Does your husband struggle with opening up to you about his emotions? How can you provide a space for him to express himself without letting him feel like you’re mothering him? What can you on your end to create a system of effective, sincere communication?
In this podcast episode, I share 3 tips for talking to your husband when he keeps things bottled in.
In This Podcast
- Listen to understand and give him space
- Don’t blame him
- Stop being so damn defensive!
- Details on my new course
Listen to understand and give him space
If I was patient, if I really really paid attention and really wanted to help, well then I needed to listen to understand. I needed to wait, and so ladies I’m going to tell you to wait. It’s nothing personal [to you], he just doesn’t know [yet] how to trust and be vulnerable so giving him space and letting him know you’re there for him when he’s ready is key to helping him let go of the emotions that he bottles up. (Veronica Cisneros)
Most men aren’t taught how to regulate their emotions and express themselves because from a young age they have been constantly taught to brush it off, man up, and get over it. They do not have the communication skills yet to express themselves.
By providing an open space where they can feel safe to be vulnerable with you and trust that you will not invalidate their emotions, perhaps like people did to them when they were younger, your partner will be able to speak to you about difficult things.
In order to provide this space, practice empathy. Express that you know what they are feeling and when they feel ready to speak to you, they know that you will receive and listen to them without judging or telling them to get over it.
Don’t blame him
In the heat of the moment you may want to express your anger at his lack of expression but do not do this, do not blame him, because he is not doing this out of spite – in a healthy relationship – he simply has not been taught how to express himself.
Most men have their emotions invalidated and were not provided a judgment-free space as a child to feel their emotions. Of course, this compounds into adulthood, and even though it comes as second nature to most women, it is foreign to most men.
This is because women are almost always provided the space to express their emotions whereas men are not given the same opportunity. Therefore, do not blame him.
Stop being so damn defensive!
When you get into a difficult patch with your partner it can cause you to put up your defenses, however, try to keep this to a minimum.
Often, we become defensive because we feel that the argument is a personal attack on us, however, it is often just a misunderstanding.
By processing our emotions together and regulating our response to the conflict, we can keep our defenses to a minimum and actually listen to one another instead of being obsessed with being right.
Ladies, your men will open up to you as long as you put your damn guard down too. You can’t expect him to open up and say all these things if your damn guard is up, he’s not going to do it … it’s not going to happen because there is no trust. (Veronica Cisneros)
Letting our guards down is an act of expressing mutual trust. It shows that couples trust one another to be raw and real with one another and know that their partner won’t turn around with judgment and ridicule.
Details on my new course
Reignite Your Marriage By Cutting Through Communication Barriers: Finally feel Supported, Appreciated and Understood
I’ve been getting a lot of questions from married women about how to effectively communicate with their husbands. This course would provide expert advice and easy-to-use strategies to help women connect with their husbands feeling understood, supported, and more importantly feel connected. A 5-week online course with an outlined workbook and exercises for you and your husband to do together. We will meet weekly and there will be live group coaching calls and so much more.
I want to personally invite you to be one of my 15 founding members for the online course, here’s what you’ll get:
- Reduced price now as a Founding Member, only pay $197 (As of 4/6 Course Price will be $297)
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- Course Start Date 5/10/2021
- Why You’re Stuck Managing The Family: An Intimate Conversation with Brandy & Billy Eldridge | EU 58
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Meet Veronica Cisneros
I’m a licensed therapist and women walk into my office every day stressed and disconnected. As a mom of three daughters, I want my girls to know who they are and feel confident about their future. I can’t think of a better way to help other women than by demonstrating an empowered and unapologetic life.
So I started Empowered and Unapologetic to be a safe space for women to be vulnerable and change their lives for the better before she ever needs to see a therapist.
Thanks for listening!
[VERONICA CISNEROS]: … don’t blame him. Do not blame him for the communication barriers. Remember he bottles up his emotions because this is what he learned to do it his whole life. I don’t want you to say, “I need you to talk to me because if you don’t, this puts so much pressure on our marriage and this is all of the reasons why we suck at communicating.” No you’re blaming. That’s not going to get him to open up. If anything, he’s going to shut down even more.
Have you ever thought, “How did I manage to lose myself?” Being a mom is so hard, especially when we’re feeling stressed and disconnected. We exhaust ourselves trying to create this perfect life for our family. You deserve to enjoy your marriage and your kids without the stress perfectionism brings. I am going to teach you how to identify who you are outside of all of the roles you play.
Hi, I’m Veronica Cisneros. I’m a wife, mother of three, and a licensed marriage and family therapist. I am on a mission to teach women just like you, how to become empowered and unapologetic. Welcome to our girl gang.
Hey ladies. Welcome to Empowered and Unapologetic. I’m your host Veronica Cisneros. So a few weeks ago, I asked the ladies in my private Facebook group this one question, if you could wave a magic wand and make your biggest communication challenge with your husband disappear, what would that be? I was immediately flooded with responses. I’m going to share one of them. He hates talking about the issues we have. He would rather just bottle everything up. I would love it if the shutting down and walking away mid-conversation didn’t happen whenever he gets frustrated with the issue we are discussing. This used to make me literally blow up, but I’m trying so hard to do better, not lose my cool. Well, I have to admit, I’ve struggled with this myself.
Willie and I would argue and I’d be all heated in the moment. And then he would immediately shut down and stop talking. What was even worse is he would go to sleep and then wake up the next morning and act like nothing happened. Totally cool. And it’s like, wait a minute. I know you have them, I know that you have some form of emotions, like something going on, but you wake up and act as if nothing, like nothing happened. How the hell do you do that? And here I am, another sleepless night trying to figure out what I could have said or how I could have encouraged you to talk or encouraged you to express your emotions and I get nada.
A ladies, you’re not alone in this. I’m going to go ahead and give you a little bit of a story. When Willie and I would fight, I would get so emotional because I would personalize everything. And it happened whenever it was something that I felt really, really passionate about. And I’m not sure why Willie would bottle all of his motions, but he did. I’ll give you guys a quick scenario, quick story. So it was when Willie was leaving the Marine Corps and he was retiring from the Marine Corps and he was so stressed out all of the time. Although he had a job already completely lined up, there was still this sense of insecurity, because it wasn’t the job he wanted. And so he was bottling up all of these emotions and he wasn’t sharing them with me. I would try so hard to get him to talk and it wasn’t working and then in addition to that, my ego would take this big hit because after all I am a therapist and how is it that I can’t even get my husband open up.
And so all I would, I was just flooded with my own insecurities and I was personalizing everything that he was experiencing. I didn’t give him room or space to talk because I wanted the answers right now. Like, what the hell is happening for you? Just let me in. Do you guys ever experience that, where you’re like your husband’s struggling and it’s like, if you let me in I can help you? We ended up figuring that out and I’m going to and share with you what it involved, but I just want you guys to get an idea of like, where I was at, and where she’s at right now. Like she sees her husband bottling up everything. And I hate to admit this, but where our arguments would usually go whenever Willie did that was, it ended up being this power struggle between me and him.
I wasn’t necessarily worried about how like we could diffuse it. It was more of, I just wanted power. I wanted power in like having the last word. I wanted power in him showing me his deck of cards, because him staying quiet and mute, wasn’t working for me. And I wasn’t left with any form of control because I couldn’t address the situation because I didn’t even know what the hell the situation looked like. Like there was no roadmap. And I was willing to show my cards only if he was willing to show his. And I found this back and forth, like it was just this, he was shut down and he would like purposely ignore me. Like he would shut down to that extreme, ignore me and avoid the conversation. In addition to that, if we were in a car ride, like he would start singing and it’s like, “How the hell are you fricking singing right now and I can’t wrap my head around this argument and we need closure and we need it now?
All of this to say that I would push, I would push really, really hard to get him to talk. And it would leave us in this disconnected, uncomfortable, status. And I was very, very uncomfortable because again, like I said, I hate to admit it, but I wanted some form of control. What I found is the biggest issue wasn’t necessarily that the problem wasn’t addressed. It was more of me not understanding the differences between how both men and women communicate. And what I didn’t realize was Willie was communicating something very, very significant and I wasn’t paying attention to it. Why was this a problem? Well, because I was trying to force emotions on my partner and it affected us because it also drove disconnection because he didn’t feel like he could trust me and I held. I didn’t feel like I could trust him either. It impacted our lives because I mean, our kids are witnessing this. It impacted our lives because I’m stressing out about something I want to resolve and he shut down. So yes, it impacted us significantly.
Again, what I didn’t realize was the differences between the way we communicated. And that was so important, so, so important. I was expecting Willie to be one of my clients and open up to me right away because he trusted me. Like, I mean, after all, I am his wife, but ladies, I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t want to hear Your husband doesn’t trust you with your emotions, with his emotions. He doesn’t trust you. And so I want you to recognize he doesn’t trust you with his emotions and I don’t want you to take this personal. I know you you’re like, “Wait, what do you mean he doesn’t trust me with his emotions? I’m his wife. Of course he trusts me with his emotions.” Homegirl, if he’s shutting down, no he doesn’t and that’s not against you. So I don’t want you to personalize it. He doesn’t trust anyone, not even himself with his emotions. Understand that your husband’s way of processing things is completely different than yours. And he’s not ready to be vulnerable with you. Again, it’s not because he doesn’t love you. It’s because he doesn’t know how. Let that marinate for a minute. He doesn’t know how to process those emotions. You want to know why? Because nobody’s taught him.
So here we are, non-stop trying to get things out of him, trying to get these answers, trying to get a better understanding. And we’re left with crickets. Well, we’re left with crickets because he has no idea. He’s feeling all of these emotions. He’s feeling all and probably being flooded by insecurities and maybe even intimidation because you’re on his ass and he doesn’t know how to handle it. And so instead he shuts down or even worse you keep on poking the bear, poking the bear, and then he blows up and he yells. And he probably says some things that he doesn’t mean. I know I’ve been on that end. I’ve been on both and if I’m just being completely honest. So why is it so important to allow our husband time and space to process this? Well, like I said, because they don’t understand it. I could already hear you saying, “Well, if I do that, then we’re never going to talk about it. He’s going to go months, fricking years before he says anything.” Yes, you’re probably right now.
I’m going to ask you, have you set up the foundation for both of you to have a healthy conversation without feeling forced? Probably not. And like I said, neither did I. So what I realized was I needed to get my husband some space. And if he’s shutting down, there’s reasons for it. And it’s not mine. It’s not mine to fix. Ladies. I’m going to tell you right now. If your husband’s shutting down, allow it to happen. Here is how you can guide him. Here’s how you can help him. I’m not saying for you to take it on. We’re not doing any codependent behaviors here. This is not for you to take on and is now your mission to get him to talk. Hell no, stay away from that. Steer clear from that. Instead, I want to provide you with a better understanding of what’s going on. Well, let’s take it back in time to when we were kids. Ladies, when you fell down, what would usually happen? We’d probably cry, right? Okay. And then what would follow? Well, somebody would come and embrace us and tell us everything’s going to be okay. And there was this level of acceptance. There was this automatic acceptance for the emotions that we were experiencing. And it was nurtured.
Now when a boy cries, what happens? Probably thinking right now, the minute a boy cries, well, he’s told right away, “Get up. Just dust it off. You’re fine. Everything’s fine. It’s just a little bit bleeding.” They’re immediately invalidated. Women are validated, men are invalidated. Let me explain the difference. Validation is when somebody says, confirms that what you’re currently experiencing is absolutely true. So if you’re saying I’m hurt, they’re validating by saying, “Yes, you’re right. You’re hurt.” Invalidation is when somebody says they’re hurt and they say, “Nope, that’s not what you’re feeling. You’re feeling this.” So they’re basically telling somebody that what they’re experiencing is untrue. Now imagine growing up this way, imagine experiencing heartbreak, imagine experiencing trauma, imagine experiencing just conflict, and then constantly being told, you’re fine. “You’re fine. It’s not a big deal. Get over it. Man up.” Well, what ends up happening with all of those emotions? Well, guess what men do. They compartmentalize them. They put them in a nice little box and they follow them way, way, way, way, way, way, way in the back. And that’s where they stay. And they store them there. Very rarely are they given the opportunity to act as them.
Very rarely are they ever encouraged to process it. Now, are you starting to understand the differences? So with this, men shut down. Unless they have the answers, they’ll shut down. If it’s not black and white, they don’t know how to make sense of it. So they walk away or they’re consumed by the emotion and they blow up. Again, like I said, this isn’t for us to fix. This is for us to understand. So if I know my husband’s struggling with something, or if we just got in an argument, then I need to give him space and I need to provide him, well, I shouldn’t say I need to, I would like to, it’s up to you on whether you want to or not. But I would like to provide my husband with this space of understanding.
“Listen, I know you’re probably going through some stuff right now and maybe right now, it’s not a good time to talk. When you’re ready, I’ll be here.” And I would prefer us not to say things we don’t mean. I recognize I need space too. Drop it, drop it, drop it. Don’t keep going. If you have issues around it, process them, write them in a journal. Talk to a friend, a stable friend, ladies, not one that’s going to hype you up and tell you, “This is what you need to tell him.” Hell no. I need you to reach out to a stable friend, somebody that’s not going to go ahead and amp you up and get you all riled up. We don’t want that, we don’t want that at all. Instead, I want you to just provide yourself with a space of, “Okay, wait a minute. What’s going on for me too? Let me figure this out. Let me calm down. Let me get control of my emotions because if not, then I’m going to say something I don’t mean.”
And as long as you provide both your husband and yourself with that space, you want to know what’s going to happen. He’s going to come back and he’s going to open up to you. I see this all the time. And in addition to that, he’s going to recognize, “Wait a minute, she’s not going crazy on me anymore. She’s actually provided me with time,” which builds trust. And that’s ultimately what we want. We want trust. We want trust in our relationship. The only way we’re going to do that is by doing something different, not being all crazy.
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[VERONICA]: Willie was struggling with quite a bit of things, especially when it comes to work like I was saying, and right away, I wanted to fix it for him because I hated to see him in pain. I hated it. I knew it was happening. I mean, you could see how it was written all over his face and he’d be lost in thought. Whenever I’d ask him, “Hey, what’s going on?” He’d be like, “Oh everything’s fine. It’s no big deal.” But I knew better. I totally knew better. And I wanted to get it out of him and give him the space and then, I hate to say this, but I then got upset. Like, “Why the hell isn’t he telling me? Like, just tell me already. Just get it out. You’ll feel better when you get it out.” And I remember saying that over and over, you will feel better when you get it out. So just get it out. And I was like, “Okay, wait a minute. He’s trying to, am I trying to force him to do it on my time or his?” So then I had to pull back.
Well, there was this one incident that he was struggling with and it was not being happy with his job and trying to conform, trying to do all of these things. And I had to say, “Babe, I can see you’re struggling and I’m here for you. I am and it does got to be tough being in this position and trying to make a decision without putting us on the line.” And although I could have immediately said, “We’re okay. You don’t have to work for the next two months, three months. We’ll be fine,” I could have said all of those things, but that would be just fixing it. That sounds something I wanted to do. I didn’t want to fix it because then I would be invalidating him just like everybody else did with every single time that he was met with some form of pain. And so instead I did my best to understand which is empathy. I thought about a time when I, myself struggled with a similar pain, when I felt as if I didn’t have the answers, when I felt confused, uncertain, frustrated, and I had mentioned it to him. “You know what? I’ve been there too, and it’s a really crappy place to be, and you want to get out, but you don’t know how. And do you also don’t want to take the risk. I get it.”
The minute I did that, I’m going to tell you right now, he opened up and he just started sharing. He started sharing what it was like and how frustrating it was. And it was then that I completely understood what he was going through. He wasn’t telling me screw off. He wasn’t telling me he doesn’t need me although those are the insecurities I had that were building up when he would shut down. But if I was patient, if I really, really paid attention, really wanted to help, well, then I needed to listen to understand. I needed to wait. And so ladies, I’m going to tell you to wait. Again, it’s nothing personal. He just doesn’t know how to trust and be vulnerable. So giving him space and letting him know you are there for him when he’s ready is key to helping him let go of the emotions that he bottles up.
Another thing that I want you guys to refrain from doing is don’t blame him. Do not blame him for the communication barriers. Remember he bottles up his emotions because this is what he learned to do it his whole life. I don’t want you to say, “I need you to talk to me because if you don’t, this puts so much pressure on our marriage and this is all of the reasons why we suck at communicating.” No you’re blaming. That’s not going to get him to open up. If anything, he’s going to shut down even more. It’s too much pressure put on somebody. Instead, again, recognize he’s not speaking up for a reason and it doesn’t have to be me. It’s where he’s at. So don’t blame, refrain from blaming.
The other thing I want you guys to stop doing is stop being so damn defensive. If you disagree, fine. That’s okay. It’s okay if you disagree. It’s okay if you guys are not on the same page. That’s all right. You’re not going to be on the same page all the time. I’ve been married for 21 going on 22 years and we’re not on the same page. However, I can understand his point. So if I just, if I disagree with Willie, I do my best to try to understand, “Okay, where is he coming from?” And sometimes I can tell you right now between you and me, there are times when he says things and it’s like, “Oh my God, did you really just say that?” And right away, I want to go into like, “Oh my goodness that’s so stupid. I can’t believe you just said that right now and like, you’re totally trying to support it, like for real. And I’m watching you.”
I’m not like, true story, totally do that. And then I realize, wait a minute, it’s not stupid. I’m feeling uncomfortable with this conversation. I’m frustrated and I want the answers right now and I’m refusing to hear him out. That’s really what’s going on. The minute I refrained from attacking him and criticizing him, holy crap, he opens up so much. And then another thing I hate to admit is it’s like, holy, his idea was better than mine. Completely better than mine. And his angle was way different, but it makes sense. It makes total sense. As I started do that more and more and just starting to practice, okay, listen to understand, stop being so defensive, don’t blame him. Just allow the communication happen naturally. Recognize he doesn’t trust this process. The minute I was able to do all of those three things we just start communicating more. He would come up to me and share ideas with me or he would come up to me and process emotions with me. Don’t get me wrong. This is something he still battles with. It’s not because he’s ill.
It’s just because he’s a fricking man and he’s been a kid and in that environment, way longer than he’s been with me. And so this is something new. Oh I’m practicing something new. It’s new for me too. So it’s us going through the emotions. When I really saw it work was when Willie had lost one of his Marines. Well, he came up to me, I was about to jump in the shower and he sat on her bathroom floor. He’s like, “I have to share something with you.” So I immediately sat on the bathroom floor with him and I said, “All right, what’s going on?” And he’s like, “One of my Marines took his life and it was one of the Marines that I was really close with. He was my driver when we were in Afghanistan and he was a cool dude. I didn’t even know he was struggling.” And, I’m going to tell you, ladies, I wanted to take that pain away from him so badly because he was really hurting. And Willie’s right away going through his Marine’s Instagram page and Facebook page, and trying to find an answer, like literally trying to find an answer and at the same time he’s also texting other Marines and passing information with everybody that deployed with them when they were in Afghanistan.
He’s going through it and he’s just sitting there and right away, like I had so many questions that I wanted to ask him. And as a therapist, I wanted, I’m not going to lie, I wanted to go ahead and help him process those emotions right away. The minute I felt that urge to take his pain away, I had to do the opposite. I had to sit there and watch my husband feel it. I had to watch him feel it. I was there with him, I was sitting with him and just listening to him ad I asked him, “Where are you at with this? I’m watching you look through Instagram and watching you look through Facebook. What are you looking for?” And he’s like, “He was just so happy. He was like the life of the party. He was full of life. I just don’t understand it”. And you know, he’s going through it and going through it and reading all of his posts and then he found a post and he’s reading it right away, reading, reading, reading. He’s like, “Here it is. How didn’t I catch this? How didn’t I catch this?”
And there, my husband went with that unearned guilt. Wasn’t his but my husband automatically try to assume it because he didn’t catch it. And then he went on and said, “I haven’t connected with a lot of the Marines since our deployment. Why haven’t I connected with them?” I, not once forced Willie to talk to me. It happened naturally. I asked questions, but they were only for me to get clarification as to what he was saying when he was sharing. And then I also offered him some of the emotions that I was experiencing. I didn’t make this mine. That’s not what I did. What I said was, “I can’t believe this. This is so hard. This is so hard to accept right now. And I remember you introducing me to him a couple of times at a couple Marine Corps balls. And yes, he was a funny dude.”
Another thing that was so valuable was me looking at him and saying, “Thank you so much for sharing this with me right now. I know this is hard. I know this is hard for you right now and I just appreciate you sharing this with me.” And he kept on opening up and he opened up even more. Ladies, your men will open up to you as long as you put your damn guard down too. You can’t expect him to open up and say all of these things if your damn guard’s up. He’s not going to do it. It’s not going to happen. And it’s not going to happen because there’s no trust. You automatically assume that I’m just going to open up and share all my feelings, feelings that I’ve never processed feelings that I’ve been denied since I was a boy, and now you’re telling me to open up. Hell no. You’re the last person I’m going to open up to because you keep on yelling at me and you keep on criticizing me. And like I mentioned, I’m guilty of this myself. I am. And I get it, wife to wife, I get it. And we don’t want to see our husbands in pain and we don’t want to continue an argument and allow it to go five days a week, a month without us talking.
I get that. But your husband is bottling up emotions because he doesn’t know how to process them and he doesn’t know what to do with them. So you going into this back and forth battle of who has more power. That’s not going to work. If anything, again, like I said, it’s going to shut him down even more. Willie trusted me with his emotions? And I feel like I can honestly say, Willie now trusts me with his emotions because of the type of conversations that we’ve had over and over. We’ve had open in-depth hardcore conversations. Even when we were at, when we were ready to kill each other. And in those moments, we were both able to say, “Wait a minute. You’re right. Or, yes, I am right.” Or whatever it was. We’re able to say that because our guards were both down. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you, oh my God, he and I are the perfect arguers. I don’t know if that’s a word, but I’m like, totally going to say it, you know that we argue perfectly. There you go. I’m not going to say that because I would be lying. I would be lying.
It’s not going to be perfect. Matter of fact, sometimes it’s everywhere and it’s crazy and it can be emotional. The difference now is I’m able to catch it a lot quicker because of me practicing over and over and over again, healthy communication skills. So ladies, if you find that your husband is bottling up his emotions, I want you to be aware of where you’re at and respect, listen to me when I say that, I want you to respect where he is. Don’t force it. Allow it to happen. In order for it to happen, though, you have to be willing. You have to be willing to reframe from personalizing his anger or trying to fix his anger, trying to change his emotions, trying to change the situations, which all involves patience and understanding, building trust with your partner.
All right. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to do this together. I created a workbook just for you. The Five Mistakes to Avoid for a Healthy Marriage: Tips from a Therapist. It’s a workbook. It’s a free workbook, my gift to you. I want you to get it right now. All you got to do is for one, it’ll be in my show notes. So the notes where you’re listening to this to this episode, it’s going to be there or you can also go to empoweredandunapologetic.com/couplesguide. It is a great workbook that you and your husband could do together. Ladies give your man grace. I’m not saying you got to babysit him. I’m not saying you got to be his mom. I’m not saying any of that. I’m just saying, give your husband grace. This is all new. Communication is new. And also give yourself grace. I hope you’re enjoying your day. Bye for now.
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Many women lose their own identity in the shadow of being a mom and a wife. We are a community of women who support each other. We leave perfectionism behind to become empowered and unapologetic. I know you’re ready for the next steps. If you want to become empowered and unapologetic, get my free course, Unapologetically Me over empoweredandunapologetic.com/course.
Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a family of podcasts that changes the world. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution or Imperfect Thriving, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.
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Empowered and Unapologetic is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you thrive, imperfectly. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom Podcast, Imperfect Thriving, or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.