Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Emotional intimacy
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
When folks hear the term “intimacy,” their thoughts often turn to physical, sexual intimacy. But what if the term “emotional intimacy” is used?
From my chair as a therapist, it seems as if the most important part of intimacy is the emotional kind. In fact, I would hazard to state that this is one of the qualities that can take a marriage to the deepest depths of connection. Much like the ocean, while it’s fun to play in the shallow end, the real beauty and vibrant life are found in the depths.
When emotional intimacy is lacking, marriages will suffer and can sometimes fail. Emotional intimacy is defined as a closeness in which both partners feel secure and loved and in which trust and communication abound.
If your marriage is struggling or dying, how can intimacy be sparked and renewed again? If it seems intimacy is nonexistent, how can it be stoked and begin to burn brightly in your marriage?
Bottom line: Do you know how to be emotionally intimate with the partner God gave you? Let’s examine some reminders:
- Build an environment between you that allows for Safety of Expression. Develop good listening skills, empathy and awareness, all of which demonstrate to your mate a desire to share life and life experiences. One should never have to worry about feeling exposed – healthy safety allows for the sharing of intimate feelings, such as hurt, fear, excitement or embarrassment, without fear of judgment.
- Promote Daily Interaction, which is tender and meaningful. Work to make your words soft and your discussion clear so that your mate feels positive intent whenever communication is initiated. Talk daily, not just about the facts of the day, but also about the thoughts and feelings about the facts of the day.
- Exhibit Affection that is nonsexual and occasionally spontaneous. This can be expressed through touch, deeds, words, and facial or body language.
- Notice when your mate is weary – with stress, with overwhelm, with difficult decisions, with overwork, etc. — and Offer Support, Respite, Comfort and Understanding.
- Plan for fun with your mate – not only in small ways where laughter can occur, but also in larger ways where the two of you develop a common and shared interest. I’ve said it many times in this space, laughter and fun are some of the strongest glues in marriage!
- Share the Workload with the maintenance of the home, your cars and with the raising of your children.
- Set aside time to Have Healthy Discussion of Difficult Issues. Never leave a conflict without an exact plan for resolution. Though emotions may be too high for immediate discussion, plan for a continued conversation at a later time.
- Develop Healthy Sexual Encounters with one another that are mutually satisfying. Talk about it and foster a climate of freedom to openly discuss your wants and needs.
- Spend Quality Time Together. With today’s hurried lifestyle, it is necessary to set aside time for one another. Unless this is a priority, time together will not magically happen.
- Worship Together. When the foundation is securely established and maintained, the common groundwork allows for deep and more meaningful connection. After all, God is the author of marriage!
Marriage is at its richest and most exciting when couples are intimately connected and emotional connection is securely locked in. Don’t just look good as a couple on the outside; make it your purpose to “look” even better on the inside because you know for certain that you are consistently swimming the depths of the ocean, where marriage is invigorating and fulfilling!