Emotions can be both powerful and complicated. Everyone has moments when they just can’t come up with the right word to describe what they’re feeling or trying to say. You might be angry and start sputtering. You may feel so overwhelmed that you are speechless. The words are there—you just can’t find them when you’re overcome by emotion.
This can be particularly important in marriages and relationships where being able to communicate what you are feeling is critical. While you won’t want to consult a list in the heat of the moment, this list of words related to feelings can be helpful to return to occasionally or if you’re trying to write your thoughts down.
Put Emotions Into Words
Emotions elude understanding for a number of reasons, among which are the inescapable facts of daily life. Unfortunately, with so much focus being invested in the small crises and stressors that arise every day, it is difficult to find a moment to truly connect with our emotions.
As a result, emotional lives often spiral out of control and internal pressures build up. At a certain point, you may explode, and this affects relationships closest, potentially harming those bonds.
If you cannot identify your own emotions, you cannot understand them or process them nor communicate them. Subsequently, your partner cannot be a source of comfort and support.
If you feel frustrated in your inability to have intimate conversations about your feelings with your partner, you are not alone. Drs. John and Julie Gottman designed an approach to help you achieve focus and explore your feelings, ultimately gaining the skills needed to discuss them with your partners.
How to Talk About Feelings
- Explain that you have something to say and make time to have a conversation.
- Show empathy for what your partner is feeling.
- Use “I” statements to help explain your subjective experience of what happened.
- Don’t make general statements about your partner’s behavior (i.e., “You always do that!”). Refer to specific actions.
- If you want your partner to do something differently, be clear about what you’re asking.
Ask open-ended questions
If you ask questions that require only a yes or no answer, you hinder conversations before they can begin. You accidentally close the door that you want to open. This door is unfortunately labeled “Intimacy.” Instead of “Did you watch that movie?” ask, “What was your favorite part?” Instead of “Are you upset?” ask, “You seem upset. What’s going on?”
Stop and breathe
If you are bothered by your inability to label your emotions, stop and meditate for a moment. Clear your mind. Search for a word. When a word comes to mind and your body relaxes, you have hit the spot. Here are a few examples you can use as a starting point.
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When You’re Feeling Amorous
When you are feeling interested in sex or intimacy, it can be helpful to have some words for feelings that will help your partner get the message. For example, if your partner is immersed in a television show or book, you might not be sure how to express your interest and initiate intimacy while they are otherwise occupied.
When you’re looking for a word to tell your spouse that you’d like to head into the bedroom, to the sofa, or even to the hammock, you might say that you’re feeling aroused, frisky, intimate, passionate, playful, romantic, seductive, sexy, or stimulated.
When You’re Feeling Angry
When you are upset about something, whether it’s something your partner has done or feelings directed toward someone else, it can be difficult to get your point across in the heat of the moment. In such situations, being direct can often be the most effective. For example, you might simply say, “I am really upset about this!”
The term “anger” covers a wide scale. You might just be aggravated, agitated, bothered, distressed, disturbed, exasperated, irritated, irked, offended, peeved, provoked, or vexed. Then again, something significant or serious may have happened so you feel enraged, furious, incensed, infuriated, or outraged.
When You’re Feeling Confused
There are plenty of times you might feel confused about your relationship. Your partner might do something that you don’t know how to interpret or make a comment that isn’t clear. Rather than allow this confusion to build or lead to erroneous conclusions, let your partner know that you aren’t sure what they mean and ask for clarification.
Did she just stay what you think she said? Did she mean it the way it sounded? You’re probably baffled, bewildered, clueless, lost, mixed up, mystified, perplexed, puzzled—or just plain stumped.
Consider saying, “I’m confused about what you are saying. Could you explain that a little more so I can understand?”
When You’re Scared
Whether you are scared of a specific situation or experiencing a more general worry, letting your partner know what you are feeling can be a way to get the support you need.
Like anger, fright is an emotion that comes in a variety of degrees. You might feel mildly alarmed, anxious, apprehensive, concerned, edgy, or nervous. Or maybe your spouse has just said, “Can you sit down? We need to talk.” This will most likely bring on a stronger, more visceral reaction and you may feel frantic, paralyzed, petrified, or terrified.
Consider saying something like, “I’m really concerned about this” or “What’s this about? I’m feeling very terrified right now.”
When You’re Happy
Letting your partner know when you’re happy can also be important for strengthening your relationship. Not only will they feel pleased with your happiness, but it can also be a way of providing feedback about something they have done to help cause your happiness.
When things are going well and your spouse has just said or done something to light up your world, you might say you feel centered, content, ecstatic, enchanted, elated, excited, exhilarated, fantastic, fulfilled, joyful, jubilant, overjoyed, peaceful, pleased, splendid, or thrilled. If the two of you are recovering from a bad spell, you might feel encouraged or optimistic.
Consider saying something like, “I’m so excited that you made plans for us tonight!” or “I’m so pleased that you thought about me!”
When You’re Hurt
Hurt covers a spectrum of emotions, too. When your spouse says or does something to hurt you, your feelings can run the gamut from discontent to devastation.
You might feel abused, belittled, berated, betrayed, bitter, broken, cheated, condemned, deceived, degraded, humiliated, inadequate, inferior, insignificant, insulted, mistreated, persecuted, rejected, robbed, scorned, small, squashed, stifled, tormented, tortured, or wounded.
Consider saying something such as, “When you said that it made me feel very small” or “I feel like my trust has been betrayed.”
When You’re Lonely
You can feel lonely in a roomful of people or when you’re sitting beside your spouse. It’s why you feel lonely in this situation and what happened to cause your feeling that matters.
Maybe you feel abandoned, adrift, alienated, alone, deserted, discarded, disconnected, empty, excluded, forgotten, ignored, incomplete, isolated, invisible, left out, neglected, unneeded, useless, unaccepted, unappreciated, or worthless.
For example, you might say something like, “When you left me alone in the middle of that conversation, I felt deserted” or “When you don’t invite me to spend time with you and your friends, I feel left out.”
When You’re Overwhelmed
Feeling overwhelmed can be good or bad. On the bright side, you may feel amazed, astonished, awestruck, dazed, or delighted by something your spouse has done. In such cases, you might say something like, “I’m so amazed that you did that! I’m feeling so overwhelmed, but in a good way!”
On the other hand, you may feel ambushed, appalled, disbelieving, horrified, incredulous, overcome, shocked, or stunned. In this case, you might say something more along the lines of, “I’m cannot believe you did that! I’m so horrified!”
When you’re overwhelmed not by something that has surprised you but by something that has been going on for a period of time, the weight of the problem might leave you feeling smothered or suffocated.
When You’re Feeling Resentful
A lot of things can lead to resentment, but the feeling usually rears its ugly head when you feel shortchanged in some respect. For example, you might feel like your partner isn’t doing their fair share of work around the house or is expecting you to do things that are their own responsibility.
You might say that you feel controlled, judged, manipulated, owned, powerless, repressed, trapped, used, victimized, violated, intimidated, or even exploited.
For example, you might say something like, “I feel like you are taking advantage of me right now and it’s making me resent doing these things.”
When You’re Sad
It can be hard to cope when your partner does something that leaves you feeling sad. They might forget an important event or say something hurtful.
Poetry and prose are replete with words to describe sadness. Depending on the degree of your sorrow and what has caused it, you might describe your feeling as blue, bummed, crushed, defeated, dejected, demoralized, destroyed, disappointed, discontented, discouraged, disheartened, disillusioned, dismal, grieving, gloomy, heartbroken, helpless, hopeless, let down, or pessimistic.
For example, you might say, “I’m really disappointed that you forgot about my work event tonight” or “I’m feeling discouraged because it seems like you don’t care as much about this as I do.”
When You’re Sorry
Being able to express regret and apologize is important in any relationship. For example, if you’ve said things that have hurt your partner’s feelings, you may be feeling the need to say that you’re sorry.
We’ve all been there, opening our mouths or taking some action that we instantly regret. You probably feel apologetic, ashamed, guilty, regretful, or sheepish—or maybe even all these things at once when you’ve hurt someone you love.
In this case, say something such as “I know you are upset and disappointed. I’m so sorry about what happened.”
When You’re Unsure
To some extent, these words can go hand-in-hand with confusion. Your spouse has said or done something that you’re trying to decipher and figure out. From there, you can decide how to respond.
“Unsure” words come more into play when you think you might understand where your spouse is coming from and you’re pretty sure you’re not going to like it. You’re probably feeling cautious, guarded, leery, pensive, suspicious, torn, and wary.
Say something such as “I’m torn about this. Can you explain more to reassure me?”