It's much easier to share your thoughts, the intellectual information that is in your brain, than your feelings. Sharing the depth of your feelings that are in your heart takes emotional risk and courage. This makes you feel exposed and vulnerable, but, it is the very thing that will create closeness and connection in your marriage. By sharing what is in your heart with your spouse, you can achieve deeper intimacy.
How to share your feelings with your spouse:
- Recognize the difference between thoughts and emotional feelings. Thinking, also known as "cognition" is a process that occurs in our heads. It coveys what our thoughts and beliefs about something. Feelings, on the other hand convey our emotional state and is often said to come from the heart. Feelings can also be physical sensations.
- Use the 'I think vs. I feel' rule. If you can substitute the words 'I think' for 'I feel' in a sentence, then you have expressed a thought and not a feeling. For example, "I feel hurt" is correct because you would not say "I think hurt,' right? Someone might say, "I feel that he is a jerk" is incorrect. You "think" he is a jerk.
- Name the feeling. Use a list of feeling words if this is difficult. Remember that feelings are one word: sad, angry, hurt, happy, overjoyed, embarrassed, and so on.
- Describe the feeling by saying it or writing it in such a way that your spouse can experience your feeling to the same degree. One goal is to help your partner understand what it is like to walk in your shoes. You likely want empathy and understanding in return for sharing your feelings.
- Verbalize these feelings with your spouse directly. Your spouse can't read your mind. He or she may pick up on your vibe, but they have no way to know what is in your head unless you disclose it!
- Accept that feelings are neither right nor wrong. It is the behavior that results because of the feeling that is morally judged. Just because you are angry does not give you the right to be violent. Negative feelings still must be dealt with appropriately.
- Accept that feelings come and go and change quickly. This is different than a "mood" which is a sustained period of an emotional state.
- Try to not judge yourself or your spouse because of feelings. If you want your spouse to continue to share on this level, it is important not to get irritated or defensive about the feeling expressed to you.
Share your deeper underlying feeling, not just the surface feeling. You might be expressing anger but underneath feel hurt or embarrassed. This is much more crucial to express to your partner to develop closeness and intimacy.
Practice helps. If you are not someone who is used to expressing feelings, this may feel awkward at first. Practicing it in small steps will make it easier.
A few other details to remember:
- Rejecting a feeling is rejecting the person feeling it. Do not say things like 'Don't worry, be happy' or 'You shouldn't feel that way.'
- Do not make decisions based on feelings. When decision making, feelings will be a part of the process, but you must think logically and rationally.
- Share your feelings with each other daily. You do not have to have deep, serious conversations about your relationship daily. But, you do have to share your feelings and not just your thoughts about what is going on with you day to day. Saying that you were' late for a meeting' gives the basic information only. But saying you 'felt embarrassed being late for a meeting' helps you connect to the person you are speaking with!
This needs to be a reciprocal process. You both must share on an intimate level with each other. It can't just be one of you!
To be successful at sharing your feelings you need to be open, honest, willing to make time for each other, and receptive to these talks.
*Article updated by Marni Feuerman