I've recently started reading the book Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work. No final verdict yet, but I'm on the chapter about Expressing Feelings - and I felt like their formula for sharing what you are feeling could be really useful here!
I am definitely not great at sharing what I'm feeling. I struggle to decide if a feeling is valid enough or meaningful enough that it even needs sharing. Once I decide I will bring it up, I mentally prepare myself (re-reading the post on bringing him my problem, not my solution), go in saying a few good sentences... and then blurt out a lot of nonsense that tends to backfire on me. (Blaming, exaggerating, accusing...)
This books lays out a format so that you can say what you need to say - nothing more, nothing less. It seems like a good communication skill in general. I'll summarise it here.
1. First, identify and define your feeling. Give it a primary name. If it is difficult for you in general to identify your feelings exactly, try using a list like this: https://www.therapistaid.com/images/content/worksheet/list-of-emotions/preview.png
Or really any list you find. Pick the primary thing you are feeling, and notice if any other words resonate.
Use those other words to expand on your primary emotion.
Pick synonyms that will make your meaning clear: “I’m annoyed… irritated and stressed out.” “I feel depressed… sad and lonely and not interested in anything.” “I’m worried about my job… concerned that the company isn’t doing well, afraid I’ll get laid off.
Basically, you are further defining your primary feeling, because "upset" means different things to different people.
2. Then, decide how intense your feeling is. Are you only a little upset? Are you annoyed, or furious? Is the feeling crippling, or only slightly irksome? (If it is on the minor end, it might not be something you have to discuss unless it comes up directly. It might be something you can figure out / handle alone.)
3. How long have you felt like this? Be honest. This gives context - and it indicates how new you are to coping with this emotion.
4. Why do you feel like this? Be careful here. This may be the most important part. Do not blame your partner for your feelings, even if your feelings are directly related to them. (I can mess up the most here.) Also be very wary of accusations cloaked as "I feel" statements. Many of us are familiar with framing our emotions by saying "I feel..." first, instead of "You always..." or "You shouldn't have..." But if our "I feel" statement incorporates blame, it's not a true "I feel" statement.
"I feel like you are wrong for going out" is not an "I feel" statement.
"I felt hurt the other night after you went out" avoids blame-placing or judgement words, and makes him less likely to react with defensiveness.
This doesn't directly blame or condemn him, but he is able to see the context of the feeling.
5. Compare this feeling to a previous experience. Can you think of another time in your life you felt like this? As a child, teenager? Because of a friend, or a teacher? This provides further definition and clarification, and helps him empathise.
Those are your steps. Put them all together, and you have a great way of expressing what you are feeling (when it needs to be expressed).
I literally practised this skill this morning, when he asked me how being excluded from a recent family event by my brother made me feel. I replied with:
"I feel a little disappointed that I'm not involved in the visit, and uncertain how he really feels or how he will act in the future. I've felt like this toward him since I moved. It feels like when I've had friends in the past who were very ambivalent and I didn't know where I stood with them. By his not telling me they were coming, it cemented how much he seems to be choosing distance from me, so that stings."
We had a great conversation afterwards, very intimate and reassuring - with him even comforting me and reminding me how things will get easier once we start our family. There was no over-dramatising (which I can be guilty of), no confusion or miscommunication.
I hope to implement this strategy in the future when I am expressing my feelings, until it becomes second-nature. I think it will be really helpful for me, and hoping it helps you too! (I'm also working on active listening - so far, we've had much more open and interesting conversations... I know I am not far into the book but I do think it might be a good one to read!)