non monogamous people feel that they’re more evolved. And sometimes there’s some passing judgment on monogamous people. Not all people not all people act like this, but that is the normative idealization, and it’s, it’s a self protection mechanism. If you were more like me. You’d be happier. Is a way to tell myself that, hey, I’m doing things. Right. So move away from that fixing mentality and just focus on asking for the support you want. Now, remember that not all people not all families, not all cultures, not all genders have been socialized to express motion similarily. And so you’re going to have to accept a degree of difference, or you’ll never be happy. If your partner doesn’t wanna talk about something, and maybe they don’t wanna talk about anything. Maybe this is a repeated pattern of behavior, and they won’t address issues that are important to you. It’s possible. You’re at an impasse. If they’re not willing to talk about anything that’s important to you. And you want a certain type of communication, they want another. You have to decide whether you’re willing to deal with this differential, you can make changes to become compatible, right? You can, you know, give some things up and accept that they’re not gonna do that. They can learn some new skills and push their comfort zone, but you have to find space to meet in the middle. And you if you’re feeling your partner isn’t as emotionally present, or supportive, or articulate, as you are, you need to look for other sources of support your partner can’t fill your every need. I mean, do you talk about your feelings with other people? This is what I was saying earlier that maybe I’m not so good at that. Maybe I put too much on you, babe. Think at times you do, but I’m sure I do the same and I think that’s part of being in. I mean that’s our relationship. This is what works for us in. We can make it better. But I said that to in the past that. You know, if you don’t talk to other people if you basically just work, and then come home to me the emotional burden falls upon me, and this is actually quite common in hetero relationships, where women might talk to their friends or their siblings or their parents. And men may be don’t talk to anybody about serious stuff about how they’re feeling about how they’re doing.
00:35:06 – 00:40:03
And so that emotional burden is something that women are forced to bear now, of course in our in our circumstances. I think maybe the rules are a bit reversed. You know, I’m gone for work. I come home, and then maybe I just unleash on you. You’re, I’ve also had to learn to express myself to some close friends and some of my close friends still won’t we don’t have deep conversations that was it with the friend the other day, and it was awkward. He wanted to express his condolences for our dog who passed away, and he was genuinely. It was uncomfortable for him. I know he pushed his boundaries expressing condolences, those really heart whereas a week or two weeks ago, I met with another friend who this kind of interesting relationship has evolved over the last couple of years, and I’m expressing to him, what happened and we’re both almost in tears in a coffee. Shop. So the but that, that came with a comfort in knowing that wasn’t going to be judged, because I think, in my circle or what I was kind of weird to believe, is that you, you do maintain the stoic kind of expression, very, you don’t express a lot of emotion, and you certainly don’t express. Sadness because it’s a societas with weakness. And I think bottling that up and not expressing. It is really, it could be really hard on your partner number one, because you’re going to some it’s gonna leak out in some way that also really hard on yourself. And that’s what I was going to say. It’s also really hard on yourself because you end up it manifest itself, and it comes out in other ways you get upset because somebody didn’t put their code away at home or the dishes are out, or somebody at the office left the stapler somewhere. And it’s like you’re not really upset about that you’re upset about something much deeper that you can’t address. And you and I come from different backgrounds, you talk about being raised to be quite stoic. And I come from a quite expressive background on one side. So I’m Chinese Jamaican on one. And on the my mother’s raised in Jamaica. So we, we draw from both Chinese and Jamaican culture. But if you sieve expressions. Of all sorts of feelings, were the norm. Not all feelings. Right. We, we still struggle with some of the vulnerabilities, but when angry, you’ll know. When when you’re excited, we know when when we’re hungry. What’s your strongest emotion? That’s a failure trait, not a cultural one and then blending Chinese Jamaican is kind of interesting, the stoicism and the few sieve expression, and then on my dad’s side where Irish Catholic, which is a whole other thing. But I would say, I probably derived, more of my cultural values and expectations from my mother’s side. And so you and I coming together had to had to work that out. I mean, you did have emotional expression in your house. You definitely knew when your mom was upset we didn’t know when people were upset or happy, but it was more as, as a man forming these friendships later in. I’m in my forties now, and if you haven’t had these meaningful relationships, it’s hard to all of a sudden one day call up a friend or somebody who you’re close to say, I wanna have a more meaningful chat other than talking about the raptors or something else that seemingly superficial nothing wrong with that. I’m saying though, sometimes things happen. In life that require or personally, I wanted compensation go wraps go wraps north. Yeah. So if you are looking to make more emotional expression, part of your daily interactions so that you can feel more emotionally connected, so that you can change the way you approach mandate more conversations on a daily basis. Think about the small questions you ask your partner. So instead of asking, how was your day, maybe ask, what was the best part of your day? This specificity can help them to access some of their emotional vocabulary. And even if they don’t use feeling words right away, they’ll be using Crawley words and providing insight to sources of joy or pleasure. If you ask, what was the best part of your day, or was there, a tough part of your day today, also kind of inspires, new conversations, and that was one of the things that I know you’ve highlighted in the past about keeping unity relationship. Ship exciting in passionate. And that to me, would, you know best part of your day, and then you drop something that the other person didn’t know and then it whole new conversation exists, right? Athens say that the death of passionate relationship occurs, when your conversation becomes reduced to three things your family and or kids, your war can business money and your schedule.
00:40:03 – 00:45:17
So this is what I’m gonna do today. This is what I did yesterday. This is what I’m doing tomorrow. And of course, you have to talk about those things from the perspective, you have to discuss your family, your job, and your schedule. But if that’s all you talk about, you’re not getting to the deeper stuff. You’re not talking about your dreams. Your fears your insecurities your philosophies your big plans, the types of conversations you have when you first meet and people often. Believe that it’s just the novelty that makes love so exciting in the beginning, but it’s not just the novelty. It’s the fear of the unknown. It’s the discovery it’s peeling back the layers to get get at the person. I always want to be peeling back the layers with you. I want to know that there’s always something to learn about you. You can think of like buffalo Bill right now. We’re peeling back the layers. I don’t know. Buffalo Bill is Hannibal Lecter. Oh, cannibal thing going across regain back Reding deep, but I like the idea of having new conversations because I’m guilty of this. I definitely talk a lot about work and schedule and with our schedules. Sometimes it’s hard. So throwing a new question like best part of your day. Yeah. And instead of asking directly, how are you feeling? If you have a partner whose adverse to talking about the emotional rather than came more, generally. How are you feeling? Are, you know ask what made you feel great today? Ask them what they’re most looking forward to this week. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them feel relaxed, for example. When they’re feeling down ask them, what you can do to cheer them up. Don’t ask them to explain themselves or provide a full explanation for how they’re feeling because oftentimes, it feels like you’re just getting at solutions asking them. What’s the matter forget about that, when they’re upset if you know that they’re adverse to these conversations? I’m not saying that everybody should do things one way. Okay. You do what works for you. But if you have a partner, who tends to emotionally withdraw, ask them, what they need as opposed to asking them. Why they’re feeling what they’re feeling the time. You’re not really entitled to an explanation, but you’re more likely to actually get one. If you show support I when they’re experiencing not so positive emotions while I am Mr. solutions, and I knew this is my problem. I, I would hear you, you would express how you’re feeling it may be a problem or something wrong. And then all of a sudden starting making solutions are formulating solutions to your problem. And it was only when he told me stop trying to find. Solutions to these problems. Just listen to me that it really it made a big change. I found it, it changed how we had these discussions where I just shut my mouth. I actively listened, I still don’t do it perfectly every single time, but I think, to myself. Okay, just be quiet for minute. Let them express how they’re feeling and that as a baseline. Solutions will come. Yeah, that’s interesting because when I’m feeling frustrated with something sometimes I wanna solution. I made a big mistake this week that I had to fix where I it was a scheduling issue. And it ended up costing me a bunch of money to fix it. And in that case I just needed a solution. But if I’m frustrated about Satan ongoing issue with a family member. Sometimes you just need to vent a little bit. And sometimes I actually can find it insulting when you offer solutions, because I think, yeah, I know I can come up with that myself in. So I think what’s most important. Is clarifying to one another, what you need when you feel a certain way. So we have this video course that’s going to be launched in about a month. And they’re fifty different exercises to improve your relationship, and one of them has to do with expressing what you need when you feel something. So when I am frustrated, I want you to shut up and listen. And I don’t want you to offer solutions. So that is not the answer. That’s myanmar. And so you go through all of these when I feel stressed out, I want you to be physically affectionate. I don’t want you to ask me to explain myself, and so my answers are going to be different than Brandon’s answers, and they’re going to be different than your answer is that’s why these exercises in these conversations are so important to actually clarify what it is you unique because people will say what should I do? When my wife does this, or what does my husband mean when he says this and I don’t know. I don’t know. No them. I can help you to facilitate those conversations. I can tell you that patterns exist. But humans don’t always fit neatly into these patterns. And there are always exceptions. Which is why it comes back down to it. If you wanna have a happy relationship, you have to talk about what that entails. What a what a great actively that was eighteen years, we’ve been living together and doing that for that video section was once again I opening because it changes what your partner needs, and what they want and also what you need and what you want.
00:45:17 – 00:48:59
I remember thinking about what it was I needed when I was stressed and it was again, like a light bulb went off and I was like, oh, yeah. This is what works for me, and I hadn’t really thought about it. Now, I’ve said it and I feel so much better. And you’ve told me what you need. And now this is going to make things so much easier the next time we’re an argument or we’re having a discussion. Right. And then I can say to you, if I have the language on feeling really stressed and you can remember what I need, or I can. Even remind you. It’s not like you have to remember my formula. So these are these are important conversations to be having. And I’m glad we had a chance to talk a little bit about emotional availability, unavailability, because these terms really do get tossed around, and they sound like diagnosis when in fact they’re just behaviors. And we can adjust the way we think we can adjust the way we behave. And when you change the way you think, and the way you behave it affects the way you feel so you can’t directly change your feelings but you can you can adjust your feelings via your behaviors, and your thoughts. So just to recap if you are dealing with your own emotional unavailability, or you feel it’s your partner, you know, begin by considering whether you’re petitions are realistic, and remembering that you’re not fixing them identify specifically, what it is. You want from them, behaviorally, when you’re ready to make your request make sure it’s not framed. As a complaint, give them options as to when and how you talk about these things because just. Because you wanna talk doesn’t mean they have to be prepared to talk and look for different ways to make them feel emotionally safe. Explore the five love languages and you help them to access their emotional vocabulary. But without talking down to them if you go to them like you’re there therapist, again, fixing them you’re going to you’re gonna hit a brick wall, so focus on really what it is you want and consider whether or not you’re meeting them halfway. And if neither of you is willing to meet halfway, you’ve got a compatibility issue because compatibility is about effort and being willing to find common ground. It’s not about wanting the same things, and if you’re not willing to make adjustments to find common ground, probably going to be happy, be unhappy in and struggle to be fulfilled in the long run. So you’re gonna have to accept some degree of difference. Of course. You’re gonna wanna look for other sources of support and then try and use some of these questions that I mentioned to make motions expression of a part of your daily interactions as. Post to something you do when there’s a problem or you’re trying to get at the root of an issue. So there are a lot of options there. I need to make this into a one pager. So I suggest you just pick one to begin with pick one maybe start with looking at your own behavior at most people come to me with problems in their relationship, and they point their fingers at their partner. And we can usually resolve many of them on our own. I, so I know all of these things that I talk about are things that I struggle with right? So I can have the information in it doesn’t mean that I utilize it in a perfect way, so babe. Thanks for sitting in on this one. How much I really added to this other than my own personal experience. But it was great. That sounds, that’s what we’re looking for big. Thank you, again, to desire resorts and cruises. Check them out at desire experience on social media Brennan, I will be heading out on a cruise with them in the fall, as well as the red carpet cruise in may which still has space available. Check them out at desire experience, folks. Have lovely week wherever you’re at will be back next Friday and every Friday morning. You’re listening to the sex with Dr Jess podcast improve your sex life improve your life.