Is Your Partner Emotionally Closed Off?

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Our relationship expert, Dr Pam Spurr (@drpamspurr on Instagram and Twitter) gives us her tips on how to help a partner open up.

You've been seeing them for a while and on the whole, things seem good...but why are they so closed-off emotionally?

Many relationships finish not because they’re unreliable or boring but because you haven't a clue what's going on with their feelings. 

Plenty of people are great communicators and have no difficulty sharing their emotions and understanding yours. Yet, if your person comes up short in the emotional intelligence department, there are usually a few key reasons why.

Here are reasons why this might be -

This is what they know – They could be a great guy but being closed off emotionally probably runs in their family. Their parents believed in keeping things locked down. Don’t underestimate the power of such a role model – this is how your partner sees the world. 

A top indicator – If you meet their family, you might see the resemblance in the way they relate to others. If they choose to open up, they might reveal that their parents never discussed personal things.

The Heartbreak Hotel - Again, they could be a lovely person but it’s possible they’ve had their heart so badly broken that they swore it'd never happen again. Now they keep their cards – and feelings – close to their chest. They may feel secure this way even if you feel potentially insecure.

A top indicator – You can tell they’re quite sensitive, they’re a good person, yet they won't talk about things. You might get wind they had some sort of painful break up. But they may not want to go into it without gentle encouragement. 

They have Asperger’s Syndrome –Although each person with Asperger’s is unique, Asperger’s can affect how they make sense of the world and relates to others. Sometimes this takes the form of not being able to read your emotions easily or to express theirs easily. Asperger’s can remain undiagnosed because a person with Asperger’s very often manages well with the demands of work and everyday life. Asperger’s syndrome is on the autistic spectrum. For more info check 

A top indicator – Like the other examples above, they might be a great partner apart from sometimes it seems there’s a barrier when you try to communicate with them. Honesty and clear communication can see you through.

Power and control – Watch out for this person – they might emotionally withhold due to having a manipulative streak. Beware as some may use a lack of emotional communication to try and control you. They know it drives you nuts and the more you push them to open up, the more they shut down.

A top indicator – They don’t communicate their emotions, but they seem overly-critical of you and your feelings. Or seems to have an angry or moody streak but won't talk about it. Also they might turn on the charm when they want to.

Key tips for getting them to open up emotionally - 

*Get super practical and begin by taking the words ‘feel’ and ‘feelings’ out of convos with them. Always use ‘think’ and ‘thinking’ instead when trying to go deeper. Far less threatening when you ask things like ‘what do you think about X, Y or Z’ instead of ‘feel about X, Y orZ’ 

*Keep it straightforward - if you can say something in a brief, to the point way, do it. It’s quite easy to stir up uncomfortable feelings in an emotionally closed-off person when you yourself get tied up in knots trying to express yourself.

*For extra clarity use ‘I statements’ - this is where you claim responsibility for what you’re saying. For instance, it’s better if you’re discussing the ups and downs of your relationship, to say I think we communicate better when we’re relaxed at the weekend. This is a clear message coming from you.

*Give encouragement in small ways. When they open up even a little, be warm and positive about it. You encourage more emotional honesty from them when they get a good response.

*Stability gives confidence to a person who doesn’t like what they see as tricky waters of getting ‘emosh’. And it’s good for you to learn the skills of staying calm and confident during communication.

*Don't tease them that they’re ‘useless at having proper chats’ - that'll put them right off trying to open up. 

*Beware that your differences over showing your emotions can become a non-verbal battleground with tit-for-tats between you. These won’t help so knock them on the head when they happen.

*Definitely set boundaries on the person who seems to lack of emotional openness to control you. If it feels wrong, let them know you won't tolerate tricky behaviour. 

A lot of great people simply need encouragement that the world won’t fall apart if they start showing their emotions more. 

Happy dating, Pam x

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