Have you ever heard stories about couples that have been married for 10, 15, or maybe even 20 years but feel like they don’t even know the person they’re married to? Or maybe you have a friend that says I just don’t feel connected to my spouse anymore, I don’t know if we’re going to make it. My husband and I have been in that situation before – I remember sitting in counseling with Carlton thinking I just don’t feel connected to him like I used to be. What happened to those intense, passionate, feelings that we had when we first got married? Was it that the newness had worn off, were we no longer compatible, or had we just fallen out of love with each other? Thankfully, the answer was none of the above…..the true issue was that we were lacking emotional intimacy! Like most people you’re probably scratching your head and thinking what the heck is emotional intimacy?!?! My husband had to google the term too so don’t feel bad!
Emotional intimacy is often described as a sense of closeness or connection that you have with your spouse that allows you to express those really personal feelings that you wouldn’t divulge to anybody else–communicating your insecurities, expectations, goals, fears, and how you need to be loved. At its core, emotional intimacy is the foundation of marriage. Think about it, when the sex is gone, or you’re no longer able to get out and do things together like you use to…what do you have left holding you all together—the closeness of your emotional intimacy!
I believe emotional intimacy is what sets the stage for you to truly know your spouse and it makes it easier to talk about marital conflicts when they arise. Sounds easy right?!?! Wrong!!
Emotional intimacy just doesn’t magically appear in your marriage it requires vulnerability, trust, mutual respect, and complete transparency. Most people (men included though they may not come right out and say it) want to have a deep connection with their spouse. But we’re often afraid if we express who we really are and how we feel we may:
- Feel weak – a fear that communicating who we really are will make others see us as weak
- Experience a negative response from our spouse – People may be afraid that a spouse will shame them, belittle their thoughts/feelings
- Realize we don’t really know ourselves – Here we may come to the realization that we are not in touch with our own feelings to a point where we can’t develop true emotional intimacy with someone else
As I sat in couples counseling I realized the lack of emotional intimacy had less to do with my husband and more to do with me truly not knowing myself or being in tune with my own fears, insecurities, strengths, desires, needs and so on. Couples counseling was never going to repair our emotional intimacy until I looked within myself and discovered who I really was. How could I expect to create that emotional connection with Carlton if I hadn’t yet experienced that within myself? A few sessions of individual counseling helped me explore my own thoughts and learn how to be emotional intimate with myself and Carlton.
After we’ve cleared those hurdles to emotional intimacy, now comes the real work….actually putting forth the effort to achieve emotional intimacy within the context of a marriage. There are a number of things that we can do to deepen and strengthen emotional intimacy in our marriages.
- I’ve learned that it starts with creating a safe space to talk where your spouse feels like they can communicate without being judged, ridiculed or feeling unaccepted.
- Setting aside 30 min a day to have real conversations, with no electronics or other distractions. Try getting some conversation starters that will get you all discussing topics that you never thought about before.
- Spend more time together, whether it’s date nights, reading a book together, or taking up a hobby.
These are just some of the ways that you can intentionally grow in the area of emotional intimacy if you feel you may be lacking in this department of your marriage. In the spirit of transparency, Carlton and I don’t just want to share theoretical bullets points with you, but instead want to share some of our emotional intimacy journey with you. We decided to spend some intentional quality time together once a week by reading “The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge”. This is a really great resource that provides thought provoking topics to prompt discussion between spouses once a week for a year. Honestly, we picked this book up quite some time ago, but unfortunately as we got busy with life we drifted away from reading this book together like we planned. However, the more we thought about it, we realized that taking 15 minutes per week to connect emotionally shouldn’t be too much for us to invest into our marriage. So we’re getting back in the saddle….and we want you all to be our accountability partners. We’ll periodically share some of the topics, discussions, and key learnings that we come across as we work through this book.
None of us ever want to wake up one day and realize that we are married to a perfect stranger. So if you are feeling disconnected and want more emotional intimacy take a moment to check yourself and check in with your spouse to find ways to deepen the connection within your marriage.
~Feel free to share some of the ways you and your spouse are reconnecting in the comments~