• When it comes to communicating how they feel, men are often expected to keep their emotions hidden.
  • This is problematic, as men naturally experience difficult emotions that they need to process and communicate.
  • The stigma surrounding men and emotions can negatively affect their romantic relationships, but there are tips for improving communication.
  • First, men should position themselves next to their partner as opposed to face-to-face, and secondly, they should analyze what they want to communicate before approaching the conversation.
  • Men should also trust their partner to accept what they have to say–and shouldn’t shy away from being sensitive. Lastly, men should consider (and pick) the right time to express their feelings healthily.

Many men are expected to be strong—no matter what. They wear a suit of armor at all times to deflect difficult emotions and to avoid being labeled as sensitive or effeminate. If this armor “fails” though, they may resort to hiding what breaks through their defenses, often by keeping their feelings to themselves. This is problematic, as men experience a range of difficult feelings—many of which need to be released in a healthy way.

So when men find themselves in a romantic relationship with a woman, their desire to be seen as strong may come into conflict with a very real need to communicate their emotions effectively–for the sake of the relationship’s health. This internal struggle may cause men to have a hard time opening up to their partners. But despite the potential for miscommunication, it’s necessary for men’s personal development and emotional regulation to communicate what (and how) they feel effectively. 

Here are 5 tips for communicating better in your romantic relationship:

1. Sit next to your partner.

First, a good practice for men is to sit next to their partner when they need to have a serious conversation. Licensed Psychologist Dr. Sherrie Campbell explains: “It’s best for men to sit next to a woman rather than across from her. Men go shoulder to shoulder in war to face their enemy. Face-to-face communication means litigation to a man. This is great in business but not in personal life. It’s even better for men to open up if they are side by side and in motion such as during a casual walk, hike, drive, or bike ride. Side by side is less threatening.”

2. Analyze what you want to communicate.

Also, before you jump headfirst into the conversation, you should know exactly what you want to communicate. Psychotherapist Jacob Brown explains the process: “Ask yourself, what is it you’d like your partner to know about how you’re feeling? This can be a very simple statement (e.g., ‘I love them,’ ‘I would never hurt them,’ ‘I’m angry,’ ‘I’m hurt,’ ‘I’m disappointed’). Also, what actions have you been taking to try and communicate these feelings to your partner (e.g., ‘I work hard every day to support our family,’ ‘I haven’t been initiating sex,’ ‘I washed his/her car last week,’ ‘I took us out to something I thought he/she would enjoy’). Now, put those two statements together and write them out into a short sentence.”

3. Trust your partner.

Dr. Elayne Savage, a skilled communication coach, says it’s also important to trust your partner will be receptive to what you are communicating. “The secret to an honest expression of feelings is in trusting the other person to be receptive—listening and hearing what you are saying,” she explains. “Too often, the barrier to listening (reportedly, especially for guys) is when they think they have to jump in and ‘fix’ things. Instead of listening attentively, they’re busy strategizing: ‘What can I say in response?’ or ‘How can I make it better?’”

4. Welcome sensitivity.

Also, in addition to strength, men should tune into their sensitive sides. “Men should become okay with being a mix of both sensitivity and strength. Once they have gained this type of unconditional self-acceptance, they will feel more comfortable showing both sides (and their feelings) to the world,” Relationship Expert Laurel Steinberg explains. “Men can communicate better with their partners by first thinking about what they want their partners to feel around them. Then, they should craft what they say to best accomplish this goal using the particular language they think will work best.”

5. Pick the right time.

A final important tip is to pick the right time if you are communicating difficult feelings or something that needs both your and your partner’s undivided attention. “It may never feel like the right time if you struggle to share your feelings, but there are better times than others,” says Certified Mental Health Expert and Family Care Specialist Adina Mahalli. “It has to be the right time for you as well as your partner. This means that you may not be able to discuss whatever you want to discuss the moment it pops into your head. Choose a time when they’re not busy thinking about something else and they can give you their full attention.”