My partner has been keeping things from me because of how I responded to previous conversations

New to polyamory. Have been in this V relationship for about 8 months. I’ve had my struggles and my fears still working on this but I am doing MUCH better. I know I put a lot of crap on my significant other over my insecurities, just like being very needy and pretty much letting the craziness out to him. It’s been good but now he’s keeping things from me and I figure it’s because of me but it hurts. What do I do?

My mother raised and trained a very smart dog breed for a while before I was born. Something she said often was: “never punish the behavior that you want.” For example, never call a dog over to scold it for something, or to kennel it if it hates the kennel. If you want to train the dog to come when called, never associate that behavior with something negative.

People are the same way, though of course we’re much more complicated. It sounds like in the past, when your significant other shared things with you, you reacted in a way that felt uncomfortable or unpleasant for him. So he learned that if he wanted to avoid that negative stimulus, he needed to avoid those kinds of conversations with you.

Now, that’s not to say that people are never allowed to have emotional reactions or negative responses to things people tell us, or that if we show fear or struggle to our partner, that they’re absolved of their obligation to be honest with us. But I say often in this column that honesty goes both ways, and when we want people to be honest with us, we need to make sure it’s safe and comfortable for that person to share. Even if what we hear is hurtful or difficult, we need to respond to the content of what’s being said, not punish the act of sharing hard truths.

I know his withdrawal hurts, but try not to take it personally or let it prod you into picking fights or pulling away. Recognize that he is making a totally reasonable choice based on the evidence and experience he’s gotten from you.

First, let him know that you are aware that your past behavior made it hard for him to be honest with you, and you understand his reticence now. Take accountability for your part in creating the situation you two are now in. Let him know that you do very much want him to keep sharing things with you, and ask what you can do to help get back to that place.

Then, once you’ve made this clear, drop it - don’t pester him to tell you things he’s not comfortable sharing. You have to let your actions speak louder than your words. You can insist that you’re better now, but you need to show him. Take small opportunities to demonstrate your security. Cultivate a conversational space where he can be honest and share things with you. Reward the behavior you want to see, and give things time.