Emotional intimacy is the bedrock of an amazing marriage.
Couples who are able to achieve secure attachment and build a strong emotional connection are able to risk being vulnerable.
Erik, 42, and Amanda, 40, a couple who I counseled recently came to my office looking to deepen their connection due an experiencing stress following the sudden death of Amanda’s mother and Erik being away for work and not being able to support her during her period of intense grief.
Amanda put it like this, “The last six months were very challenging after my mom died and Erik was away a lot and we grew apart. He wasn’t around when I needed him and I built up resentment and developed mistrust in him, fearing that he met someone else or fell out of love with me.”
Erik responded, “Amanda is right and I feel awful about this. I just want a chance to make it up to her. The project I was working on involved travel out of state and I couldn’t refuse it. It was bad timing and I love Amanda and want to prove it to her.”
Cultivating intimacy involves allowing yourself to be vulnerable and trusting your partner.
All relationships have tension at times, but it is important for partners to use that tension to become more emotionally attuned, physically affectionate, and open about their thoughts, feelings, and desires.
What makes a relationship work?
Happy couples can easily figure out whether their trust issues stem from their present relationship or are past emotional residue.
If you make a careful examination of your history and your partner’s history, you will stop repeating the past.
It is possible to deal effectively with ghosts from the past by extending trust to each other through words and actions that are consistent with a loving, long-term view of marriage.
For instance, Amanda was able to identify in couples’ therapy that her trust issues started with her own childhood since her dad betrayed her mother for years when he was a truck driver and drove to Florida for an extended period of time.
As a result, Amanda told Erik that she now realized that some of her mistrust came from her past and her feelings became more intense when he travelled out of state.
In other words, since all couples come with baggage, it’s essential to openly discuss emotional triggers, past experiences, and trust issues early on in your relationship. This open dialogue will serve to strengthen your bond when inevitable doubts or breaches of trust arise.
Ways to feel immediately closer to your partner
Emotional intimacy and trust go hand in hand, and securely attached couples can express their needs and preferences.
One of the surefire ways to make your partner feel loved is to increase desire and sensuality in your relationship.
Likewise, daily rituals such as touching, good eye contact, listening, and talking about their experiences, will allow partners to be emotionally close and to express more sensuality in their marriage.
Sensuality is the pleasant feeling couples experience when they touch, see, taste, and feel – such as walking holding hands on the beach.
It involves a lot more than sexual intercourse.
Sensuality is a way of connecting with your partner in the moment, according to Howard J. Markman, Ph.D., and reflects feelings of being in love and attracted to your partner.
Surefire ways to make your partner feel loved
Instead of defaulting to the coping strategies you developed in your families of origin, it’s important to make a commitment to nurture positive emotional connections.
So, what are some of the things to say to your spouse to deepen your connection?
Make a conscious effort to incorporate more positive comments, phrases, or questions into your conversations with your partner.
The following dialogue illustrates some ways Amanda and Erik were able to do this when they reunited at the end of the day.
Erik: “Can you tell me more about your day?” These words express love curiosity while helping your partner get more comfortable with being vulnerable.
Amanda: “Something I’m challenged with right now is my principal’s attitude toward me. It feels like I can’t do anything right.” Amanda’s response shows Erik that she trusts him enough to be transparent about her negative feelings about her supervisor.
Erik: “I’m trying to understand what you’re dealing with. Since I don’t work in a school, can you give me an example of what you’re dealing with? Erik’s response shows empathy and a desire to connect more deeply with Amanda.
Amanda: “It means a lot to me that you care enough to ask. I’m too tired to go into details right now but let’s just say, it really feels like you’re here for me and that makes me happy.”
At the onset of a new relationship, there is a lot of passion and excitement, but what sustains a happy and healthy relationship is fostering emotional intimacy by being vulnerable and building trust day by day.
Once the daily stressors of living together set in, it can be a challenge for couples to extend good will to each other and to remain committed to achieving emotional attunement daily.
The primary way couples can do this is by deepening their attachment through a daily dialogue that is transparent without fear of abandonment or loss of love.
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.
More by Terry Gaspard