A friend of mine was thrown for a loop when they learned important details about the person they were dating from a third party. They were so surprised that important aspects of life had not been shared in their months of dating. My friend felt slighted and out of the loop, wondering why this information was kept from them.
Have you ever had this betrayal? Feeling like your partner isn’t opening up to you or trusting you with important information?
There could be are a number of reasons sharing isn't yet happening.
Some people can spend all day excavating their inner world and then sharing it with another person; for other people, they would rather chew glass than process emotions. Personalities are different. It can be easy to jump to the conclusion of mistrust if you feel left out of the loop, which may be the case, but it may also just be their personality to share less. When approaching your partner about these things, remember to practice being “completely humble and gentle, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Don’t attack, just converse with love, with clarity.
Have you been together long enough and spent enough time together to forge a connection of trust and cultivated intimacy that the person you’re dating feels safe enough to share their emotions with you? Perhaps it’s just a matter of time, and together you need to invest more time in establishing one another as a safe space for your emotions.
Trust doesn’t just appear by default or magic. It takes time to build, to earn. Invest in earning one another’s trust. Trust is built by holding their confidence–when they share things with you, you don’t share those concerns with others; when information is shared with you, you don’t blame or overreact; you practice active listening and respond with empathy and curiosity rather than judgment.
People who have been hurt develop protective layers. People close off for a variety of reasons. Some reasons are traumatic, others aren’t. Sometimes people do not trust others with their emotions because that has never been safe for them to do so before. If you would like to be someone they trust their emotions with, show them that you are. That means not demanding their sharing—remember, our story, our emotions, our inner life is a gift we choose to bestow upon another person. No one owes their story or inner world to another person; but they can share it with someone they deem worthy of receiving it. That also means being able to receive what they do share—whether it’s little or a lot.
If you share a lot and your partner doesn’t, it’s important to respect each other’s differences. It’s also important to name and speak about the difference in the way you communicate. Do so with out blame choosing an "I" statement rather than a "you" statement. Leading with a statement like "I feel..." invites vulnerability instead of casting blame. Share your hope that you will be able to have more emotional intimacy and sharing. Communication skills can be improved with practice.
Start with a conversation about this concern of yours. Express what you are feeling using “I” statements, and share your desire that they would share more of their inner life with you. For example: “I’m feeling like I don’t know some important things about you. I feel like being aware of these things would help me feel closer to you.” “I would love to know what’s going on inside you, if you would be willing to share with me.” “I don’t feel like you trust me with certain things. Is this the case? What would help you feel safer with me?” It’s important to communicate with one another instead of letting frustrations build without being addressed which can lead to an explosion of emotion down the line.
Model healthy communication. Notice and name any emotions you perceive in their communication. If they seem mad, glad, or sad about their day, say so, inviting them to tell you more. Make a habit of sharing 3 things about your day and how you felt about them to establish openness with sharing.
Questions to pull from:
And in the sharing and receiving, listen well and with empathy. Choose to respond lovingly with curiosity and grace and withholding any judgment. Show them by your words and actions that you are a safe person for them.
Be patient in waiting as they practice sharing with you. Willingness is good—you can build on that together. Ways of being do not change overnight—or even over months—so you have to exercise patience. Just as they will need to exercise patience in having a partner that would like more from them emotionally than they would naturally give.
It’s important to accept someone as they are. We cannot change people, and you control only you. That is a hard thing to confront and accept, but that is the reality of life. Your wanting them to share more with you will not cause them to share more with you—they must want to share more with you for that to become a reality that isn’t merely performative.
If you are with them, you likely know their personality and that sharing emotionally isn’t something they do naturally. They can deepen in that practice and learn to share more with you, but if you are continuing in the relationship banking on the future expectation that they will come to share with you to the depth and degree that you like—that’s a recipe for frustration and heartache for you both. We must accept our partners as they are. Only love and acceptance makes a person feel safe enough to explore something different.
If this not-sharing is not something you can cope with, then it’s time to re-evaluate if continuing in this relationship is viable and healthy for you both. You both will get frustrated by the expectation of the other that is not being met. At the end of the day, you cannot change another person. You cannot even ‘get’ them to share more with you. You can simply ask, demonstrate that you are trustworthy, and practice the vulnerability you ask for yourself. If they can meet that and you can accept it you have a way forward. There’s self-work to be done on either side in accepting one another as is. Remember, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
So, take-aways to remember: Communicate your needs in loving ways, listen emphatically, with love and grace, be patient and accepting of your partner. All of this is love in action.