It can be extremely frustrating to feel as if your partner does not understand your emotional needs. There could be a number of reasons for this, including the fact that they were not raised in a home where comforting behaviours were modelled, that emotional intelligence is not one of their strengths, or that they simply aren’t sure what you require. Fortunately, open communication with your partner can often go a long way toward improving things. Then, as you and your partner practise being more open with each other, be patient.
1 Find a quiet place to talk about your emotions.
Make sure there are no distractions so that you can concentrate on each other. It can be difficult to bring up difficult topics when they aren’t actively occurring because you don’t want to stir the pot. However, if you choose a time when neither of you is stressed or busy, you are more likely to be able to express yourself without it becoming an argument.
Take some time alone to consider what you truly want to say. You’ll be able to manage your emotions better during the conversation this way.
Start the conversation with something like, “Is it a good time to talk now? I’ve been thinking about a few things recently.”
Consider putting a time limit on the conversation so that it doesn’t become too long. “I only need about 15 minutes—then I have to walk the dog,” you could say.
2. Explain your feelings in a non-confrontational manner.
Use “I” phrases to express your desire for more comfort. Rather than criticising your partner, express your own feelings. Remember that if you’re looking for comfort from your partner, it will help if you both feel close and connected.
You could say something along the lines of, “When I’m stressed, I get the impression that you don’t know what to do or say, so you shut down. That, on the other hand, makes me feel very lonely.”
It’s critical to be able to communicate about how you’re feeling in order to maintain a healthy relationship.
3. Give examples of times when they have been helpful.
Be specific about what they did and how you felt as a result of it. Chances are, your partner was correct at some point. After all, there’s a reason you’re in a relationship with them, right? Soften the conversation by bringing up examples of times when they were there for you when you needed them. That will give them an idea of what they can do for you the next time you come to them.
As an example, you could say, “Remember how upset I was when my dog was hit by a car? You wrapped your arms around me while I cried, and then you brought me my favourite chocolate the next day. That made me feel very special.”
4. Give an example of a time when you required extra comfort.
Maintain your tone of voice as you explain this. Mention a time when you really needed your partner to console you. Be specific about your feelings and how your partner’s reaction affected you, but keep your voice friendly and soft so your partner doesn’t feel attacked.
Holding hands or sitting close to your partner can also help you feel connected during this part of the conversation.
Don’t dismiss your partner’s comments about how they tried to be supportive during those times! Even if it wasn’t exactly what you needed at the time, try to appreciate their effort.
5. Ask if there are times when they don’t know what to do.
Allow your partner to speak as well. Inquire if they have any ideas about what is preventing them from comforting you. They may feel helpless when you cry, or frustrated when you discuss a problem they are unable to resolve. They may even believe that they gave you advice about a specific situation in the past that you ignored, leaving them unsure what to say now.
When you’re upset, your partner may become defensive because they’re afraid you’re blaming them for whatever you’re feeling.
Listen to what they have to say with an open mind, rather than waiting for your next opportunity to speak. You might learn something really important about how to work better together in the future.
It can be beneficial to repeat what your partner has just said in your own words. For example, if they say, “”I’m always afraid I’ll make things worse,” you might say. “OK, I’m hearing you’re stuck for ideas because you’re afraid I’ll get even more upset, right?” That makes sense to me.”
6. Make it clear what you want in the future.
Don’t leave them in the dark about what you require. When you’re sad, angry, or disappointed, tell your partner how you want to be consoled. This may require some soul-searching, but your partner isn’t a mind reader—if you don’t know what would help you, it’s not fair to expect your partner to.
For example, you could say, “When I have a bad day at work, I don’t want you to feel obligated to fix the problem. I just want to be able to discuss it with you.”
You could also say, “If I’m sad, all I want is a hug or some time to cuddle on the couch.”
To end on a positive note, it’s a good idea to end the conversation by assuring your partner that you love them and are eager to collaborate on this.
7. Make it a habit to be open when you need comfort.
Be open about how you’re feeling right now. Some people have difficulty detecting subtle cues about other people’s emotions. Be willing to be vulnerable about how you’re feeling—if you’re too closed off, your partner won’t be able to comfort you. However, if you express yourself clearly, your partner will have a better chance of connecting how you’re feeling and how you’ve asked to be comforted.
For example, you could say, “Today, my boss yelled at me for a mistake made by one of my coworkers. I’m extremely frustrated and sad.”
Keep in mind that this will necessitate you becoming acquainted with your own emotions! If you’re feeling emotional or agitated, take some time to figure out what’s causing it.
8. When they don’t do it on their own, ask for it.
Let them know what you want right now. It can be tempting to avoid asking for comfort because you want your partner to “get it.” But try to let go of that notion—you’ll be putting yourself (and your partner) in a better position if you simply express what you want from them.
Attempt something like, “Right now, I’m missing my father. Could we please cuddle on the couch for a while?” as well as “Could I just tell you about my day? I don’t want you to feel obligated to solve the problem; I just need someone to talk to.”
9. When they make an effort, express your appreciation.
Give your partner positive feedback for trying. People sometimes need time to change, so don’t be too impatient if your partner doesn’t get it right the first time. If you can tell they’re trying, compliment them on what they’re doing well rather than what they could or should be doing better.
The more you recognise your partner’s efforts, the more likely they are to try again in the future.
10. Be there for your partner as well.
Provide your partner with the emotional support they require. Relationships necessitate work on both sides. Your partner requires support in the same way that you do, even if it isn’t in the same way that you do. When they’re going through a difficult time, really listen to what they need from you and try to provide it.
When you’re sad, for example, you might prefer to cry it out with someone who will simply listen. Your partner, on the other hand, may prefer to engage in an activity to distract themselves while they clear their minds. Let them know that’s fine, and then offer to join them if they want, or let them know it’s fine if they’d rather be alone for a while.
11. Create an external support system.
Make contact with family, friends, or even a therapist. Even if they try, there’s a chance that being comforting will never be your partner’s strong suit. It can relieve some of the pressure if you have someone else you can rely on, such as your mother or best friend, to whom you can turn when things get tough. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, consider taking up a new hobby to meet new people, or even talking to a therapist about whatever is bothering you.
In the meantime, continue to work with your partner on how they can be there for you, and appreciate all of their other positive qualities.
Couples therapy can also help you learn how to communicate more effectively with your partner.
12. Don’t compare your relationship to the relationships of others.
Keep in mind that what you see from the outside isn’t always reality. It’s easy to see other couples on social media or out in public and assume they’re always happy. Chances are, they are going through some of the same things in their relationship that you are. Their problems may be worse than yours, so don’t hold yourself—or your partner—to an impossible standard.
Everyone has their own set of strengths, and there are probably some people who are naturally more comforting than your partner. They may not be as good at making you laugh, as supportive of your career, or as talented a cook as you are. Remember to accept your partner for who they are!
13. Make it a point to be present with one another on a regular basis.
At least once a day, give each other your undivided attention. It’s difficult to connect emotionally if you’re not making a genuine connection. Ask your partner to commit to a time when you’ll both be completely focused on each other. For example, you could make a “no screens at dinner” rule, and use that time to catch up with each other about your day.
If you connect with your children during meals, ask your partner if the two of you can set aside a few minutes for each other first thing in the morning or right before bed.
It’s fine if you don’t have anything particularly important to say every day. Simply spending time together will help you both feel closer, making it easier to be there for each other when things get tough.
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