How to Open Up
You’re not alone. Recent research has shown that 66% of British adults feel that they have nobody to talk to about their problems, which include mental health, relationships and money.
This is particularly true when you’re going through a divorce, as separating from your partner can make you feel like you’re losing your support network. After all, this is the person you used to feel most comfortable with. It’s even worse if there are kids involved – you might fear opening up to your children about what feels like a very adult issue, or inadvertantly making them feel responsible.
Sue Baker OBE, directing the Time to Change mental health campaign, said that we all need to work hard to break down the “barriers to talking” that prevent us from sharing our problems. 36% of people said that they could not find the appropriate time to talk about their problems, while 28% were unable to find the right place to talk. Shockingly, more than 22% said that they had waited a year to find the ideal moment to open up.
In the UK, the government has announced policy changes aimed at tackling issues of loneliness and social isolation, including a new loneliness minister. Research by the Jo Cox Commission has found out that nearly 200,000 older people in the UK had not spoken with a friend or relative in more than a month, and more than nine million people described themselves as “always or often lonely”.
Experts agree that, if you have problems, it’s better to get them off your chest. In the case of a divorce, you may feel deeply uncomfortably raising delicate issues with your nearest and dearest, but support systems are vital. As Ms Baker puts it, “Conversations have the power to change lives, wherever they take place.” Don’t wait for the perfect moment, because it could never arrive. Instead, take the initiative and get talking.
How to get started
1) Reach out.
Speaking face to face about problems can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t prevent you from getting the support you need. Electronic devices can help you: make a phone call or send a text to a dear friend. You could also leave a handwritten note for a family member – particularly useful in the tumultuous time around a divorce, when you might not see your children or other relatives as often as you are used to.
2) Be comfortable.
It might be painful or difficult to look even a close friend in the eye while talking about problems. To avoid this, start a conversation when you’re not face to face. You could be in the car, going for a walk, or working on household chores while you talk.
3) Keep it gentle.
It’s impossible to really understand what someone else is going through, and during a divorce, we often blame ourselves for the situation. From the outside looking in, it may seem irrational – but it’s essential that you remain respectful. Ask questions, but don’t be too direct or personal – you might inadvertantly end up making them feel worse.
4) Be honest.
If you feel that, for example, your child is not really opening up to you, being honest with them might encourage them to reciprocate. Don’t feel that you have to share anything too personal, but tell the truth. If they know that you’re feeling scared and hurt, they should feel more comfortable telling you the same
5) Don’t change the way you treat them.
If someone opens up to you, they may have shown you a very vulnerable part of themselves, but that doesn’t mean that every conversation needs to be intensely personal. Don’t tiptoe around a person who’s chosen to share their problems with you – they will notice it, and feel even more isolated.
Source: Time to Talk