Transcript of "How to connect with him on an emotional level"
How To Connect With Him On An Emotional LevelI have been meeting with couples in pre-marital, marital or relationship therapy for thirty-five years. One of the problems that gets identified on a regular basis is the difficultythey have making a deep and satisfying emotional connection. It will probably come asno surprise that most often it is the woman who feels the lack of connection morestrongly and typically she is the one who will raise this issue in sessions. It’s not thatmen don’t notice and feel the emotional distance between them and their partners, but itis comparatively rare that the man will raise this concern first.This same problem is often identified by individuals early in a new relationship. Awoman might say that she finds it difficult to connect emotionally with the man she isdating because, “He isn’t very good at describing his emotions.” Actually, the phrasesare usually much more “colorful,” but I’ll leave that part to your imagination.A man, on the other hand, may tell me in an individual session that he doesn’t evenknow how to identify his feelings, much less describe them, or God forbid, have toactually express a feeling such as tenderness or love. He, too, feels at a loss as tohow to make the kind of emotional connection he wants with the woman he has beendating and now wants to be in a relationship with.I’d like to address my comments in this column primarily to women, though I hope thatmen will find something of value also. I’ll start with some preliminary observations aboutemotions and relationships that I hope will provide a foundation for the suggestions thatwill come in the second half.First, the Basics1. Men have all the same feelings that women do and will talk about them when theyfeel safe; it just may take them longer to feel safe.This may be so basic that it seems unnecessary to even say. I continue to marvel,though, at how many men tell me they think they don’t even have feelings. There aremany reasons for this, but for our purposes, it will help if you remember, we humans allhave the same range of feelings. We vary in amazing ways regarding how weexperience, defend against and/or express feelings, but they are there.It may be easier, especially at first, to talk about feelings indirectly. You might try askingyour guy what he’d do during a getaway or romantic weekend. Notice I didn’t say whathe’d like to do. That would require him to identify his feelings which might stall theconversation before it gets started. Another possibility is asking what he thought thefirst time he met you or after a particularly fun activity. Sometimes talking aboutthoughts reveals what he actually feels better than asking about feelings directly.www.johnweiks.com www.DecodingHim.com
1. Men want to be understood. This usually means they want their feelings to beunderstood (though they probably won’t say it that way).Guys are typically not as practiced or accomplished at identifying their feelings, even tothemselves. I often hear men say, “I don’t know what I feel” and they are truly unable toput their emotions into words. They will often resort to describing their thoughts aboutanother person, activity or relationship when asked what they feel.As noted above, these “thoughts” can give plenty of clues about what hefeels. Sometimes it may help if you “read between the lines” and suggest a possiblefeeling he may be experiencing based on his non-verbal or other cues. With patience,encouragement and practice men can “translate” the physical sensations, e.g. a “warm”feeling in the chest, “butterflies in the stomach,” or “boiling blood,” as emotions such aslove, anxiety, or anger.3. Men want a strong, secure connection with their preferred partner and suffer (thoughoften in silence) when that attachment and connection is threatened. We are social creatures and we tend to do best when we are in stablerelationships. When men overemphasize independence and autonomy it is oftenbecause they’ve been hurt in past relationships and fear being hurt in similar waysagain. This does not always mean they don’t want a relationship with you.It might just be a signal that you need to go slow, build trust and safety, and let himknow you understand his desire for independence. You can then begin to ask himabout the “other side” of relationships, intimacy and connection. If you keep this basictruth in mind, it may help you feel more secure when the guy seems to be reticent ordistant at times. 4. Given enough time, patience, encouragement and help, most men will feel safeenough to try to get better at emotional language.Patience is often conveyed best through an attitude of respect for another’s opinions,thoughts and feelings. Sometimes simply asking him to expand on his thoughts oropinions and trying to understand his reasoning can help him feel respected. As aresult, he may be more open to encouragement and/or offers to help him identify hisfeelings about a given topic. In time, this may help him feel safer to talk more directlyabout his feelings about you and the relationship in general.www.johnweiks.com www.DecodingHim.com
Suggestions to Make the Connection Happen1. Men take commitment in a relationship seriously.I noted above that men want a strong, secure relationship they can depend on. Oncethey do make the commitment, they want it to last just as much as women. As a resultof their discomfort with emotions, though, they may take more time to actually make thecommitment and talk about it.Often their actions, such as doing things they think will be helpful to you, can give cluesthat they are committed. This frequently takes an “interpretation” or “translation” on thepart of their partners since men often don’t explain that they are trying to show love andcommitment through the “language” of their actions. Remembering this might be theirmotivation can have a positive impact on you and him.2. Often, men are “doers” more than talkers.Keeping in mind that men want commitment, it may be useful to think about differentstyles of communicating this. Men often put their feelings into actions to try to be helpfulto the one care about. It may stem from a desire to make your life easier, your world abetter place or something similar to this. It can be really frustrating to be on thereceiving end of their kind deeds when what you really desire is a tender affirmation inwords that express how much they love you.Sometimes a simple acknowledgement of his efforts or a word of appreciation can helphim feel understood and be more open to a suggestion that he put his feelings for youinto words also.3. Men often don’t catch the non-verbals in a relationship.Or they do, but don’t know how or whether to mention those things to help deepen thelevel of emotional intimacy. Sometimes a little coaching can go a long way. Sayingsomething about noticing his non-verbal behavior, for example, how you like his smilewhen you compliment him, or the downcast, disappointed look in his eye when he talksabout something that happened at work or with a friend can deepen yourconnection. These little gestures can make such a big difference and invite similarbehavior in response, but they are easy to overlook when our lives get busy.4. Men often respond well to appreciation, both in gestures and words.This follows what I was saying in the above section. It is worth repeating andemphasizing. There is a strong tendency in our society to take each other for grantedonce the relationship is established. It is, after all, what we want in our relationships,www.johnweiks.com www.DecodingHim.com
though we usually call it by different names including trust, reliability, etc. If we “forget”or consider it unnecessary to show and say our appreciation to each other as a result ofthis “taking for granted,” little hurts can eventually build up to big obstacles. Try to keepthese expressions alive in your relationship and consider them as simple gifts to eachother.5. While men want to be understood just as much as women, many have learned not toexpect it and, as a result, have “turned off” their hope that they’ll get it.If this is true for the guy you are with, it will probably mean taking even more time andpatience on your part to help him identify it in the first place and then help him graduallydare to believe he can get what he wants in his relationship with you. Helping eachother increase our ability to both give and receive love can be a life-long gift that willhelp our relationships flourish.About the authorDr. John Weiks is a licensed psychologist with a private practice in Grand Rapids,MI. He has over 35 years of experience treating individuals, couples and doinggroups. In addition, he provides consultation for other mental health professionals andhas done numerous trainings both locally and nationally.To learn more about Dr. Weiks, visit his website: www.johnweiks.comTo contact him, send an email to: jcweiks [at] mac.com (replace [at] with @) For more free tips and insights on what really attracts a man, how tomake yourself irresistible to him and how to capture his heart, click the link below. www.decodinghim.comwww.johnweiks.com www.DecodingHim.com