Let's face it, this is the real reason you wanted to be married.
You yearn deeply for emotional intimacy.
You want to share your heart vulnerably with the man who sees you, understands you, and loves you just the way you are.
You want to feel him caring for you, honoring you, and you love to feel that you can depend on him.
He knows your trust in him is a precious gift. You are a precious gift.
Feeling emotionally safe with your husband also leads him to feel emotionally safe with you--so he can share what's really going on in his heart too.
But how many marriages really experience emotional intimacy? Currently only 1 in 10 couples in America report that they experience emotional intimacy in their relationship. 10%! That's abysmal!
But emotional intimacy need not be so elusive...
Here's three steps to creating more emotional safety in your relationship, so that your intimacy can thrive.
1. Eliminate criticism.
"He can't take criticism, even when it's for the good of the marriage."
This is a common misunderstanding about effective communication.
Criticism is one of the most hurtful forms of communication in relationships and pretty much never leads to the result that you're looking for.
It leaves your man feeling that he is so disappointing to you (which hurts his heart!) and makes it less likely, not more likely, that he will really take what you have to say to heart and show up for you with his best.
Criticism hurts emotional safety, because your man to no longer feel your ACCEPTANCE of him. And here's the thing. The Law of Intimacy is ACCEPTANCE. In order to create a safe space where love and trust can thrive, negative judgments on why he isn't good enough are only going to hurt his heart. There are much better ways to express what you want and need in the relationship.
Trust and love thrive when ACCEPTANCE is at the foundation.
2. Receive His Love for You with Gratitude
What has your man been doing well right now that you can thank him for? Maybe it sounds irrelevant to a post on emotional intimacy, but trust me. It's the gateway in...because...
Receiving well fosters tenderness.
It begins the process of your man entering your world and your heart with deep empathy and intimate love.
Think about this for a minute.
In sex, the moment you receive your husband, he is “in” you and you are “in” him in a literal and physical way. Since sex always reflects the relationship, receiving his love in your relationship always initiates a new kind of intimacy and tenderness—of being “in” the world of the other.
John Paul II says in Love and Responsibility...
"The man must reckon with the fact that the woman is in a sense in another world, unlike himself not only in the physiological but also in the psychological sense. Since he has to play the active role in the marital relationship, he must get to know that other world, and indeed as far as possible project himself into it emotionally."
Don't you just yearn for this kind of love in marriage? If only he would project himself into your emotional world! Maybe you’re thinking, “Great advice, JP II. Now tell this to my husband!” I hear you.
But the real secret to eliciting your man’s entry into your world begins with being a good receiver. Why? Because receiving his love sends the message: “I know you care about me and my heart.” Rejecting his love, or finding fault with his efforts sends the opposite message: “there’s nothing you can do to please me.” Which message invites him in?
3. Vulnerably reveal your own emotions.
Emotional intimacy is centered in the emotions. That's why personally I find it annoying when people say, "Love is not a feeling." It is very much centered on feelings! Especially if the goal is to create tenderness and EMOTIONAL intimacy.
John Paul argues that women have a much greater need for tenderness--that you have a "special right" to it in marriage. But how do you inspire your man to listen carefully to your heart with profound empathy and love?
You vulnerably reveal your OWN emotional life.
How do you FEEL about what's going on in your life? Can you identify your feelings and emotions? Was there a time you felt scared, hurt, sad, excited, happy, passionate? Sharing your feelings with him is what creates a profound emotional bond....
One mistake that's easy to make, however, is hide your feelings by complaining about the problem instead.
It feels easier because then you don't have to get to that place of vulnerability. To have intimacy, you must have vulnerability. You must expose yourself emotionally. It feels risky and it is.
Because you want to be accepted and loved when you show the deepest parts of you--the ones you don't let just anyone see.
When you complain to your man about some issue in your life, you're less likely to feel emotionally close, (and you might end up annoyed!) because your man is likely going to do what every man in the world feels compelled to do when his wife complains about a problem in her life.
He's going to want to SOLVE it! I have personally interviewed many husbands on this point and this is what every one of them says...
"When my wife complains, I want to solve her problem, because I don't want her to continue being upset."
Now that's great if you came to him WANTING a solution, but my guess is that's not what you wanted. Am I right?
You want him to just listen and empathize with what you're FEELING. You want to feel that you can depend on him to acknowledge your emotions.
That's why you've got to dig deep, be a little brave, and vulnerably share your feelings. "I felt _______."
One Final Thing!
One final tip to creating emotional intimacy in your marriage is to recognize that men and women are different and have very different needs and desires in marriage. Your longing for tenderness far exceeds what your husband alone can offer. You'll need your good girlfriends to surround you and support you. You'll need spiritual intimacy with God.
Ironically, the more you fill your life with these, the more you'll be able to create deeper trust and bonding in your relationship with your husband. So give yourself the gift of good relationships.
Then he'll also feel free to share his heart with you.