How many people really know you?
It’s hard to say, isn’t it? So many of us put up facades or fronts for the public eye. Even in some of our closest familial and friendly relationships, we are on the side of false beauty as opposed to ugly truths.
Opening up our true selves to another human can be one of the most intimidating things we can do. I’d be willing to bet that many people would choose to do just about anything besides showing another person the real, raw version of themselves.
Fight Mike Tyson or show your wife the real you? You know some guys will choose hopping in the ring with Iron Mike as opposed to the open and honest conversation that is the alternative.
Bungee jump off the Golden Gate Bridge or tell your husband your deepest, darkest secret? Without fail, there will be some ladies who will look over the edge of the San Francisco landmark with less fear by comparison.
Marriage is the most important relationship we can experience with another human being, yet some of us stop short of truly letting our partners into our world.
If you can’t open up to your lifelong partner, then who can you open up to? It’s important that you prioritize creating emotional intimacy with your partner. Getting to know each other on such a deep level will benefit your overall connection and will foster more compassion and respect for the person that you’ve chosen to spend your life with.
Actively creating more emotional intimacy in your marriage is a fairly simple process, but it’s not necessarily easy. It will take some nerve to reveal yourself in a sincere fashion, but the value your relationship will gain from those intimate moments will far surpass that uneasy feeling you’re experiencing.
Both men and women have trouble with being vulnerable, but as a man, I’d say we’ve cornered the market.
We’ve grown up with consistent messages like “Tough it out” or “Suck it up” that have told us to choke down any emotion that may be observed as weak. No crying. No complaining. No whining. One time, while playing high school baseball, the pitcher hit me in the ribs with a fastball. I then heard one of my coaches yell, “Don’t you rub it!” Put simply, we’ve been consciously and subconsciously trained to showcase a tough exterior that won’t bend or break to the circumstances in front of us.
This can be problematic in a marriage. Every marriage will have it’s hard times. No one gets a free pass. Think about it: one person alone will encounter unfortunate events and situations in their lifetime; imagine what happens when two individuals commingle and spend their lives together. If a man can’t let his guard down and speak to his true feelings about the events that he experiences, no matter how caring their partner, they have no hope of receiving help. It makes a marriage a long and lonely journey for both parties.
Men haven’t completely monopolized this lack of vulnerability, though. Women can be just as closed off. Life has a way of hardening your emotions, and women don’t escape this truth. They may have been wronged in past relationships. It may have been so bad that they refuse to let someone get too close because the risk of being hurt feels far too great. This causes them to keep their partner at a distance, only giving glimpses of what makes them feel alive or what hurts them the most.
No matter your sex, you need to be conscious of the walls that you erect around you. If you’re going to marry someone, and love them with everything you’ve got, those walls need to be taken down. You both need to let each other in, because you will be each other’s main support system for the rest of your lives. Being in tune with the most genuine version of your partner is the best way to support their needs and help fight their fears.
Being vulnerable is hard, but doing so in a safe space makes it much easier. That’s why many people choose to seek the help of a counselor or therapist in troubling times. They know that, regardless of any insight or advice given, it is a safe place to share how they truly feel.
When attempting to infuse your marriage with vulnerability and openness, start by creating the safe space required to share openly. Sit down with your spouse and let them know that whatever they share will not be met with judgment and vice versa. This initial conversation of the safe and nonjudgmental space of conversation will allow you both to become more emotionally intimate with each other. Establishing this is the foundation to deeper and more meaningful conversations as the years pass.
Begin with easy topics
Once the safe space of conversation is established and you can feel yourself being more vulnerable, you and your partner may feel the need to open the floodgates and let all of your emotion pour out; both good and bad. Take it slowly. Begin with topics like your passions and what makes you feel alive. Don’t jump right into deep and dark secrets. Use these lighter topics as a good way to get your footing in the more intimate conversations you’re having with your spouse.
Then ask the hard questions
Now that you’ve established the trust and security necessary to be truly open with each other, start asking questions that you’ve always been afraid to bring up. Don’t act as if you’re an investigative reporter, trying to back your spouse into a corner with your line of questioning. That completely defeats the purpose of these deeper conversations.
If there’s a deep family secret, ask them about it in a tactful way. If there’s a part of their past that they never seem to talk about, let them know that you’d love to hear about it if they’re open to discussing it.
Don’t nag or badger them, just let them know that it’s something you’re curious about. Eventually, as you both peel back the layers of your true selves, they will share with you what they’re willing to.
Emotional intimacy is hard to come by in a world where many of us don’t want to let other people in. In your marriage, the vulnerability and openness that emotional intimacy requires is the foundation on which you can build a strong and loving marriage.
Let down your walls. Open yourself up. Let your partner in. It’s the best way to love and to be loved.