Can Expressing Your Feelings Eliminate Your Ability to Get Your Partner’s Support?

Marriage Counseling Insider secret for Saving Your Marriage: Can Expressing Your Feelings Eliminate Your Ability to Get Your Partner’s Support?

By Fred Talisman, Licensed Marriage Counselor

For over 20 years of doing relationship counseling,  I‘ve specialized in saving marriages that were on the verge of ending even when only one person still wanted the relationship to work and even when they had no hope that it could be saved.

One of the most common problems I’ve run across over the years of doing couples counseling is that most people don’t know how to successfully ask for what they want. They think that if they tell their partner how angry, hurt, disappointed and/or frustrated they are with them that they’ll get the support they want. In doing so, they usually get back the opposite. So, I wrote the following brief article to give you some better alternatives. Here it is:

When I was a child, I was the kind of kid that adults that didn’t like kids liked because I was so quiet and shy.

When I went to a couples therapist when I was older, one of the best things I got out of those sessions was that my therapist taught me how to get in touch with my feelings, own my feelings and express my feelings. I was very proud of mastering the ability to do all three. I especially liked telling my partner of the time how I felt when they upset me. It was a great formula for creating more relationship problems.

My couples therapist never focused on the fact that just because I could now express my feelings, especially feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger and frustration, it didn’t mean that my partner would welcome that expression of feelings. In fact that expression was downright unwelcome. When I was dating, my “great communication skills” usually lead to even more relationship problems and ultimately to the untimely death of that relationship.

When I trained to do couples therapy, I was taught to teach others what I was taught, to get in touch with, own and express their feelings. That inadvertently made me what I think most couples therapists are by accident, a relationship ender.

Now, I’m a relationship saving marriage counselor. Here’s what I teach my clients to do with their upset feelings. Don’t stuff, them, don’t express them to your partner and don’t deny them. Well, what’s left?

Here’s what to do instead:

1.    When your partner triggers negative feelings in you, give yourself a time out. If you can’t think of what to say, just say, “I need to take a bathroom break.”

It’s not wrong to communicate when you are in negative emotion. It’s just guaranteed to make things worse between the two of you.

2.    When you’re calm, resume contact with your partner and rather than telling them what they did wrong do “positive alternative communication.” In other words, with all positive language ask for what you want instead. Positive language is not better or more accurate than negative language. It just is much more likely to get you the positive responses and change in behavior you’d like to get from your partner.

For example, rather than saying “You’re such a jerk. You’re so rude and disrespectful to me. When I talk to you you’re always distracted, texting one of your friends…”


“It’s really important to me that when you and I are spending time together that we both turn our phones off and give each other our full attention. Would you be willing to do that?”

You can’t have it both ways in the same conversation. You can either get things off your chest which is most likely to cause your partner to withdraw from you, defend their position or verbally attack you OR you can use “positive alternative communication” when you’re calm and have a much better chance of getting what you want from them.

I want to share my gratitude.

I am grateful that you are in my community. Thank you for allowing me to share my knowledge and experience with you as a marriage counselor.

Here’s to you successfully asking for and receiving what you want from the people in your life.

And, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Feel free to forward this blog post to anyone you think can benefit from it.

I have a question for you.  Given where you are in your relationship right now, what is your most burning question that you want to have answered and what relationship problems do you most want to have solutions for?

If you have an immediate need for my help, feel free to Contact Me or give me a call.


Take care,

Fred Talisman MFT

Licensed Marriage Family Counselor

Saving relationships  of married and unmarried couples for over 20 years

Author of: Save Your Relationship

A proven system to rescue your relationship and to keep your family together.

Contact Me here OR email to:

[email protected]

Cell: 310 321-4658


P.S. As part of the marriage therapy I do, I sometimes recommend inspiring movies for couples to watch together. I just saw an inspiring DVD I rented through Netflix: “Mao’s Last Dancer.” It’s a true story of a famous dancer’s defection from China to the U.S.