The Key Ingredient for Deep Emotional Intimacy

Emotional safety is something couples typically don’t think about until something happens to threaten this safety. Emotional safety (knowing that you can trust your spouse/partner, that s/he has your best interest in mind and will try to be responsive to your emotional needs) creates a foundation of stability that grounds your relationship. When it is missing, the very foundation of one’s relationship is compromised.

As Joan recently shared at a couples retreat, “My husband and I have each other’s back and although we step on each other’s emotional toes and argue at times, I think it’s fair to say that we take comfort in the fact that we both try to be there for each other. We take each other’s needs very seriously.” Joan’s husband quickly voiced his agreement with his wife’s sentiment.

For long-term love to grow and mature, you and your partner need to feel secure that you’ll be there for one another—believing and feeling that your partner will be responsive to your needs is emotionally grounding and instills a sense of hope, connection and comfort that transcends time and location.

But this sense of security doesn’t just arise out of thin air—couples need to create and maintain the conditions that lead to emotional safety and emotional intimacy.

Relationship Help: Emotional Intimacy Requires Consistency

Expecting your spouse/partner to constantly give you the attention, responsiveness, love, compassion, caring, follow-through, etc., you desire sets the relationship bar out of reach. And while you should set the relationship bar high (we become better people through being challenged), setting it too far beyond your spouse’s/partner’s reach is just a recipe for frustration and a lack of fulfillment.

Remember, a constant is something that is always present—a constant doesn’t vary. When you expect perfection, you’re demanding a constant from your spouse/partner—for instance, that your partner meet all of your emotional and relationship needs, whenever a need arises. But as anyone in a long-term relationship will tell you, life just doesn’t work that way—no matter how much we’d like it to. And being deeply in love won’t make this happen either.

Is there a solution to this relationship dilemma?

The Golden Rule of Emotional Safety and Intimacy

Rather than expecting perfection (that your partner constantly give you what you need and require), expect consistency.

Consistency is a key ingredient in creating the conditions for emotional safety.

When it comes to consistency: Ask for it. Emphasize it. Let it be known that you need your spouse/partner to be as consistent as possible in being responsive to you—tell him/her that consistency makes you feel safe and deepens emotional intimacy. And show your partner consistency in return…one of the most effective ways to get your needs met is to show your spouse/partner what you mean through your own actions.

Discussion is great, but demonstration is even better.

The expectation of consistency (rather than constancy, which implies perfection) allows for wiggle room; it gives space for those inevitable times when you and your partner fail to meet each other’s needs—it allows for the imperfections of living while expecting more and believing in one another.

Expecting consistency (expecting that under normal conditions your partner will behave and respond to you in predictable and reliable ways) lets your spouse/partner know that s/he cannot just mindlessly coast through the relationship day after day, month after month, year after year; it also sends the message that you’re not unrealistic or a tyrant, yet you do require that s/he steps up to the relationship plate and gives it his/her all.

Are you ready to make consistency a key ingredient of your marriage/relationship while creating space for the inevitable imperfections of being human?