Why do I struggle to open up to people?
25th October 2019
Many of us find it difficult to open up to people about our emotions. Even if you are generally good at expressing your feelings, when we are under extreme stress this can get harder. During your fertility journey, there are many potential emotional hurdles. These can be difficult to navigate on your own, so learning to open up is key.
The meaning of opening-up
Many of us may feel like we are totally open. You may not think you have an issue with vulnerability or intimacy, or that your lines of communication with loved ones are strong. But ask yourself the last time you were totally honest about your feelings. It’s harder than you think, isn’t it? When people ask how you are, it’s so common to simply respond with ‘fine’, even if there is so much more going on inside.
The true meaning of opening up is being honest and vulnerable and letting others know how you are truly feeling. Sometimes this can also mean learning to be honest with yourself.
Reasons why we don’t open up to people
There can be many reasons why we struggle to open up to people. For some, it may be to do with their upbringing. If you’ve grown up in a household where a stiff upper lip is seen as a sign of strength, vulnerability may not come naturally to you. Emotional language is a skill that we learn. If this isn’t taught or nurtured within us from a young age, then it’s not surprising that we struggle to vocalise our feelings as adults. If you have had previous experience of being rejected after being vulnerable – either by a partner or family member, this may also make you cautious about opening up – and that’s totally understandable.
In some cases, the reason we can’t open up is that we are scared of admitting our fears or concerns to ourselves. If there is something, that is causing you stress or worry, vocalising it can make it feel more real.
Why it’s healthy to open up to people
Keeping your emotions bottled up can have negative effects on your physical, mental and emotional health. When we ruminate on problems in our own heads for too long we can make them seem worse than they are. As the old adage goes, a problem shared is a problem halved!
Opening up to people can help you gain perspective and find solutions that you may not have been able to reach on your own. Sharing our experiences can also help us feel less alone. When it comes to infertility, there is almost always another person in the situation with you. Your partner will be able to empathise with what you are going through, which can stop you feeling isolated.
Aside from your own emotional wellbeing, talking about your feelings can help you strengthen bonds and maintain a healthy relationship.
How to open up to people
Here are a few tips on how to open up and navigate emotional conversations.
Open up physically
It might sound silly but changing your body language can actually help change your mindset! If you are sat with your arms folded, hunched over, turned away from your friend or partner, it can be really hard to connect and open up. When you are trying to have difficult conversations, try to physically open up and you might find it’s easier to do so verbally. Hold your chest high, take a deep breath, maybe even take a stretch before you start to speak if you find that helps.
Find the right people to talk to
If you find it difficult to open up to people, it’s really important that you evaluate your friendships. Whilst you may have friends that are fun and great for cheering you up, they may not be the people you feel you can be vulnerable with. It’s important to create a safe space and that includes the person you are talking to. Try to identify your friends who are patient and good at empathising. You may even have friends that are great at giving advice but will ask too many questions. This can cause you to close up again.
Ask yourself – who do I feel most comfortable with? Who will respect this safe space I am trying to create?
Know what you want to say
Sometimes one of the biggest reasons we shy away from speaking to people about our problems is that we don’t always know what we want to say. This lack of clarity can mean our thoughts get jumbled and never make it to our mouths. It also means that occasionally the person you are talking to will start jumping in – confusing your thoughts even more.
Whilst it’s important to express our feelings, taking some time to digest before speaking on them is healthy. Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts down on paper before an emotional conversation, especially if you struggle to open up to people.
Journalling is also a great opportunity for mindfulness and can be an impactful part of your self-care routine. Another good tactic is to write a letter you have no intention of sending. You can say everything you want to ay without a response, which will help you prepare for the real conversation.
Connect with friends and family more often.
With a hectic lifestyle, it’s easy to let your lines of communication with loved ones deteriorate. If you have stopped communicating about the everyday topics, it can be so much harder to come to them with a problem. When you’re having a tough time, it’s common to avoid spending time with friends. However, it can be tough to call up someone you haven’t spoken to in weeks and ask for support.
Try to take the time to socialise with friends or visit family. Not only will having a bit of fun elevate some of the negativity you may be feeling, but you may find yourself opening up without realising. Your friends and family love you and will always be there for you, but try not to push them away, as it will only make opening up harder.
Speak to professionals
If you’re struggling to open up emotionally, you may decide to seek professional help. Seeing a counsellor or therapist can be transformative for people finding it hard to talk about their feelings. You may find it more manageable, to be honest with someone who isn’t emotionally invested in your situation. You will be able to speak to them without worrying about their own feelings and without fear of judgment. This could make it easier for you when you come to speak to those closest to you.
Therapists will be able to help you access your emotions and understand why you are unable to vocalise them. They can give you exercises and advice on how to navigate difficult conversations and how to connect with your partner.
How to get someone to talk to you
If it’s your friend or partner that is struggling to open up, that can be incredibly hard to manage. Forcing them to talk to you can often do more harm than good, but here are some tips on how to get them to share their feelings with you.
Choose the right time to talk
Often in our relationships, we can feel like ships in the night. If you are concerned about your partner’s wellbeing, asking them about it whilst they get ready for work may not get the best response. Find an evening when you both have nowhere to be and limit distractions. They may feel more comfortable opening up if you are both relaxed and able to speak freely.
If your partner sees you being vulnerable, it may encourage them to do the same. All we want when we are feeling low is to feel understood. Showing that you not only empathise with them but are feeling similar emotions will show them it’s ok to express their feelings. This is especially important as a couple going through infertility struggles, your partner needs to know you are in this together.
Listen and validate their feelings
If your partner begins to open up to you, it’s important that they feel heard. The simplest way to do this is to listen actively. Remove all distractions, open up your body language and maintain good eye contact so that they know you are engaged. It’s also crucial to validate their feelings. If someone says they feel like they’re failing, a well-meaning response might be to say ‘You shouldn’t feel like that!” However, this could make them feel like their emotions are wrong or stupid. Tread carefully, and be sensitive to their feelings. This will help them open up more the next time.
If you are struggling to cope with infertility, joining a community like Adia can help you feel less alone and connect with your emotions. The platform offers courses on emotional health, free meditation and access to fertility experts.