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Oh, how I've been there. The struggle is REAL when it comes to getting guys to open up, but it's not something to overthink about if the relationship is fairly new. Over time, especially if you're already boyfriend and girlfriend, it happens naturally. But it takes just that... time.

Here are seven things you should do to help your boyfriend feel comfortable with opening up to you:

1. Ease into big topics and start by asking small, easy questions

When you're in a relationship with someone new, being vulnerable can be scary. This is, of course, one of the best ways of making sure your relationship progresses. But you also can't expect your partner to jump right into the deep end with you, especially if they've never really learned to swim before. To continue the swimming analogy, you'll first want to put on a life vest to make him feel safe, dip your toes in, wade into the kiddy pool, and gradually swim out to the part of the pool where you can no longer touch the ground — then chucking the life vest.

The same thing goes with easing into vulnerability. Allow small questions and conversations gradually build into deeper inquiries about life, love, and whatever else you're curious about. Let this happen naturally, never force it.

2. Be patient with him

In this situation, you've been in a serious, long-term relationship before. Unfortunately, it was toxic, but regardless, you do have more experience in the department of giving your heart to someone. Give your boyfriend the same time you once had when first figuring out what it meant to be in a relationship and be patient.

3. Take the lead

Lead by example! Show him affection, tell him things you want him to know about you, and hope he'll feel comfortable returning the favor. Don't worry, though, if he chooses not to reciprocate the affection or share with you right away! As long as he's receptive to it and listens, he will likely take mental notes and slowly become more comfortable with the idea of showing you certain emotions and sharing things with you.

Over time, as you share more details and be vulnerable, you'll probably notice he will start to do the same.

4. Talk while doing other things

Sometimes sitting down and having a conversation while face-to-face without any other distraction can make people feel very uncomfortable, over-exposed, or like they're put on the spot. Try asking questions while you're playing a game, cooking, or whatever else, so it feels more casual and less like an interview about his life.

5. Approach the topic with smaller questions

When you do so and you start easing into the deep end, ask seemingly trivial questions that could lead to a larger discussion. For example, say you want to know about his relationship with his parents, start by asking him about his hometown, what it was like growing up there, who his close friends were, and slowly make your way into family questions.

Make sure you're listening and allowing his answers to help you ask the next question. Remember: don't push the wave, ride it.

6. Don't push the issue

I cannot stress this point enough! Coming from someone who takes some time to open up, nothing makes me want to pull away from someone like feeling suffocated or pressured to move faster than I am ready to. Everyone needs to move at their own pace, so give your boyfriend the time to do so.

Of course, if it's been months and there hasn't been any progress or he's still being closed off, it's probably a good idea to ask him why — in a non-accusatory way, please) — especially if you're opening up to him. Successful relationships require partners to be on the same page, so if you've given him a good amount of time and he's still not opening up, it's time to ask him how he's feeling.

7. Don't judge him

Once he does start to open up, do not judge him. Even if you don't agree with something he's done or his past, reacting negatively to something will make him want to keep things from you and be closed off again in the future.

Remember: the past is the past and it cannot be changed. So, if you care for him and he has something about his past you don't love, you can still accept him. If you can't, then you're not meant to be.

With all that said, if after a good amount of time you feel like you're still fighting to get him to open up, it's important to have a conversation. While you should be patient, you also shouldn't sacrifice your own happiness to go at someone else's speed.

At the end of the day, you have to be happy, so when or if you feel you've given him enough time and it hasn't changed, it's time to talk to him about needing more from him.

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