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How to Reduce Emotional Barriers in Your Relationship

Emotional barriers are invisible walls or blocks that are placed between you and your partner where you are keeping your guard up and not being completely open in the relationship. These barriers can be unconsciously or consciously placed. They prevent us from being fully mentally and emotionally engaged, vulnerable or trusting with our partner or in our relationship.

Intimate relationships require people to be open and trusting of another. This is a state of being vulnerable and ‘taking a leap of faith.’ Lack of trust can be one of the most common emotional barriers in relationships and this could develop due to past emotional wounds related to childhood, negative experiences in previous relationships, or fear of rejection or loss of the current relationship. Often when someone has issues related to trusting others, they can place emotional barriers around themselves as an attempt from being hurt in the future.

Emotional barriers are most often driven by fear. People fear failure or being rejected or hurt so they unconsciously remain closed off to others without even realizing it. This is especially true in relationships because the bond and connection require a deeper amount of intimacy than just a social connection or friendship.

When emotional barriers are present, it can prohibit the person from building a truly deep connection with another. They tend to be more guarded, standoffish and unable to fully form a secure attachment with someone else. This affects the closeness and attachment in the relationship and can create doubt and mistrust between both parties. When emotional barriers are blocking that attachment and connection the person can feel emotionally unavailable and often the other person does not feel that the relationship meets their emotional needs. This cannot only impact the emotional health in the relationship but also the sexual health, as deep intimacy requires trust and being vulnerable. All of these impacts can affect overall relationship satisfaction.

Can we unknowingly put up emotional barriers? 

We can often engage in seemingly innocent behaviors without realizing that those actions can create barriers and may be prohibiting us from forming secure attachments and deep connections with others. For example, simply not sharing how you are feeling or details about your day. This can come across as being closed off, distant and guarded and it can really prohibit good communication.

When people have walls up, they may be emotionally unavailable, meaning they do not talk about their emotions and are often uncomfortable when their partner expresses emotions. People who have emotional barriers up may tend to be more critical and judgmental of others. They do not want to put themselves out there in a vulnerable way; therefore, they tend to focus harshly on others.

Other examples of innocent behaviors that may create barriers include things like not ever initiating sex, hugging, kissing or any physical intimacy. People are often closed off from truly acting like themselves and letting their partner see all of their personality, identity and who they really are. Many people are also not being fully present in the moment with their partner or with communication. A person who has their emotional walls, barriers or guards up will appear distant, aloof and disconnected to the present moment.

Tips to breaking down the walls & being more emotionally vulnerable:

First, it’s important to become self-aware regarding issues around trust or other emotional barriers that one may be experiencing. It is important that the person is taking responsibility for their own trust related issues and working to resolve them. One way to begin this process is by practicing mindfulness or other self-reflection exercises as this can help in bringing more self-awareness and calm nervous or distrusting emotional states. This process will require you to also work toward building your own self-confidence, which can also help with building trust in your partner.

There are things to specifically work on with a partner as well to overcome some of these emotional barriers. First, work on basic communication with your partner. You can set up times to just talk about your day or how you are feeling. This can be something that is very brief, but when done on a regular basis, can be very beneficial as it becomes a healthy habit in your relationship where you are attempting to break down barriers and be more open and vulnerable. Next, share your feelings about any emotional barriers that you are noticing and work with your partner to develop strategies that the two of you can do together in order to break them down.

Another way to boost this process is to just start and be courageous by letting someone get close to you emotionally. This could be challenging yourself to share something emotional and vulnerable with your partner on a regular basis. This will push you to talk about your feelings, express yourself emotionally and open up to someone else. As you do this, it will become more comfortable, and get easier and easier. We can then begin to build trust and confidence that our partner is there for us and our fear reduces. We then start to build trust and become more successful with emotional bonding and attachment.

Lastly, set goals for yourself on how you can facilitate the process in your relationship. This may be that you will initiate physical contact more often with your partner or you may prompt discussions with your partner about how they are feeling if they have a difficult time doing so.


JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS:

If you’d like to read more on relationship topics and hear tips for couples, be sure to JOIN our free Facebook group called The Couples Collaborative. This is a free, but private and closed online support group that is listed under the Loving Roots Project Facebook page. The group is facilitated by Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Coach and provides tips and inspirational material for couples and supportive discussions on challenging relationship-related issues.


ONLINE COUPLE’S SERVICES

For more information on virtual couples counseling services, see Online Couple’s Coaching with Dr. Shelley. Remote services are provided online through Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, which allows for you two to be in the comfort of your own home during your sessions and have increased privacy. Online appointments may also be booked online or simply email Dr. Shelley with any questions or appointment requests.


Blog written by: Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist, Relationship Coach & Founder of the Loving Roots Project, an online wellness practice specializing in personal growth, mental wellness, & relationship betterment.

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