How do you get someone to open up?

Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry to my giveaway! And thanks for your queries about everything lurve and relationships. In this post we're gonna talk about getting someone to open up, something I know a great deal about because I have often found myself in relationships with people who have far less capacity to express themselves emotionally than myself and by that I mean that I am a woman who has been in relationships with men. I'm kidding, I'm kidding* but it is true that I've found myself frustrated by what I've seen as my partner shutting themselves off from me emotionally and I've learned from it. So, here are some tips I hope to take into the future. 

1. Make sure what you're looking for exists
Here's a typical conversation with my ex: 

Me: What you thinking? 
Him: Nothing
Me (Shifting closer): No really tell me what you're thinking?
Him (Big sigh): I was thinking about whether snails have penises

And despite this I still insisted on prodding, prodding, prodding - searching for the emotional depths I was certain he was keeping hidden from me. When I started dating a couple of years ago, I did a lot of reading about relationships and discovered the five love languages. These are - words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time and physical touch. When we say we want someone to open up we often mean, TELL ME I'M GREAT! SAY HOW MUCH YOU LOVE ME! And maybe your partner is telling you this in other ways? Maybe they're showing you love by cooking dinner every night and you're overlooking this because you haven't had a book of sonnets written for you. 

2. Take into account individual limitations
People can only work with what they have. If someone tells you they're an open book and six months later you still don't know their home address, you don't want to try and get more out of them, you need to get the hell out the relationship. This isn't usually the case. A person who struggles to express themselves emotionally will most likely be up front about it; so you need to judge them on their effort and not their output. I'd tell a stranger at a bus stop about my post birth bleeding, getting me to open up is not that big a deal. If someone who finds it difficult gives you something, anything - recognise that and thank them. 

3. Approach them like a horse
A friend once told me that you have to approach a man like a horse. If you come at them head on they'll become threatened and flee,  you have to come at them from the side. Don't sit your partner down and fire questions at them, everyone is more open when they're relaxed and an interrogation is rarely relaxing. Think about those sideways situation - driving, walking, before you fall asleep at night or if even that's too much try text messages, at least then you get to keep the evidence.

4. You're not asking questions because you're afraid of the answer.
If you think your partner isn't opening up it's because there's things you need to know - do they love me? Are they happy? Are they going to watch the next episode of 'Suits' without me? When you're lost you ask someone for directions, so why not ask your loved one to point you in the right direction? Is it because you're afraid of what answers you might receive and frustrated ignorance is bliss? If you want someone to open up, you better be prepared to be open with yourself first. 

*I'm not kidding

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Ten things about Martha Ross (Win a signed copy!)

I started this blog as a place to offer advice to parents. The internet is full of judgement and I wanted to create a space to let mothers and fathers know they were doing OK. My motivation was mainly sparing my friends from my unsolicited opinions but also, with over a decade working with families, I knew I had learned a lot. Over the past few years, I’ve ended a marriage, thrown myself into the dating world and learned a lot about love. I have many, many thoughts on love. So many thoughts that I wrote a book about it.

My novel, The Reinvention of Martha Ross, was published by Transworld last month and charts the messy weeks after Martha ends her marriage. Martha decides to look for love and creates a ten-point list of the qualities she wants in her ideal man, so I thought I’d share ten reasons why you might want to read her story.

1. Martha’s list was inspired by my own. Encouraged by my friend and love guru Nina, I put my romance goals on paper before I re-entered the dark waters of the dating pool. A little of my list made its way on to Martha’s but exactly what, I’ll never tell.

2. The story is set in Brighton, a beautiful place to fall in love. Also, a great place to get drunk and make a show of yourself – there’s a lot of that in there too.

3. Martha’s life becomes pretty chaotic and many of the scenes were inspired by true events. One of Martha’s mishaps is borrowed directly from my life and it was as awkward as it reads.

  4. My journey as an author began when I applied for Penguin Random House's WriteNow scheme, a process designed to promote the writing of underrepresented writers. The project created an online fracas when Lionel Shriver implied that diversity could lead to a decrease in quality – I’ll let you be the judge.

5. Martha is a mother but motherhood isn’t as dreamy as she thought it would be. It was scary to write about some of the truths of parenting.

6. The book is dedicated to my ex-husband who was super supportive about the fact that I was writing a novel about a divorce. That being said he has no plans to read it.

 7. The first item on Martha’s list is red hair and blue eyes. After finishing the novel, I met my current boyfriend, a man with red hair and blue eyes. He says he's not concerned about my life imitating art but he’s very keen to know the subject of my next novel.

8. The first version of the book didn’t include the final chapter and it’s totally cool if you want to stop there.

9.  Bestselling author Jane Fallon described the book as one of the best and funniest debuts she’s read in a long time and Sara Lawrence for the Daily Mail described it as beautifully written and emotionally intelligent.

10. The true love story is the one Martha has with her friends. Martha may be focused on finding a man but the story is a celebration of sisterhood.

If you’ve got this far and you think you might like to read Martha’s story, this is your opportunity to win a signed copy; it’s also my opportunity to spout more of my thoughts on love. To enter, leave a question about love or relationships in the comments. Two winners will be chosen in two weeks. Your question can be about breaking up or making up, dating or divorce; make it personal or philosophical – there are no rules when it comes to love.

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What action should I take when a father refuses to attend mediation?

I am exhausted! I am up in the night! I am single mum! Yes, I'm a superhero and my super power is co parenting. My son has two homes but both his parents have one goal - to raise a reasonably healthy, relatively happy human. Not much else matters. We achieve this through trust, respect and a lot of Whatsapp messages. In fact I couldn't be a co parenting hero without my trusty sidekick, so I can't say I have any experience of trying to raise a child with an asswipe (which in my opinion someone who refuses to go to mediation is) but asswipes in general? I've met plenty and I've found they can all be lumped into one airtight box.

At the outset I'd like to state I have absolutely no legal training. I haven't even done jury duty so this post isn't about legalities, it's about emotions, which are much scarier.

Question one: What do you have to gain? Do you really have to do this? If this man doesn't want to come to mediation what makes you think that he will agree to any decisions that come out of the process? If you are in a situation that inconveniences you but works for your child/children, think about sucking it up. Focus your energies on the things in your life that you can change. Can you enlist more help from friends or family? Can you change your working life to include more flexibility? One of the best (and hardest) lessons of single parenting is learning to do it all yourself.

Question two: What are the asswipe's motivations? It's one of three things...
1. He's not ready for it to be over. Mediation can symbolise a pretty hefty nail in the coffin of a relationship. If your ex is still harbouring fantasies of a reconciliation he may be avoiding the shits got realness of the mediation session. Women especially can be so polite in their interactions that they send mixed signals. Make sure you aren't giving him any hope by being too vague in your communications - don't be too supportive, too quick to listen to his problems or ever (ever) indulge in the way too easy sex with the ex. If necessary invent a significant other to bring home the 'I've moved on' message. 
2. He's petty AF. The only way to deal with a petty person is to hit them where it hurts - their wallet. Don't bother explaining the rational, mature reasons for mediation just tell him you're going down the legal route. As soon as he finds out how much a solicitor charges to pick up a phone he'll be begging for mediation. 
3. He's controlling. You'll probably know if this is the case because it will be something you've had to live through. In this case, you'll need to let him think it's his idea. I would never recommend being manipulative but don't do anything that makes his life as a parent easier, if pick up's at six arrive on the dot and not a second before. Communicate important information by email and ask him to refer to your messages if he has questions - control what you can control and if he wants your flexibility he may decide that mediation is the route to use. 

Ultimately you can't make someone do anything they don't want to do. Refusing to attend could have negative consequences for your ex; comfort yourself with the knowledge that you're willing to do the right thing for your child. Soon enough your ex will learn that you're not the bitch, karma is.