Whether or not you consider yourself an “emotional” person, there’s no doubt about it: emotions play a central role in your relationship and in building a deeper level of intimacy. When you share your feelings, you communicate directly about your needs and the deepest parts of yourself.
Feelings aren’t random–your feelings are in response to something. Think of your emotions as messengers, letting your partner know what is important to you, what is already working in the relationship, and what might need improvement. Your emotions also mirror your passions and dreams, your desires and fears.
Why do emotions play such a pivotal role in your relationship?
There are numerous pathways to deeper intimacy. One is through the communication and sharing of feelings. The feelings that you and your partner experience together are the breath that give life to your marriage or relationship. Emotions and intimacy go hand in hand.
When you try to marginalize your feelings so that they aren’t a part of your relationship, intimacy suffers.
Learn to listen to your emotions
The first step in using your emotions to create deeper intimacy is to identify what you are feeling.
The second step is to communicate your feelings in a way that will foster intimacy and create a mutual understanding between you and your partner. It will always be easier to share positive feelings than feelings that might elicit defensiveness in your spouse or partner.
To help reduce the likelihood that your partner will become defensive, ask yourself the following question before discussing sensitive issues: “How can I talk about these feelings and my needs so that my partner will be open and responsive to what I’m saying?”
Learn to clarify your emotions
Sometimes your feelings will be easy to recognize and give you direction in your relationship, while at other times they will be nebulous and confusing.
When your feelings are unclear to you, give them the time and space they need to take shape. Like a mound of clay waiting to be shaped into a sculpture, some feelings will need time and attention before becoming well defined.
One way to gain clarity is to monitor your physical reactions (physical sensations are often an important part of feelings). Ask yourself, “What are these physical sensations trying to tell me?” “What needs lie behind this experience?”
Don’t worry if answers don’t immediately appear–revisit these questions as needed (as well as any other questions that invite introspection). Many find journaling helpful as a way to clarify underlying emotions and needs.
While feelings are an important part of intimacy, trouble can arise when your feelings are guided by certain assumptions. See if you hold any of the assumptions listed below.
Unhealthy assumptions about feelings and your relationship
~My spouse or partner should know what I’m feeling without me having to say anything.
Reading another person’s feelings is tricky business, even when you think you know someone really well. Ultimately, only you know what you are feeling and the best way to have your partner know this is for you to directly tell him/her.
~If I’m feeling something, it must be true
Be open to the possibility that some of your feelings might reflect past emotional baggage and therefore have to do more with your own personal issues than your relationship as a whole.
~Once I tell my partner what I’m feeling, everything will be O.K.
You can never be certain how your partner is going to react to your feelings. Think of your feelings as a starting point, an entryway to the goal of healthy communication and deeper intimacy.
~I should talk about every feeling I experience
Being in a relationship is about compromise and negotiation. At times your feelings will need to be placed on a shelf so that you can empathize with your partner’s experience. However, if your feelings are typically ignored, then there is an imbalance in your relationship and you and your partner will need to make adjustments in order to strike a healthy balance.