If you're a totally open book, it can be challenging if you have a partner who's a bit more tight-lipped. But what can you do when your S.O. doesn't spill their heart out as much as you crave? We chatted with top therapists (and a few of our bros at Men's Health) for specific phrases you can say to help your partner to feel comfortable opening up to you a little more.
"LET'S GO FOR A WALK."
With no distractions (read: you're not trying to talk while watching TV) and no agenda, a leisurely stroll allows you to catch up with each other. If the convo veers in a heavier direction, the minimal eye contact here (compared with, say, a face-to-face dinner) takes the pressure off, making this an optimal way for him to speak his mind, says couples therapist Mary Jo Rapini, author of Re-Coupling.
"THAT MUST HAVE BEEN AWFUL. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?"
When he vents to you about how his boss exploded at him or that fight he had with his sister, put yourself in his position and empathise, says Rapini. Even if you disagree with how he handled it ("Well, sounds like she had a point"), wait to bring it up when he's less heated. Problem-solving or judging right away will shut him down and discourage him from being forthcoming.
"HEY, THE OTHER DAY WHEN YOU SAID THAT YOU FELT _____, WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT?"
Bring up an emotion—sadness, anxiety—that he recently expressed and ask how things are going, says Dean Stattmann, special projects editor at Men's Health. "He brought it up in the first place, so he'll feel comfortable talking about it." Or ask about something specific he mentioned ("How did that meeting go today?"). In either case, it shows you've been paying attention to what he has going on, even with your own full schedule. That has real meaning and will get him talking more often, says Doctor Amy Banks.
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US