Why People Hide Their Feelings

Sep 16, 2022
Why People Hide Their Feelings

Something happens to the openness and intimacy of a relationship’s early seasons. The two people slowly stop communicating what they really think and feel, and they slowly get further and further away from each other emotionally. Their hearts either settle into a partial intimacy or a detached relationship, without a total connection between them. For others, the divide takes on more poisonous forms, such as affairs, addictions, or divorce. Let’s examine why the sharing stops in the first place and how detachment occurs in a relationship.

They learn that sharing is not safe

For two hearts to be connected, there must be a place to share feelings where one feels safe. Many couples find that defensiveness, attack, blame, judgment, pulling away, anger, and other bad things happen in their relationship when they share what is in their heart, so they just stop doing it. They have little hope for resolving a conflict or being heard. They give up honest sharing with each other.

They have old fears that keep them from sharing

For some couples, it’s not the things they encounter in their marriage that keep them from being direct and open, it’s the things they bring to the marriage. They carry fears from past experiences that have taught them that sharing is not a safe thing to do and something bad will happen if you are totally honest–such as abandonment, criticism, rejection, abuse, disapproval, anger, escalation, breakdown in connection, withdrawal, attack, or judgment. So they hold back from sharing, and as a result, intimacy suffers.

They do not have the skills or know how to share

Some people did not grow up in families that communicated well or have not had other people show them what real, honest communication looks like. At the beginning of the relationship, they can share with their partner when there are not a lot of reality-threatening things to reveal or work through, but as time goes on and the attachment deepens, they find that the sharing requires communication skills they don’t possess. They just don’t know how to do it.

They have had experiences that are too overwhelming

Sometimes the bad things that happen in life and in a marriage are too painful to know how to deal with. These events overwhelm a mate’s system. Some couples, for example, split up after the loss of a child or some other devastating trauma. The pain is too much for them to be honest about, and they shut down and shut each other out.

They feel that the things they want to share are unacceptable

These can be failures in the relationship or deep secrets about themselves. But whatever it is they would like to share, shame and the fear of loss of love keep their hearts locked up inside. They cannot accept certain things about themselves, and they feel so terrible about them that they are really afraid to open up.

They think that their desires or wants are not important

Many people have been taught that what they want doesn’t matter, is selfish, or has little or no chance of being fulfilled. So they shut down from feeling those things and communicating them. They do not realize that communicating their wants and feelings actually adds to the relationship for the other person.

Whatever the reason, you can turn it around

If you want to rescue your love life and reestablish connection, you have to start sharing. Opening up your hearts together is what intimacy is all about. To know your mate is the essence of love. Here are some tips on how to reestablish your connection.

Stop lying

Lying may seem too obvious to mention, but it’s a prevalent dumb attitude that needs to be addressed. If you are outright lying to your spouse, you can’t expect to have intimacy. So come clean about the things you are lying about. Your partner will probably find out anyway, but you need to do this even if they won’t.

Stop fudging

Most people don’t lie outright. They just fudge the truth a little bit to keep the peace or to not make things worse. What does that mean? It means saying things like:

  • “Oh, no, I”m fine. Nothing’s wrong.”
  • “No, it doesn't matter to me. Whatever you want is OK.”
  • “No, I am not angry. It’s OK. Really.”
  • “No, that didn’t bother me. Not at all.”

For the sake of keeping the peace and togetherness, people fudge on how they really feel and what they really think. As a result, they lose both peace and togetherness. Honesty means not sugarcoating it, but telling it to each other like it is.

Be direct

People who establish intimacy with each other communicate directly. They do not beat around the bush about what they want and feel. Great passion is created when desires, feelings, wants, and the like are communicated directly to each other. Learn to say:

“I want…”

“I feel...”

“I think...”

“I hate...”

“I don’t like it when...”

“I like...”

“I don’t want...”

“I prefer...”

Face your fears

If you are not direct and honest with your partner, then you are probably afraid of something. This fear needs to be addressed if it is in the relationship itself. But if you have your own fears about being direct and honest that show up in your communication with other people as well, your fear is contaminating your relationship. You cannot blame your mate for that.

Say more with less

Sometimes we tend to beat around the bush, or add a lot of unrelated ideas and sentiments to what we really intend to express about what we want, and it leaves us feeling lost. When we cut down our words, we often become much more connected and we can draw the other person into the relationship more instead of distancing them and overwhelming them.

Let your mate have her own reaction

Many people do not tell the truth because they are afraid of their mate’s reaction. You cannot control her reaction, and you are not responsible for it. There are a lot of things that you can do to respond to it, but you cannot allow your fear of her reaction to turn you into a liar. There will be no trust or intimacy if you do. Intimacy comes from the risk of telling the truth and allowing your mate to respond.

Address the reasons you can’t talk

Sometimes a relationship can’t handle honesty. It is like medical cases in which doctors can’t do the proper surgery to cure the patient because it would kill the patient. There is often not enough grace in a relationship to face the truth. If that is the case, then address that issue so your relationship can get to the place where honesty can happen. I have also seen relationships where the issue was not grace, but timing. Sometimes one must wait until the proper time to share something really painful. Waiting until the proper time is a strategic move to strengthen the relationship first.

Make the problem the problem, not the person

Most disconnects could be prevented if couples would just learn one principle: talk about the issue instead of smearing the character and personhood of your partner in the process. When you are honest with your partner, be specific. Many frustrated mates, addressing the problem of a partner who does not call when they’re working late, tend to say something like this: “You’re so selfish and irresponsible. You think I like sitting here all night waiting for you? You don’t think of anyone except yourself.” That is not a direct, honest statement about what the problem is and how it affects you. And it will cause your connection to shut down. A more honest approach is to be specific and direct: “I need for you to call me when you are going to work late. It helps me plan to use the time and not worry.” Addressing a specific problem in concise language conveys helpful information to make your relationship work better.

Research shows that the best relationships are the ones where couples go toward each other with the most difficult things. Good relationships process things continually, almost as a way of being, not as an extra task. The communication is ongoing. Couples who practice good communication don’t occasionally check-in or have a talk. They are talking and checking in with each other all the time.