In Aurelia Psychology’s bibliotherapy series we answer common questions by offering reading suggestions. We suggest books you can learn from and books that can help you heal. Some books will help you grow stronger and develop into the person you want to be. Romantic relationships are tough. Sharing a life with someone in life is not as easy as it looks in our fantasies. We don’t have a manual for making our relationship thrive and muddle along as best we can. Connecting is tough if our partner is uncommunicative.
Question: My partner won’t open up to me. How do I get them to express more?
Nothing is a lonelier than being in a romantic relationship with no connection. Not only do we feel isolated but we may also start doubting how our partner feels about us and where their commitment lies. How do we start a conversation with a reluctant partner?
How do relationships work?
In the past, marriages were business deals. A king needed a queen and a farmer needed someone to work on the farm with him. We want much more than an extra pair of hands from our life partner these days. We expect a lot from our partner but can they ever be enough? In Eli Finkel’s book The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work he writes about our quest for a partner who helps us grow as an individual. Maybe we should not expect our partner to meet all our needs?
Improve your communication skills
Is your partner reluctant to open up or is the core problem your struggle to create a safe where they feel able to share their deepest thoughts? If you suspect that your communication skills may be part of the problem, read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book is a bestseller for a reason.
Good communication skills will not only help you in romantic relationships but with every human you encounter in your day. Carnegie’s book will tech you how criticism, no matter how constructive you try to make it, will disrupt communication. You will also learn that expressing appreciation opens doors. Accepting influence and being open to understanding the other person’s subjective reality will create a safe environment for your partner to open up.
Understand the dynamics of your relationship
Amir Levine and Rachel Heller describe in their book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find－and Keep－Love attachment styles impact how we behave in relationships. It also helps us understand why we end up in certain types of relationships. This book may give you a better idea of your own as well as your partner’s attachment style. It can also help you express your needs and expectations instead of just assuming your partner knows them. The authors explain that when you express your needs and expectations effectively you increase your chances of your partner actually hearing you. They may even be encouraged to open up more themselves.
Your partner may not open up to you about their deepest needs and wants no matter how hard you try. You are then left yearning for some meaningful exploration. Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves will take you into the inner lives of others. You may still not know more about your partner but it can invite you on a deeper journey into yourself.
Not all relationships are deeply satisfying where the partners are emotionally connected to each other. Doris Lessing wrote a five novel series Children of Violence that takes the reader from colonial Rhodesia to Britain. In the second book of the series, A Proper Marriage, Martha Quest is married and about to have a baby. She is deeply unsatisfied in her marriage and her transition into becoming a mother makes her realize that motherhood limits a woman’s freedom even further. Martha is forced to make a difficult decision about the direction of her life.
As we live our everyday life with our partners we may fail to see the bigger picture. We don’t realize how every fleeting moment of connection determine the direction the relationship takes. In James Salter’s Light Years we follow the slow disintegration of Viri and Nedra Berland’s marriage. Everything starts off right in an idyllic setting. However, once the marriage starts unravelling the speed of the disintegration just accelerates.