It can be hard to dig into sensitive topics with a guy, but relationships can’t thrive without healthy communication. Here’s how to have a real conversation about feelings with a guy without freaking him out or making him want to run away. I promise it’s easier than you think.
Know how you feel and what you want. It’s pretty hard to have a satisfying talk if you aren’t really sure what your own perspective is. Emotions can be tricky and it’s easy in the moment to want to just spit it all out raw. But you want to keep the guy engaged, not give him excuses to tune out, so figure out your specific goals in advance. What do you want to learn about him? What do you want him to learn about you?
Lead by example. If he isn’t used to opening up, he might just be too bewildered to know where to begin. Maybe you need to start things off. Use precise, simple language. “Hey, I’ve been hoping we could discuss some anxiety I have about our frequent scheduling conflicts. When will you be free for a chat?”
Talk about one thing. You just can’t resolve every relationship issue with one big conversation. The key is to decide what you’re going to talk about and stay on topic. Queer Eye culture expert Karamo Brown has some amazing guidance for discussing emotional subjects and it begins with tackling one issue at a time. Do you feel underappreciated because your partner never does chores or sends you sweet texts? Even though these fall under the same umbrella, they’re two distinct issues with two distinct solutions.
Keep it actionable. Talking about deep personal topics is vulnerable. Tie emotions to concrete experiences. Feelings spring from interpretations of everyday interactions. Telling him you’re sad all the time makes the topic huge and intimidating. Try using questions that help him give you what you need. Instead of asking why he’s so distant, ask him what time of the week he’s able to spend more quality time with you. Instead of asking why he won’t commit to you, ask him to define what commitment looks like to him.
Assume that you’re in this together. You’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt. Combativeness will kill any chance that you two reach mutual understanding. If you’re just not in a place where you can think the best of him, now is not the time for the conversation.
Really listen. The hardest part of a conversation is how unpredictable the other person’s responses can be. Try to maintain a curious attitude. You’re talking about feelings because you’re trying to learn who he is. Let him surprise you. Take his responses seriously. Follow up if you’re confused.
Make sure he’s really listening to you. Don’t sacrifice your own feelings to make him open up. No, you don’t want to judge him or talk over him, but you also don’t want to meekly accept everything he says. He tells you how he feels. You tell him how you feel. Then you find a compromise. If you can tell that he is unwilling to do so, call the point to his attention. He honestly may not even be aware he’s doing it.
Own your vulnerability. Women often internalize that we should feel ashamed for having feelings at all. It’s not “cool” to care too much, but you’re not wrong for expressing what’s inside of you. If it helps, summarize your physical response so he doesn’t misinterpret it. “I can tell I’m getting defensive right now. Maybe I need to take a break.”
Check in regularly. Conversations about feelings only become so difficult because we tend to avoid them. If an issue crops up and you want to discuss it, discuss it! Having a few small talks a week is a lot easier than having one mammoth talk a year. And discussing something while it’s pertinent to your relationship is more effective than reheating it after you’ve already been stewing for months.
Don’t make fun of him. Some dudes pretend none of it matters and it’s a point of pride to be bad at that “feminine” stuff. But under the bravado is a sensitive human who’s trying to escape discomfort. He’s not incapable of expressing himself. He’s not a caveman. You never want to affirm those stereotypes.
Remember that good guys care about feelings. Make a total good-faith effort to talk things through. But if you sense it’s going nowhere or the gap is too wide, trust yourself to move on. You can’t force him into emotional maturity. But the more you practice good communication skills, the more you’ll attract guys who already know how to meet you where you are.