top of page

Can I Tell You How I Feel? Author: Ellie de Luca, MFT CIT

The world "vulnerable" can evoke a strong response. For some it can bring up that old dream of showing up to school in your underwear. For others it can bring on some serious anxiety. Studies show that individuals can reduce stress by expressing their feelings with others, especially those they trust. Additionally, sharing our feelings with loved ones can increase feelings of joy, making them last longer. With all the positive outcomes that come with actively sharing our feelings, why do most of us still hold back?

In 2019, Dr. Reis argued that many factors inhibit our ability to actively share our feelings. Research demonstrates that we are more likely to share our emotions with partners who present responsiveness. Meaning that if we anticipate that our partner will comprehend what we are going through and soothe us during that moment, it is more likely we feel safe and open to express our feelings. Many studies demonstrate how expressing our feelings can help regulate our emotions and increase our emotional bond with our partners.

Despite the benefits of sharing our feelings, being vulnerable can be difficult. If we feel scared or unsure of our partner's response, it is less likely we will open up emotionally. If we perceive that our partner will reject our feelings, we will most likely try to protect ourselves and our emotions.

Let's consider a hypothetical scenario between a beloved TV Couple, Marge and Homer, to illustrate the findings of Dr. Reis's study. The couple has been struggling financially, and Homer begins to avoid conversations regarding that topic, knowing how heated the situation can get from previous experiences. By evading such conversations, Homer might have the underlying intention of reducing the possible stress and protecting both partners from it. Except the opposite happens. Each time Marge brings the topic up, she feels rejected and isolated by not receiving the necessary attention from her husband. And both partners feel hurt and disconnected as if they were experiencing the issue alone.

That cycle of interaction can escalate further. Those feelings of rejection experienced by Marge can lead her to increase her attempts to discuss the matter, and as a consequence, Homer might try even harder to disengage. Neither partner can see how the enemy is not the other person

but the cycle itself, creating an environment where no one feels safe to be vulnerable and express their emotions and needs.