“I’m tired of feeling alone in my marriage.” ~Christian, married three years
Often times, when couples complain about a break down in communication or some other marital/relationship problem, part of their distress centers around feeling emotionally disconnected from each other. This lack of emotional intimacy is often a warning sign that something needs to be addressed in your relationship.
Feeling emotionally safe and close to your spouse/partner is one of the hallmarks of a healthy marriage/relationship. Think of emotional intimacy (a sense of togetherness, of having a strong emotional bond) as the glue that holds your relationship together, through the good times and the stressful times. Couples are more likely to weather the challenges of life (as well as the challenges that come with being in a relationship) when they feel emotionally engaged and connected to one another.
But emotional intimacy doesn’t just happenit requires certain conditions in order to germinate and grow. Understanding these conditions and understanding what makes you feel connected to your partner, will go a long way toward creating the right conditions and toward keeping your relationship healthy.
7 Conditions for Emotional Intimacy
Here is a brief listing of what you might need and expect from your spouse/partner in order to feel emotionally close:
~Attentiveness (the willingness to be attentive to one another);
~Consistency (knowing that your partner will be there for you day after day);
~Empathy (a willingness to try to understand who you are and your perspective);
~Kindness (nothing invites us to share ourselves more than a compassionate, loving partner);
~Patience (knowing that you partner is flexible and doesn’t expect perfection from you);
~Respect (the assurance that you will never intentionally belittle or shame one another);
~Responsiveness (feeling that your partner will respond and act appropriately to your needs);
~Truthfulness/Honestly (if you feel your partner is being deceptive in some way, emotional safety and intimacy will never be realized).
As you read this list, do these feel familiar to you? Are they part of your marriage/relationship?
But your spouse/partner isn’t the only person responsible for working on deepening emotional intimacy. In fact, s/he can do all of the above (and even more), and emotional closeness can still be lacking in your marriage/relationship.
How can this be?
The Conscious Decision to Be Open to Intimacy
“All relationships involve the risk of connection.” ~Peter, discussing his decision to remarry after being divorced for four years.
At some point, couples take the risk to open themselves up to the gifts of emotional intimacywithout this openness, an internal door will remain closed and a nagging disconnection will persist. While the conditions listed above might make you more likely to open yourself up to intimacy, ultimately, you have to make the conscious decision to do so. Like the quote above, you have to risk connection again.
The relationship you have with yourself (how you think and feel about yourself, your willingness to trust) has a dramatic impact on the level of emotional intimacy you can form with your spouse/partner.
Here are a couple of issues to be mindful of:
~Self-acceptance (are you compassionate to yourself and able to suspend self-judgment and criticalness?);
~Feeling worthy of intimacy and love (without a sense of feeling worthy of receiving love, a part of you will always remain shut off to the gifts of intimacy);
~Self-understanding and clarity of your needs (if you don’t connect with and communicate your emotional needs, how will your partner know what you need or how to meet your needs?).
So if you feel that emotional intimacy and closeness is missing in your marriage/relationship, go through the above lists to see what might be needed to create the optimal conditions for intimacy. And remember, intimacy is not only about your partner: the ability to be open and self-accepting is the crucial second-half of the intimacy equation.