Why Sharing Feelings With Your Spouse Is Worth the Emotional Risk

Middle aged couple sitting on bed talking and smiling

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It's much easier to share your thoughts, the intellectual information that is in your brain, than your feelings. Sharing the depth of your feelings that are in your heart takes emotional risk and courage.

This makes you feel exposed and vulnerable, but, it is the very thing that will create closeness and connection in your marriage. By sharing what is in your heart with your spouse, you can achieve deeper intimacy.

How to Share Your Feelings With Your Spouse

Try these tips to help you feel more comfortable and prepared to share with your spouse.

  • Accept that feelings are neither right nor wrong. It is the behavior that results because of the feeling that is morally judged. Just because you are angry does not give you the right to be violent. Negative feelings still must be dealt with appropriately.
  • Describe the feeling by saying it or writing it. One goal is to help your partner understand what it is like to walk in your shoes. You likely want empathy and understanding in return for sharing your feelings.
  • Name the feeling. Use a list of feeling words if this is difficult. Remember that feelings are one word: sad, angry, hurt, happy, overjoyed, embarrassed, and so on.
  • Practice. If you are not someone who is used to expressing feelings, this may feel awkward at first. Practicing it in small steps will make it easier.
  • Realize that feelings come and go and change quickly. This is different than a "mood" which is a sustained period of an emotional state.
  • Recognize thoughts vs. feelings. Thinking, also known as "cognition" is a process that occurs in our heads. It coveys what our thoughts and beliefs about something. Feelings, on the other hand, convey our emotional state and is often said to come from the heart. Feelings can also be physical sensations.
  • Share your deeper underlying feeling, not just surface feelings. You might be expressing anger but underneath feel hurt or embarrassed. This is much more crucial to express to your partner to develop closeness and intimacy.
  • Try to not judge your or your spouse's feelings. If you want your spouse to continue to share on this level, it is important not to get irritated or defensive about the feeling expressed to you.
  • Use the 'I think vs. I feel' rule. If you can substitute the words 'I think' for 'I feel' in a sentence, then you have expressed thought and not a feeling. For example, "I feel hurt" is correct because you would not say "I think hurt,' right? Someone might say, "I feel that he is a jerk" is incorrect. You "think" he is a jerk. 
  • Verbalize feelings with your spouse directly. Your spouse can't read your mind. He or she may pick up on your vibe, but they have no way to know what is in your head unless you disclose it!

Other Details to Remember

Share your feelings with each other daily. You do not have to have deep, serious conversations about your relationship daily, but you do have to share your feelings (not just your thoughts) about what is going on with you day-to-day. It's important not to make decisions based on feelings. When decision making, feelings will be a part of the process, but you must think logically and rationally.

Saying that you were "late for a meeting" gives the basic information only. But saying you "felt embarrassed about being late for a meeting" helps you connect to the person you are speaking with. Likewise, rejecting a feeling is rejecting the person feeling it. Do not say things like "Don't worry, be happy" or "You shouldn't feel that way." Doing so invalidates how the other person feels.

To be successful at sharing your feelings you need to be open, honest, willing to make time for each other, and receptive to these talks. This needs to be a reciprocal process. You both must share on an intimate level with each other. It can't just be one of you.

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