Ask a marriage counselor to make a list of the essential elements that go into making a great marriage, and they would put “strong emotional intimacy between the couple” at the top of the list. Does that surprise you? Most people would think things like good sex, financial comfort and lack of conflict would be part of the recipe for a good marriage. All of those things are important, of course, but without a strong emotional connection, it is impossible to shape those (and other) components necessary for an emotionally wealthy marriage. Let’s look at how an emotionally wealthy marriage is created.
Steps towards creating your emotionally wealthy marriage
1. Be present for each other
Simply put, tune into your spouse when they are talking. It is easy to half-listen to your partner, as our attention is drawn by so many other things around us: our children’s needs, the household tasks and of course our electronic devices. Do you often glance at your phone to check out incoming messages all while saying “um hum” in response to something your spouse is sharing with you? Does he follow you around the house recounting his day while you pick up laundry, put away groceries and set the table? Recognize yourself there? These are all habits that deduct from your emotional wealth. Make a dedicated effort to turn towards each other when you are speaking to each other. Meet his eyes. Really listen. If you do feel pulled to finish something first before you can tune into him, tell him so. “I really want to hear about your day but I need to just make one call first. Can we talk in five minutes? It’s important for me to be completely ‘here’ to listen to you.”
2. Express gratitude
Your partner is important to your happiness. When you remind them of this, you help to create emotional wealth in your marriage. Make your expressions of gratitude genuine: when they do something nice for you, like surprising you with a bouquet of flowers or booking a babysitter so you two can have a night out for yourselves, give them a hug and tell them how happy their gesture has made you. “I’m SO lucky you are my partner” is one of the best compliments you can give (or receive).
3. Take a trip down memory lane
A great way to keep your emotional wealth going is to revisit the early days of your relationship. Couples who recount their first date, first kiss, first lovemaking together re-remember these happy moments, which translates to feeling closer once again to your partner.
4. Don’t neglect the importance of physical intimacy
It’s easy to let love making slide when things are going full force with children, work, and other adulting responsibilities. But the key to keeping an emotionally wealthy marriage is the physical side of your partnership. Don’t wait for the desire to strike: invite it in by cuddling in bed together. Make it a point to go to bed together: don’t get into the habit of one of you dozing off in front of your favorite TV show while the other retires to the bedroom to finish up that best-selling novel. That’s a sure-fire way to not connect sexually.
5. Love yourself
In order to be able to share the emotional wealth with your partner, you need to be invested in your own emotional wealth first. How do you do that? By taking care of yourself. Eat healthy so that you feel good about what you are putting into your body. Get some sort of physical exercise each day. See what you can do without using your car—can you walk to town to take care of some of your errands? Take the stairs instead of the elevator? You don’t need to spend a dime on a gym membership; there are plenty of in-home workout videos available on the internet. When you feel happy where you are, in your head and in your body, you are in a good position to contribute to the emotional wealth of your marriage.
6. Communicate openly and honestly
We all have emotional needs; sharing these with your partner increases the emotional wealth in the relationship. Some of these might be: the need to be seen and heard, encouraged, considered, included, nurtured, understood, accepted, engaged, touched, held, desired, and forgiven when we’ve done something to offend.
7. Address conflict in the relationship
Conflict-avoidant couples break down their wealth of emotional intimacy, rather than working towards building it. Often couples think that if they don’t talk about problems, these will go away. To the contrary, unresolved conflict leads to hidden resentment and eventual estrangement. Learn to deal with conflict in a constructive way, and you will be contributing to the emotional wealth of your marriage.
8. Be vulnerable with each other
Don’t be afraid to show your partner when you are feeling scared, weak or overwhelmed. One of the speediest ways to deepen your emotional wealth is showing this side of you, and allowing your partner to comfort you and make you feel supported. This benefits both of you and is a mainstay for building emotional intimacy in your marriage. Sharing your vulnerable side can deepen all kinds of intimacies within your relationship — romantic, sexual, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual.
9. Talk about why you love each other
Discussing your relationship is a truly intimate moment. These discussions deepen your emotional connection more than any other type of conversation. You aren’t talking about just sex or romance, you are talking about your mutual feelings of togetherness. Instant emotional-wealth building guaranteed!