In many ways, marriage is like a plant. So many possibilities when first planted. Then, if you feed it, nurture it, and just take care of it, then it will grow. Every plant is different and maybe needs slightly different nutrients in the soil, or more or less water or sun. But in learning about that particular plant’s needs, and then responding by giving it what it needs, it will flourish and reach its full potential.
Likewise, when you only do the bare minimum—or worse, not enough—to keep the plant alive, you can easily tell a difference. It gets droopy. The leaves may get dry and cracked. The roots may not be as healthy as they could be. The flower or fruit is not as big or beautiful as it could have been. Even more than seeing it, you can just feel it.
Marriage is like this too. When you or your spouse don’t feed and nurture the marriage, then it can’t grow. It becomes stale and lifeless, and then life in general becomes less magical. Less amazing. Less loving.
There are many things you need to do to feed a marriage, but there is one thing that your marriage simply won’t survive without. It’s like the oxygen to the plant. What we are talking about is emotional intimacy. Now, some people think of intimacy as just the act of sex, but in a marriage it is so much more than that. It’s love it in its fullest and purest form.
Here are some ways to help improve the emotional intimacy in your marriage:
Love in the way your spouse needs to be loved
It’s no secret that men and women are different, but even each woman and each man is different. Not all women will say that they feel loved when their husband does XYZ; so in order to have an emotionally healthy marriage, you need to look for and ask for what your spouse needs from you. Maybe one on one time means more than a hug, or maybe you doing something nice for them means more than buying gifts.
Communicate what you need from your spouse
In marriage, sometimes we expect each other to be mind readers. That is just setting things up for disappointment. If you need physical intimacy more often, then say so (pick your moment and pick your words wisely). Always be careful to not hurt feelings as you suggest things; maybe have a special time when you both can freely share these types of ideas so you both feel comfortable with it.
Love without conditions
People are imperfect creatures. Even the most loving and well meaning people make mistakes. We have a bad day and say things we don’t mean. Perhaps we notice our spouse giving less to the marriage so we feel the need to love less, too. Don’t let this happen. Don’t put conditions on your love. Even if your spouse is not being as loving as you want them to be, don’t withdraw your love.
Put each other first
If you both are being really honest with each other, you can probably say right away what your number one priority in life is. Is it work? The kids? Making money? Your side business? Fitness? Books? There are so many good things that can take us away from keeping marriage the number one priority. If your marriage isn’t your number one priority, then work on making it that way. Set up weekly dates. Do more little things together, like cook or go on walks. Hold hands. Think of your spouse before yourself.
Let go of competitiveness
No more keeping score. No more “I did the dishes last night!” Instead offer your help or to work together. Keeping score never helped any marriage. Instead of thinking you each need to give 50% to make one whole, each of you should instead give 100% to make your marriage truly amazing. Being competitive gets in the way of this. Let go and in the process, work together and become one.
Be a giving lover in and out of the bedroom
Intimacy is a complicated thing. You have the physical side and the emotional side. Sometimes we have all the physical without the emotional commitment, and other times we have the emotional commitment without the physical intimacy. When you can balance the two in marriage, you have something truly harmonious. You have two people who feel they love each other, and they also show each other this. Do this by being physically and emotionally loving in and out of the bedroom. Give to your spouse the kisses she loves so much, or the sex that he desires. In those moments that your spouse is fulfilled, so will you be.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.