It's much easier to share your thoughts, the intellectual information in your brain, than your feelings. Both women and men can have difficulty expressing feelings, although male partners seem to have an even harder time with heart-to-heart communication.
Sharing the depth of your feelings in your heart takes emotional risk and courage, as it can make you feel exposed and vulnerable.
However, knowing how to express your feelings is also the very thing that will create closeness and connection in your relationship.You can achieve deeper intimacy by sharing what is in your heart with your partner.
Try these tips to help you feel more comfortable and prepared to express feelings with your partner.
Why Talking About Feelings Helps
Accept Your Feelings
Emotional acceptance involves allowing your feelings to exist without passing judgment on them or denying them. If you reject or stifle what you are feeling, it will likely worsen them.
Judging, denying, or rejecting emotions can be harmful because it often results in unhealthy coping behaviors. This can lead to conflict and tension that harms your connection and intimacy.
Accept that feelings are neither right nor wrong. Instead, it is the behavior that results because of the feeling that is judged.
For example, just because you are angry, you do not have the right to behave violently. Managing negative feelings means accepting them without allowing them to overrun us.
Describe Your Feelings
Being able to identify your emotions is an essential part of knowing how to talk about your feelings. Describe the feeling by saying it orwriting it down. Think about how to help your partner empathize or help them understand what it's like to walk in your shoes.
If you have a difficult time finding the right words, remember that most feelings can be summed up in a single word, including:
Label Your Emotions
Research has also shown that naming your emotions, a strategy known as affect labeling, can reduce the intensity of the emotion and the distress associated with it.
How to Put Feelings Into Words
One strategy that can be helpful is to spend more time talking about emotions in general as part of your daily conversations. Ask your partner about how they feel, then share your own emotional state.
If you are not used to expressing feelings, this may initially feel awkward. Practicing it in small steps will make it easier.
For example, start by saying, "I feel angry" or "I feel sad."
Over time, this will begin to feel more natural. Start small by discussing more everyday reactions, and then gradually work your way up to having more profound and intimate conversations.
Understand Feelings vs. Thoughts vs. Mood
It's important not to confuse feelings with your mood or thoughts. Feelings come and go and change quickly, while a "mood" is a sustained period of an emotional state.
Feelings convey our emotions (and are said to come "from the heart"), while thoughts occur in our brains and convey our thoughts and beliefs. Feelings can also be physical sensations.
"I Think" vs. "I Feel"
Another way to help you distinguish your thoughts from your feeling is to 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? Whereas a statement like "I feel that he is a jerk" is incorrect. You "think" he is a jerk.
Try not to judge your own or your partner's feelings.If you want your partner to continue to share on a deep level, it is essential not to get irritated or defensive about the feeling expressed to you.
Likewise, 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." Doing so invalidates how the other person feels.
Research has found that feeling validated can help people better regulate their emotions. Showing each other this support and validation may improve your ability to cope with your feelings and reduce conflict in your relationship.
What Is Emotional Validation?
Verbalize feelings with your partner directly. Your partner can't read your mind. While they may pick up on your vibe, they have no way to know what's going on in your head unless you tell them.
When verbalizing your feelings, it's also important to share your deeper underlying feeling, not just surface feelings. You might be expressing anger but underneath feel hurt or embarrassed. This is much more crucial to express to your partner directly to develop closeness and intimacy.
You do not have to have deep, serious conversations about your relationship daily, but you do have to share your feelings (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 "feel embarrassed about being late for a meeting" helps you connect to the person you are speaking with.
While you should share feelings daily, avoid making decisions based on those feelings alone. Emotional reasoning is a cognitive distortion that contributes to faulty beliefs and can increase anxiety, conflict, and misunderstanding.
When you are making decisions, feelings will be a part of the process, but you must also think logically and rationally.
Discussing Your Feelings Each Day
A Word From Verywell
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. 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.
If you're having trouble expressing your feelings, consider couples counseling (either together or alone) to better understand what is preventing you from taking an emotional risk and having heart-to-hearts regularly with your partner.
The 10 Best Online Couples Therapy and Counseling Services We Tried and Tested in 2023
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sheri Stritof
Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book.
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