I happen to be an emotionally expressive person but my partner, whom I love, struggles with being emotionally present in our relationship.
There I said it. The first response to a statement like this from my friends would be “You deserve better.” The relationship gurus would have a field day trying to analyze what is wrong with our relationship dynamics and what I’m not doing right to rectify it.
According to the Art of Manliness, however, this inability to be emotionally present is not uncommon: “One of the biggest complaints from women about relationships is that their men aren’t emotionally present. What does it mean to be emotionally present in a relationship? Well, first, it means being present with your own emotions which enables you to express what you feel to your partner, whether it be love or disappointment. It means allowing yourself to be vulnerable.” In other words, being emotionally present means being able to articulate what you are feeling when you are feeling it
In my case, I don’t blame my partner. He is an only child, brought up in a family where there is only room for practical stuff, and where the display of emotions is usually met with “Control yourself.”
And then he chose a profession that requires diagnosing diseases and delivering prognoses in a calm and efficient manner. Again, little room for emotions.
Initially, it did create a lot of frustration for me but once I got to know him, better, it gave me a better understanding of why this otherwise kind, gentle, rock-steady man struggles with being emotionally present from a relationship perspective.
Like the time when I called my partner in a panic when I found out my father was not doing well healthwise. I was expecting emotional support but instead I was told to “calm down” and also got step-by-step instructions on what my father needs to do to get well soon.
He genuinely thought he was helping me with his practical approach to the issue and would have been baffled had I told him otherwise.
There are times when I have wished that he could set aside the intellectualizer in him and just feel instead of being rational and steady 24/7. To his credit, he does try when he sees me getting frustrated but when he does it tends to come across as simulated rather than heartfelt.
My best friend, Jared advises me to “tweak my boyfriend” or in other words to encourage my partner to be more emotionally involved in the relationship.
Now Jared is the exact opposite of my boyfriend. Jared is my best buddy. We have conversations about everything under the sun including relationship problems. He is intuitive and very much in touch with his emotions whereas my partner doesn’t consider his emotional distance as an issue at all— in fact, he’d probably commend himself for being in control of his emotions 24/7.
No, I am not attracted to Jared but yes, I have to admit that I have wondered what it would be like to be with someone who is emotionally intelligent as Jared, someone who doesn’t need to be ‘tweaked.’
But that thought is momentary because nobody makes me feel the way I do like my partner — he makes me laugh, he makes my heart beat faster and I’ve never felt this safe and secure in a relationship as I do with him.
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Combing through the internet for advice led me to these tips from a relationship coach, Lori Jean Glass which have proved to be a lifesaver in navigating our relationship:
Accepting differences: I love my partner and that means I understand where he is coming from and I accept him as is just as he does me. This I feel is vital for creating a loving environment and for relational success.
Toning down on the criticizing: I actually have to credit Jared for explaining to me that nagging a guy about his flaws, real or perceived, would only make him shut down. Instead, he advised me to try a more diplomatic approach by using gentle reminders and avoiding harsh criticisms. I have to say Kev definitely knows what he’s talking about.
Focusing on my goals: As a writer, I am working on broadening my horizons and setting new goals for myself which keeps me busy. Also, I have friends and family whom I enjoy spending time with. According to Lori Jean Glass, having a life and goals is a great way to take the pressure off a relationship.
Relationships may not be fairy tale perfect but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful one with the help of a little tweaking as Jared suggests. By being vulnerable in sharing how I feel and communicating my emotional needs to my partner as well as being patient on days it feels like we took one step forward and two steps back, we are slowly maturing our relationship to its fullest potential.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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