Ten Things Men Can Do
to Become Better Emotional Partners in Their Relationships

Hanalei Vierra, Ph.D. 

1)             Assume that whatever level of emotional immaturity you have is now officially an obstacle to your relationship with your wife or girlfriend. Participating in your relationship as an immature, wounded little boy and not as a mature, healthy adult man only compromises trust in your relationship and promotes distance between you both. Challenge yourself to “grow up” and bring whatever maturity you express out in the world to the woman you love. The worst way for an adult relationship to operate is to have a wounded little boy (or girl) making the adult decisions necessary to create a healthy relationship. The wounded, immature boy in you will try to get away with something if no one is watching. The mature man will always walk a line of personal integrity, whether anyone else is watching or not.

2)             Showing respect to the woman you love is a sign that you respect yourself. If there are ways that you are unfair or unkind toward her or act dishonorably toward your partner, see it as an indication of your own lack of self-worth. Similarly, if you walk on eggshells around her and don’t speak your truth, you probably lack self-respect. Assume it means that you have a blind spot when it comes to being a healthy emotional partner to your relationship. Then do something about it! Read a book, go to a seminar, get into therapy, join a men’s group, talk to a clergy person. Get information that will help you examine the ways your personal belief system no longer serves you.

3)             Have the courage to tell her something you typically avoid telling her out of fear of her reaction. While she might not agree with what you are saying or may even be hurt or angered by it, she will respect you for taking the risk of being truthful with her. By maturely expressing what is true for you, even if it hurts her, disappoints her, makes her angry or sad, the relationship will benefit from your courageous vulnerability. If she does not appreciate you being forthcoming, it means your relationship is definitely immature, and you both have a lot of work to do.

4)             When communicating with her, know the difference between expressing a feeling versus being judgmental. Underneath every judgment you have about her, there is a feeling, so communicate that feeling. Beginning a sentence with the word “you” is a sure sign that you are delivering a judgment. Even starting a sentence with, “I feel that you are ____” does NOT express a feeling. It’s just a tricky way of disguising your judgment of her. Expressing a feeling sounds like this: “I feel angry, or sad, or hurt, or scared, or confused when you do _____.”

5)             Give her the benefit of the doubt. When she says something hurtful – which will happen at times – do not assume that she is intentionally trying to hurt you. If you feel hurt or angry by what she just said, ask her directly if she is intentionally trying to hurt you. Chances are high that she is not, but it is important for her to know when she does. You could also show how much you care about her by asking whether you have done something to hurt her or make her angry. This is a way to show empathy, which is a crucial piece of any healthy partnership.

6)             Think and act more like a “we” in order to balance out the ways you already think and act like a “me”. Because you are in a relationship, you MUST become more aware of your automatic, self-centered thinking. Developing an ongoing awareness of what is best for the relationship is a sign of the mature man-in-you stepping up and being present. For example, asking her what she may need when she is stressed out is a way of showing her love and respect -- as well as showing her that you care about who she is and what is important to her.

7)              Carry the woman you love in your heart wherever you go. Whenever you are alone out in the world, act like a man who is part of a couple -- even if she is not standing by your side. It is the wounded little boy inside a man that acts inappropriately towards other women. “He” is the one that projects his desire and fantasies onto other women about what he does not have, which is totally destructive and disrespectful toward yourself and to your committed relationship. Instead, rather than distracting yourself with thoughts of other women, be more accountable to yourself and to her by having an honest conversation about what you need in your relationship that you are not getting.

8)             Push your own comfort level by seeking to explore ways of being affectionate with her that do not have sex as the ultimate goal. Let her know that you are capable of giving her a neck or back massage without it needing to lead to sex. Be mindful of how important a role the emotional connection between you and her plays in your sexual intimacy with her, and let her know that you understand that.

9)             Be supportive of her need and desire to grow as a person. Her becoming happier with herself as a woman – even if it gets scary or confusing for you – will definitely help the relationship in the long run. Ask her what she needs in order to feel you being a supportive emotional partner to her.

10)          Do any and all of these things because they will make you a bigger and better version of yourself as a man on the planet. Do NOT do any of them because they will get her to love you more. She will instinctively love you more as you commit yourself to your own personal growth. Tell her what you need in order to feel her being a supportive emotional partner to you.