During our conversation on Saturday, where we talked about a lot of ‘deep’ topics, M mentioned that he doesn’t really talk about his feelings very much, in terms of work stress, school, and, before meeting me, his feelings, in general. While not surprising, what was surprising was his response to this question:
Me: “So, who did you talk to when you were going through your divorce? Your friends?”
M: “Well, nobody really.”
What? Seriously? He didn’t talk to anyone, just kept it in? Wow. That threw me for a loop because even though I struggle with sharing my feelings sometimes (IRL, clearly not on this blog!) and tend to hold things in, I can’t imagine not talking about how I was feeling as I went through divorce. I was relieved to hear that he had gone to a therapist (as did his ex, with him), but to go through life without opening up about stuff that’s bothering you has to be difficult.
I then asked: “But when you were married, you talked to your ex-wife about stuff that was bothering you from work or school, right?”
M: “No, not really.”
What?! Seriously (again)?! It was then that I realized that he does tend to keep work and school stresses relatively light in conversation, and rather focus on other things to talk about. It amazes me that we can get into some deep conversations, about ourselves, each other, and where we see our relationship going, but he holds in things that are bothering him outside of that. He told me that he will open up to me about work, but that a lot of what he experiences every day, illness, reckless behavior, death, does weigh on him and he tries not to ‘take that home,’ which of course is a good thing, but there are times when you just need to share. And I want him to share.
The same goes for school. He has to present his thesis in April and it’s crunchtime. I know he’s stressing about it, and he’s focusing more on it every night, but it’s a big project. Even his advisor thinks he may be biting off more than he can chew, but he’s determined to press on. And I really respect him for that. But I also know that it means he will be stressed and will need to focus on that and I am going to do everything I can to help him stay focused.
But how do you help someone you love open up?
Do you try to coax it out of them? Do you try to light the conversation and then just listen? Or do you offer advice?
I ask you…what would you do? I don’t want to push him away, I know he trusts me, but I also know it’s not the healthiest to just hold it all in, either.