The Barrier: To protect yourself from being vulnerable, you stuff down your feelings and act like you’re always “fine.” When a guy you’re seeing does or says something that upsets you, you pretend it’s “no big deal.” Most of the time you don’t even know how you feel until long after the triggering incident, when it’s too late to bring it up anyway. You’re terrified that expressing any sort of dissatisfaction will lead to conflict, which will in turn bring about the demise of this relationship. Instead, you become so dissociated you feel numb and checked-out—when you’re not depressed, resentful, and infuriated from all those bottled up feelings.
Relationship Rx: Being yourself and expressing how you feel is not optional in a relationship—it’s essential for true intimacy to develop. Override your knee-jerk reaction to say that something upsetting is “Fine!” and pay attention to the sensations in your body. Your emotions will give you clear signals if you get quiet and listen. When you feel a tightness in your chest or an uneasiness in your stomach, trust that something is definitely notno big deal. Once you’ve identified your feelings, practice expressing them to the person you’re dating, friends, and family members. Again, let yourself do this imperfectly. You can even start off by saying, “I feel really uncomfortable saying this but …” or “I don’t know why but I feel upset about what you just said and I need a little while to think about it.” Over time, it will become easier to identify and articulate your feelings, and this will lead to closer bonds, deeper intimacy, and better relationships.