'My partner and I have a great relationship, but we argue about talking about our feelings. I think we should share our emotions more. Am I being unreasonable?' B

Step 1: Talking about your feelings is important to you, but your partner simply might not have the same need. Research supports the notion that women are more emotionally dextrous than men. Women's traditional nurturing roles encourage us to explore what we feel and we are far less reticent in discussing potential conflicts. A gently reassuring acknowledgment that you have different styles of relating emotionally will enable you to learn to negotiate with each other more skilfully.

Step 2: Just because men do not discuss their every emotional nuance does not mean that they do not think about their feelings. Men often prefer to explore what they feel privately before venturing into what can be uncomfortable territory. Their ascribed social roles make this in many ways a prerequisite for their own emotional survival. Women often forget this, expecting their men not only to be strong, but openly emotional as well. Interestingly, there is little evidence that endlessly talking about feelings deepens a relationship. Communicating with compassion, listening without judgement and accepting each others' perspectives are much more effective routes into shared understanding and intimacy.

Step 3: A simple listening exercise can help develop more effective communication. Agree a time when you both have the energy and desire to have a potentially emotional conversation, then take it in turns to speak without interruption. Once one of you has finished, the other repeats back what they think they have heard. If meaning has become confused, there is the opportunity for instant clarification. Once you have both finished, leave the conversation there. Accept each others' perspectives, whether you are in agreement or not and revisit the conversation, if necessary, after giving yourselves some time to process what you have heard. Relationships require pragmatism if they are to thrive, so allowing both of you to be who you really are emotionally will be more productive than attempting to force one of you into the emotional mould of the other.

Cecilia is Mind journalist of the year. If you would like her to answer your problems email her at c.dfelice@independent.co.uk

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