(Borrowed in part from our friends at HealthyMarriageTips.com)
Supermarket magazines bombard us with a constant stream of “Secrets to the Best Sex Ever”.
Here is the real secret.
If you increase the quality of your emotional intimacy you will significantly increase the quality and quantity of your physical intimacy.
Physical intimacy can take place with a total stranger and while it will be physically exciting it can never come close to the exultant ecstasy that comes from becoming one with your spouse with whom you have developed a strong emotional bond.
Emotional intimacy usually takes time to develop. It can’t be rushed or purchased. But it can be built one conversation and one experience at a time.
Before going much further it would also be good to give you our definition of emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is your perceived sense of closeness with your spouse.
It’s built on trust, acceptance, forgiveness and knowing that the other person honestly wants what is best for you and “has your back”.
On average women tend to develop emotional intimacy through words and men tend to develop emotional intimacy through experiences. An example for women would be when they share their feelings about something they are struggling with. An example for men would be a hard and difficult experience that they overcame like fighting in a war, participating on a sports team, or any other shared physical activity that involves an element of danger and or difficulty.
Emotional intimacy also involves a tremendous amount of risk. It leaves you vulnerable to getting hurt because it involves lowering your walls and allowing someone else inside your defenses. Which in turn could allow them to use what they learned later on to hurt you.
It’s no wonder that Paul Simon wrote,
“I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain….
…If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.”
Yet even still there exists inside all men and women the desire and the need to feel close to someone.
So how do you have “safe” emotional intimacy? And how do you build and strengthen it?
The first step is to realize that no one is perfect. In other words you will never be able to engage in “safe” emotional intimacy. You will make mistakes and so will your spouse. What you can work towards is an emotionally intimate relationship in which you both quickly apologize and forgive each other when you do occasionally hurt each other. In a future tip we will cover how to accomplish this. The keyword though is, occasionally hurt each other. Emotional abuse is real and can be far more damaging then physical abuse. We will address emotional abuse in a future tip as well.
The second step is to engage in activities that will help your emotional intimacy grow stronger. For men that means setting aside time to JUST LISTEN. When a man hears a problem they want to fix it as quickly as possible and move on. Bite your tongue and let your wife talk about her feelings. If she asks you for a possible solution then feel free to share your ideas, otherwise JUST LISTEN. The other skill that MUST accompany listening is empathy. It’s not good enough to just keep your mouth shut. You also need to try and understand how she feels. Does this skill come naturally to most men. No, but it is like any other skill. It can be learned. At first it will feel awkward, but no more awkward than dribbling a basketball and shooting a layup with your offhand. If you stick with it and develop the skill, then the rewards in the physical intimacy area will be more than you can possibly imagine.
Besides setting aside at least 15 minutes a day to just talk, other activities you can engage in to build emotional intimacy include sharing with each other your dreams, struggles, difficult experiences you went through growing up, participating in difficult physical activities together like training for a marathon or backpacking in the mountains, praying together, sharing embarrassing moments, making promises and keeping them, sharing two things a day that you appreciate that your spouse did that day, saying please and thank you, asking about his or her day, giving at least a paragraph long response to “how was your day”, writing thank you notes, trying to see the world from your spouses perspective, complimenting your spouse, being totally faithful to your spouse, making sacrifices for your spouse and brainstorming other ways to strengthen your bond of emotional intimacy.
It also takes being intentional and even coming up with a plan . So make it happen and the rewards will come pouring in.
For more tips, log on to HealthyMarriageTips.com