Relationship Emotions: How to Express Feelings in a Relationship

Top adjectives to use in relationships

Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee 

Emotions can be both powerful and complicated. Everyone has moments when they just can't come up with the right word to describe what they're feeling or trying to say.

You might be angry and start sputtering. You may feel so overwhelmed that you are speechless. The words are there—you just can't find them when you're overcome by emotion.

This can be particularly important in marriages and relationships where being able to communicate what you are feeling is critical. While you won't want to consult a list in the heat of the moment, this list of words related to feelings can be helpful to return to occasionally or if you're trying to write your thoughts down.

How to Talk About Feelings

  • Explain that you have something to say and make time to have a conversation.
  • Show empathy for what your partner is feeling.
  • Use "I" statements to help explain your subjective experience of what happened.
  • Don't make general statements about your partner's behavior (i.e., "You always do that!"). Refer to specific actions.
  • If you want your partner to do something differently, be clear about what you're asking.

When You're Feeling Amorous

When you are feeling interested in sex or intimacy, it can be helpful to have some words for feelings that will help your partner get the message. For example, if your partner is immersed in a television show or book, you might not be sure how to express your interest and initiate intimacy while they are otherwise occupied.

When you're looking for a word to tell your spouse that you'd like to head into the bedroom, to the sofa, or even to the hammock, you might say that you're feeling:

  • Aroused
  • Frisky
  • Intimate
  • Passionate
  • Playful
  • Romantic
  • Seductive
  • Sexy
  • Stimulated

When You're Feeling Angry

When you are upset about something, whether it's something your partner has done or feelings directed toward someone else, it can be difficult to get your point across in the heat of the moment. In such situations, being direct can often be the most effective. For example, you might simply say, "I am really upset about this!"

The term "anger" covers a wide scale. You might be:

  • Aggravated or agitated
  • Bothered
  • Distressed or disturbed
  • Exasperated
  • Irritated or irked
  • Offended
  • Peeved
  • Provoked
  • Vexed

Then again, something significant or serious may have happened so you feel enraged, furious, incensed, infuriated, or outraged. 

When you are angry, it is also important to distinguish between being angry in response to something your partner has said or done, and being angry about something else and wanting sympathy and support.

When You're Feeling Confused 

There are plenty of times you might feel confused about your relationship. Your partner might do something that you don't know how to interpret or make a comment that isn't clear.

Rather than allow this confusion to build or lead to erroneous conclusions, let your partner know that you aren't sure what they mean and ask for clarification.

Did she just say what you think she said? Did she mean it the way it sounded? You're probably:

  • Baffled
  • Bewildered
  • Clueless
  • Lost
  • Mixed up
  • Mystified
  • Perplexed
  • Puzzled
  • Stumped

Consider saying, "I'm confused about what you are saying. Could you explain that a little more so I can understand?"

When Your Back Is to the Wall 

Feeling as if you are being attacked during an argument can be particularly difficult to cope with. For example, if your partner suddenly accuses you of failing to do something around the house, you might be left feeling upset or overwhelmed.

When you're accused of some wrongdoing, whether deservedly or not, you'll probably feel:

  • Attacked
  • Blamed
  • Cornered

In these moments, it may be helpful to acknowledge what they are feeling while also describing how you are feeling as well. For example, you might say, "I can see that you are upset but I'm feeling cornered right now."

When You're Scared 

Whether you are scared of a specific situation or experiencing a more general worry, letting your partner know what you are feeling can be a way to get the support you need.

Like anger, fright is an emotion that comes in a variety of degrees. You might feel mildly:

  • Alarmed
  • Anxious
  • Apprehensive
  • Concerned
  • Edgy
  • Nervous

Or maybe your spouse has just said, "Can you sit down? We need to talk." This will most likely bring on a stronger, more visceral reaction and you may feel frantic, paralyzed, petrified, or terrified.

Consider saying something like, "I'm really concerned about this" or "What's this about? I'm feeling very terrified right now."

When You're Happy 

Letting your partner know when you're happy can also be important for strengthening your relationship. Not only will they feel pleased with your happiness, but it can also be a way of providing feedback about something they have done to help cause your happiness.

When things are going well and your spouse has just said or done something to light up your world, you might say you feel:

  • Centered
  • Content
  • Ecstatic
  • Enchanted
  • Elated

Other emotions you might feel include excited, exhilarated, fantastic, fulfilled, joyful, jubilant, overjoyed, peaceful, pleased, splendid, or thrilled. If the two of you are recovering from a bad spell, you might feel encouraged or optimistic.

Consider saying something like, "I'm so excited that you made plans for us tonight!" or "I'm so pleased that you thought about me!"

When You're Hurt 

Hurt covers a spectrum of emotions, too. When your spouse says or does something to hurt you, your feelings can run the gamut from discontent to devastation.

Word to Express Hurt

You might feel abused, belittled, berated, betrayed, bitter, broken, cheated, condemned, deceived, degraded, humiliated, inadequate, inferior, insignificant, insulted, mistreated, persecuted, rejected, robbed, scorned, small, squashed, stifled, tormented, tortured, or wounded. 

Consider saying something like, "When you said that it made me feel very small" or "I feel like my trust has been betrayed."

When You're Lonely 

You can feel lonely in a roomful of people or when you're sitting beside your spouse. It's why you feel lonely in this situation and what happened to cause your feeling that matters.

Maybe you feel:

  • Abandoned
  • Adrift
  • Alienated
  • Alone
  • Deserted
  • Discarded
  • Disconnected
  • Empty

You might also feel excluded, forgotten, ignored, incomplete, isolated, invisible, left out, neglected, unneeded, useless, unaccepted, unappreciated, or worthless.

For example, you might say something like, "When you left me alone in the middle of that conversation, I felt deserted" or "When you don't invite me to spend time with you and your friends, I feel left out."

When You Feel Loved 

There are times when you may also want to express how loved your partner helps you feel. For example, if they do something thoughtful that shows how well they know you and how much they think of you, you may want to find words for what you are feeling.

Hopefully, your spouse makes you feel:

  • Cherished
  • Needed
  • Pampered
  • Spoiled
  • Treasured

For example, you might say, "I felt so pampered when you took the kids for the afternoon so I could relax."

This type of positive feedback can help strengthen and deepen the trust and intimacy of your relationship.

When You're Overwhelmed 

Feeling overwhelmed can be good or bad. On the bright side, something your partner has done may cause you to feel:

  • Amazed
  • Astonished
  • Awestruck
  • Dazed
  • Delighted

In such cases, you might say, "I'm so amazed that you did that! I'm feeling so overwhelmed, but in a good way!"

On the other hand, you may feel:

  • Ambushed
  • Appalled
  • Disbelieving
  • Horrified
  • Incredulous
  • Overcome
  • Shocked
  • Stunned

In this case, you might say something more along the lines of, "I'm cannot believe you did that! I'm so horrified!"

When you're overwhelmed not by something that has surprised you but by something that has been going on for a period of time, the weight of the problem might leave you feeling smothered or suffocated.

When You're Feeling Resentful 

A lot of things can lead to resentment, but the feeling usually rears its ugly head when you feel shortchanged in some respect. For example, you might feel like your partner isn't doing their fair share of work around the house or is expecting you to do things that are their own responsibility.

You might say that you feel:

  • Controlled
  • Judged
  • Manipulated
  • Owned
  • Powerless

Or you might describe yourself as feeling repressed, trapped, used, victimized, violated, intimidated, or even exploited. 

For example, you might say something like, "I feel like you are taking advantage of me right now and it's making me resent doing these things."

When You're Sad 

It can be hard to cope when your partner does something that leaves you feeling sad. They might forget an important event or say something hurtful.

Poetry and prose are replete with words to describe sadness. Depending on the degree of your sorrow and what has caused it, you might describe your feeling as:

  • Crushed
  • Defeated
  • Demoralized
  • Disappointed
  • Gloomy
  • Heartbroken
  • Let down

Other words you might use to describe feelings of sadness include blue, bummed, dejected, destroyed, discontented, discouraged, disheartened, disillusioned, dismal, grieving, helpless, hopeless, or pessimistic.

For example, you might say, "I'm really disappointed that you forgot about my work event tonight" or "I'm feeling discouraged because it seems like you don't care as much about this as I do."

When You're Sorry 

Being able to express regret and apologize is important in any relationship. For example, if you've said things that have hurt your partner's feelings, you may be feeling the need to say that you're sorry.

We've all been there, opening our mouths or taking some action that we instantly regret. You probably feel:

You maybe even feel all these things at once when you've hurt someone you love.

In this case, say something such as "I know you are upset and disappointed. I'm so sorry about what happened."

When You're Tired

We're not talking about how you feel after a long workday, but rather about that feeling that comes over you when you've tried and tried to make things right but to no avail. For example, maybe you've been arguing about a problem but haven't come up with an acceptable compromise.

You might feel:

  • Burned out
  • Drained
  • Exhausted
  • Fatigued
  • Lifeless
  • Overloaded
  • Stretched
  • Weary

In this situation, you might say something like "I'm too exhausted to talk about this right now. Can we take a break and come back to it later?"

When You're Feeling Understood

Emotional validation is an essential part of a good relationship. Not only is it important to feel that your partner understands you, but it's also critical to give your partner the same acceptance.

It's a great experience, feeling:

  • Accepted
  • Complete
  • Listened to
  • Recognized

For example, you might say something like "Thank you for accepting me for who I am" or "I so glad that you recognize what I'm feeling."

When You're Unsure

To some extent, these words can go hand-in-hand with confusion. Your spouse has said or done something that you're trying to decipher and figure out. From there, you can decide how to respond.

"Unsure" words come more into play when you think you might understand where your spouse is coming from and you're pretty sure you're not going to like it. You're probably feeling:

  • Cautious
  • Guarded
  • Leery
  • Pensive
  • Suspicious
  • Torn
  • Wary

Say something such as "I'm torn about this. Can you explain more to reassure me?"

A Word From Verywell

Improving the communication in your relationship often starts with having the right words to accurately describe what you are feeling. Spend some time now and then going over this list, and practice talking about your feelings more frequently in your daily conversations. Over time, it will get easier to discuss your emotions. Ultimately, sharing what you feel and listening to how your partner feelings can strengthen your relationship and lead to deeper intimacy.

By Sheri Stritof
Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book.