‘James’, a man in his late 40’s, came to me for individual therapy because his wife (‘Susan’) said if he didn’t get help, she wanted a divorce. Married for fifteen years, with three teenage children, James had a lot at stake.

When he first sat down, James was all smiles, presenting himself as a happy go lucky kind of guy. James wanted to know why he reacted badly to things Susan said.

He said ‘I get so frustrated’, he ‘loses his shit’, and says horrible things.

‘What does losing your shit look like and what do you do and say?’ I asked.

‘I called her a nagging and controlling bitch’, he sheepishly admitted, then he quickly moved to justify his actions: “She always criticises me…she’s always having a go…” I interrupted him. Susan isn’t in the room, so I’m only interested in working on his side of the street.

I explored what was going on for him before he ‘lost his shit’ and how he feels when she’s criticising him. He said he didn’t know. James, like many men I see, didn’t know what he was feeling other than anger. He seemed disconnected.

Anger is an emotion all humans experience. It’s the way we manage and express anger that counts for everything. As James sat before me, I sensed there was a deeper experience and emotion underlying his anger, as is often the case.

After some gentle and direct enquiry, James finally said, “I don’t feel good enough…it hurts…I’m scared she’s going to leave me”. This felt like the most honest thing James had shared and the first time I felt connected to him.

In my experience, men want to learn how to feel. They just don’t know how to do it. Men tell me they are tired of feeling shut down and that they want to share more with their partners but they just don’t know how or are too scared to. This is true for many women as well. I know because I used to be disconnected from my emotions and, when I did tune in, the experience was not good. So, I get it.

Connecting with me, the therapist, means little unless James is open and honest with his wife. I suggested he could share with Susan what was really going on for him. James looked uncomfortable at this prospect and sensing this I asked ‘Why not? He said he’d never spoken about deeper feelings. I mean, never. He was worried she would laugh at him and think he was weak.

I asked James what would feel better: sharing how he was really feeling or verbally abusing her? He was silent, not convinced. I took it further and asked ‘What would feel better: risking sharing how you really feel or getting a divorce?’

Then he said, “I’ll try” and I replied “Good for you James. Brave man”.

How to be vulnerable with your partner as a brave man:

  1. Create a Safe Space: Choose a time and place where you both feel comfortable and free from distractions.
  2. Express Your Intentions: Let your partner know that you want to open up and be vulnerable because you value honesty and intimacy in your relationship.
  3. Start Slowly: It’s okay to start with small emotions or experiences before delving into deeper feelings.
  4. Use “I” Statements: Begin your sentences with “I feel” to express your emotions without making your partner feel defensive.
  5. Be Honest and Authentic: Share your true feelings and experiences, even if they make you feel vulnerable.
  6. Listen and Validate: Allow your partner to respond and validate her feelings. Practice active listening and empathy.
  7. Stay Calm and Respectful: Keep your tone calm and respectful, even if the conversation becomes emotional.
  8. Accept Imperfection: Understand that opening up can be challenging, and it’s okay if the process isn’t perfect. The important thing is to keep trying.
  9. Build Trust Over Time: Opening up is a process that takes time and patience. Continuously work on building trust and understanding with your partner.
  10. Seek Support if Needed: If you’re struggling to open up or communicate effectively, consider seeking the help of a therapist or counselor who can provide guidance and support.

Be courageous: If you’re struggling with connecting with yourself and your emotions, consider getting support with this. Join a men’s group, connect with men who are open hearted and in healthy relationships. Ask for help. The Courageous Man offers in-person and on-line individual and couple’s therapy.

So how did it go with James and Susan discussing their vulnerability? Read the next article


I am focused on heterosexual relationships and use binary terminology. My lack of non-binary pronouns and lack of reference to different sexual & gender orientations, and non-monogamous relationships is not intended to offend.

If you are using or experiencing physical, sexual or psychological violence or coercive control we do not recommend you are vulnerable with your partner. We do not recommend couple’s therapy. For more information on The Courageous Man’s individual therapy for people experiencing or using domestic and family violence go to: The Courageous Man – Domestic and Family Violence