2 Reasons Why Sharing Your Heart Blows Up In Your Face

Jul 28, 2022

There’s nothing more important in marriage than, as Dan Siegel puts it, “feeling felt” – knowing that your spouse sees you, that you matter to them. We all intuitively understand how vital that is to having a happy marriage. We also understand that being free to share our heart, our feelings, our self is the road that leads to “feeling felt”. Why, then, does that road so often blow up in our faces?

In the previous blog entry, I talked about the need to be vulnerable, to share those deeper levels of our heart. In truth, that does help a ton in having our heart be heard and well received, but even vulnerability has its sneaky enemies trying to dismantle its effect. Here are two core reasons why sharing your heart blows up in your face.

1. Not owning your own feelings

Because these conversations usually happen in the context of conflict and hurt, it’s easy to accidentally make a deadly move: “I feel this way because you…” This move is so deadly because suddenly we are having a conversation about why you, my spouse, are to blame for my pain. That’s bound to get a defensive response. For example, you might say, “I feel worthless because I’ve asked you to do (insert your example here) and you’ve done nothing about it.” While there is a level of vulnerability here (voicing the deeper emotion instead of just anger), the statement is mostly focused on how their behavior is hurting you. Said another way, this example focuses on why I’m hurting and not what my hurt is like.

The antidote is to make the more vulnerable move: “I feel this way because I…” This move keeps the focus on what it’s like for you to feel hurt this way. For example, it might sound like, “When I ask you for something, and it doesn’t get done, I get sucked into the blackhole of thinking I don’t matter to you. I get this terrifying picture in my head like I’m starving to death and, I try to ask you for food, but I’m inside a sound-proof bubble. I start panicking because I’m trying to get your attention and nothing is working. I start screaming and pounding because I’m so scared you’ll never know I’m dying right next to you.” Notice how this example still calls out that it’s our spouse who is hurting us (it still addresses the why), but the primary focus remains on what happens in me as a result.

Even as you read these two examples right now, I’m confident you can feel the impulse to push away from the one, and move closer to the other. That’s the difference between owning, and not owning, your feelings.

2. One or both people are “blocked”

In Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) a “block” refers to when a person is struggling to remain open and receptive in the presence of their spouse’s (or their own) feelings. Blocks happen anytime it seems we are about to get hurt, rejected, or shamed, so they step in to protect us from the potential pain.

Blocks are what fuel our struggle to take ownership of our own emotions. They are the source of “static” as we try to signal our pain to our spouse. They are also the primary culprit when our spouse can’t seem to be soft or caring toward our pain. A block is what takes our good intentions and blows them to bits.

So, what can we do about these blocks? While I can’t explain everything here, I can say that you must learn to see and own your blocks when they happen.

How do I know when I’m blocked?

When your spouse shares their hurt and…

-You have the strong urge to explain or defend yourself

-It’s very hard to resist trying to make them feel better immediately

-Your focus is more, “How do I get you to the place where you understand me?” Rather than, “How do I get myself to the place where I understand you?”

How do I own when I’m blocked?

You simply have to be willing. That’s the really hard part. When you are willing to own your block, you will naturally do things like:

-Call out the fact that you are blocked

-Take responsibility for how your block impacts your spouse

-Share what it’s like for you to be blocked right now (i.e. sad you can’t hold that space with them, frustrated with yourself that the block is happening, etc.)


Remember…the point of all this is to help both you and your spouse experience “feeling felt” by each other. Being vulnerable with each other is the primary key, but if that keeps blowing up in your face, make a special effort to own your feelings and own your blocks. You might be surprised how many “touchy areas” turn into open roads.