Reader Q/A: How do I open up to my wife emotionally?

Question: For the 9 years I’ve been married, I have been hiding, controlling, and emotionally closed off to my wife about my deep feelings or thoughts. Now that she knows my deepest and darkest secrets, some that hurt her very badly, how do I go about opening up to the emotional side? She wants me to share more than just what happened to me that day. How can I just open up to her like she wants to see?

Reader Q/AThis is a very common issue with men who are on a path to recovery.

When you are in the chains of an addiction, you learn to hide your emotions very well. It’s the inevitable result of the lies and deception that come with trying to hide part of your life. Over time, your emotions may shut down completely as you become more and more calloused. For many men, the eventual result manifests in two ways:

  • A lack of empathy (the ability to feel and understand the suffering of others). I personally reached a point in my addiction where I could lie straight-faced to my wife without any sense of guilt. I remember sitting on our bed, watching her weep because of my sin, and wondering why I didn’t feel badly about it.
  • A lack of ability to sense or understand your own emotions. When you ignore, stuff, or reject your emotions for long enough, they will begin to feel foreign to you. Learning how to understand (and eventually communicate) what you are truly feeling will be something you can only relearn through practice.

Because you’ve been emotionally closed off for almost a decade, your emotions have likely atrophied. You’re beginning to learn how to understand, identify, and communicate them effectively, but it’s going to take some rehab. In the same way an atrophied muscle is awkward and even painful to use at first, your emotions will need to be brought back slowly to a point of full strength through many clumsy, awkward, and potentially uncomfortable conversations.

Due to the newness of all of this for you, even sharing something simple with your wife (for example: how you felt emasculated at work when your boss belittled you in front of your coworkers), may feel like you’re being overly emotional. Over time though, as you become increasingly aware of your emotions and more comfortable sharing them, this will feel much less awkward.

Now that we’ve laid that foundation, let’s move on to your actual question: How can you open up to your wife like she wants to see. 

You mention in your question that you are no longer hiding, and some of your secrets hurt her very badly. I assume this means you have made the very painful but necessary step of disclosing your struggles to her. If you are like many men who have found the courage to do this, you probably felt immense relief at no longer having anything to hide. You probably felt closer to your wife than ever in that moment and were excited to see how this new lifestyle of openness and honesty would revive your struggling marriage.

Your wife, however, just had her life explode into a million pain-filled shards of shrapnel.

So as much as you want to be emotionally open with her, she may not be ready. Unfortunately, there are no formulas for this, but there are some things that remain true in all situations though:

  • You can only control yourself. You cannot control another person. Which means your best bet is to focus on the “How can I open up” side of the question rather than the “like she wants to see” side. She may not even know exactly what she wants to see yet. Even if she does know, she probably doesn’t trust you enough to even believe what she does see. So just keep sharing your heart with her as you feel the Spirit leading you. Your consistent willingness to share will likely speak more to her than your openness at first.
  • Jesus is always the answer. I know this sounds like a Sunday School cliché, but it’s the truest truth there is. At this point, your wife is most likely thinking more about the multiple years you were lying to her than the few recent days, weeks, or months where you’ve been honest. So, rather than attempting to convince her of your trustworthiness through your words, pray for her to see Jesus working in you. The odds are good she isn’t going to trust you for a while, but she may be willing to trust Jesus in you. Chase after Jesus first and foremost.

I can tell from your question that you are already starting down the path to recovery. So keep hanging in there, both in life and in your marriage. Remember, love always hopes. If God can raise Jesus from death, He can surely resurrect your marriage as well.

If you have a question about pornography addiction, my personal story, or anything else for that matter, you can send it to me here (or just click the contact tab to the right). I will do my best to answer every question personally and will never post your question without your permission.

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