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Home » Ask the Therapist » My Partner Is Unable to Verbalize in Emotionally Charged Conversation, Despite Desperately Wanting To

My Partner Is Unable to Verbalize in Emotionally Charged Conversation, Despite Desperately Wanting To

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Even in the absence of conflict, my partner is unable to engage in deep conversation or to express his thoughts and feelings verbally. This has caused multiple relationships to fail in his life and he desperately wishes that kind of communication was available to him. He is an amazing listener, very open-hearted and present, but cannot engage in two-sided conversation unless it’s small talk. He doesn’t understand why this is the case and has experienced this since childhood. When he is asked for verbal feedback, he experiences obvious physiological symptoms of stress (sweating, elevated heart rate, possibly tearfulness as his non-communication is a trigger for having experienced a lot of pain from loss of relationships for this reason). He has said that he experiences his feelings more in terms of colors and shapes than in describable words, which obviously contributes to a communication issue that is certain to end our relationship too if left as is. He is interested in trying to understand what’s happening for him and becoming communicative, but has never had a practice of self-reflection or access of counseling or therapy. I love him and feel invested in giving him room to figure this out. My communication skills are highly developed and this is a significant stress on our relationship as I am accustomed to being able to process and engage verbally in a deep way with those close to me. I am making an effort to find less verbal ways we can also connect so that I am also participating in his realm, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts of our relationship we need to be able to have two-way conversation, and I need to be able to get feedback and validation when I open myself up and discuss something with my partner. Do you have any suggestions for a good starting point for him as he begins the journey of trying to unravel this? Whether or not our relationship can be saved, I want to support his desire to make this change for his own life and ability to connect with people. Thank you so much.

My Partner Is Unable to Verbalize in Emotionally Charged Conversation, Despite Desperately Wanting To

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A.

It sounds as though he might be experiencing anxiety and/or panic attacks. Anxiety and panic are highly treatable. I suggest that he begin counseling. You and he might also be good candidates for couples counseling. As long as he is willing to participate in treatment and sticks with it, for however long it is necessary, expect a positive outcome.

The fact that you’re asking for help on his behalf is a bit concerning because it would suggest that you might be trying to “fix” him. You can’t do the work for him. Your support is undoubtedly essential in assisting him through the process of change but he has to want to change and agree to participate in treatment. As long as he is willing and able to participate in treatment, there is hope for change.

Another suggestion you can make is his reading self-help books about communication skills, relationships and anxiety disorders. Books are a good resource for education but therapy is the most efficient way to correct these issues. Continue to be supportive, suggest counseling and hope that he is willing to participate in treatment. I wish you both the best of luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

My Partner Is Unable to Verbalize in Emotionally Charged Conversation, Despite Desperately Wanting To

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). My Partner Is Unable to Verbalize in Emotionally Charged Conversation, Despite Desperately Wanting To. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/12/25/my-partner-is-unable-to-verbalize-in-emotionally-charged-conversation-despite-desperately-wanting-to/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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