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KansasTherapist
KansasTherapist, LSCSW
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 566
Experience:  17 years experience with depression, abuse, and borderline.
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My boyfriend has issuses with expressing himself. He often

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My boyfriend has issuses with expressing himself. He often shuts down when conflict arises and he claims that this is due to how he was raised. His mom often told him that he was to keep to himself about problems and that no one wanted to hear his complaints. I know I can't change him, but is there anything I can do to help him?

KansasTherapist :

Hello


 


People have a hard time overcoming the lessons they learned when they were growing up. The first step in any personal change is to think differently. Does your boy friend think it's a good idea to be able to talk out issues and feeling?

KansasTherapist :

If he is thinking differently, he can purposely act differently. He would need to make a plan with you to make an effort to talk, even if it doesn't feel comfortable.


 

Customer:

Yes. He does think its a good idea. I can, at times, see him become visibly frustrated that he can't get the words out.


 

KansasTherapist :

In that case it may help him to work on identifying his feelings. Possibly, he has spent so much time not talking that he may not know what his feelings are. Are you able to help him identify those?

Customer:

I have tried that before. During a discussion where he has 'shut down' or stopped communicating. I have asked him what he's feeling, or if I have upset him. He responds with, one-word answers. Usually it's "no." How can I successfully identify his feelings?


 

KansasTherapist :

If you can put yourself in his shoes and think, what you might feel. You can say to him, "in this situation some people might feel hurt or angry or abandoned." That might give him more ideas of what he might be feeling.

KansasTherapist :

Another thing someone could be feeling when they shut down is scared that they're thoughts and feelings are unacceptable.

Customer:

Ok. He has said to me, more recently that he wishes to seek counseling because his friends have also commented on him being emotionally withdrawn. He had mentioned that he would want me to go with him, but that he wouldn't want to hurt me in the process. I want to help in any way that I can. Is this something that I should do with him?


 

KansasTherapist :

I think it's an excellent place to start. You can go with him to help him feel comfortable and be prepared to hear that he sometimes feels frustrated or hurt by you. Those feelings happen is most relationships at one time or another. It seems he's just afraid that if he tells you that, you'll reject him.

KansasTherapist :

If at some point you, your boy friend, and the therapist agree he should come in alone, you can always do that.

Customer:

Thank you. At the beginning of our relationship we both agreed that communication is key for a solid relationship that has longevity. He told me that I am the first person who has brought his communication road blocks to his attention. We both want to work this through, and understand that the work may not be easy. I just don't want to feel like I'm forcing him to make a change that he doesn't want to make.


 


I told him that the change has to come from him wanting to do it for himself, to better his own life. I don't think it would work if he tried to take that large step just for me.

KansasTherapist :

From what you said about his friends telling he is emotionally withdrawn, it seems this is an issue throughout his life. I think you are helping him wake up to how his withdrawal effects him and others he cares about.

Customer:

Is there anything else that you recommend I try/do in the interim? I want to make this process as painless/easy as possible.

KansasTherapist :

I think a therapist who sees you together and sees how you communicate would be able to give you a better idea if there are changes you could make.

Customer:

Ok. Thank you for your time.


 

KansasTherapist :

You're very welcome.

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