Emotional intimacy may be one of the most important, and most difficult qualities to maintain in a marriage. One reason emotional intimacy is so difficult is that American culture encourages independence, and intimacy requires letting someone else into your life fully. Another reason is that emotional intimacy requires vulnerability, and many things in relationships tempt us to protect ourselves.
My Barriers to Intimacy
As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a loving home, but also a home where defensiveness was the norm between my parents, and between my dad and us kids. Growing up, I developed many defense mechanisms. Sarcasm, countering complaints with my own complaints, and keeping concerns to myself: I became an expert in all of these. Fortunately, as I got older, I learned that I needed to let go of these habits and be vulnerable if I wanted to be emotionally close to my husband.
Breaking down your defenses and becoming vulnerable to your partner is an extremely difficult and tricky business, particularly when conflicts and relationship problems always seem to set you back. The good news is that sharing your world with your partner is a pretty straightforward and low-risk way to connect with your partner while you work toward the deeper changes.
Fighting My Barriers
My husband and I played the Love Maps game we talked about on Wednesday for our date night this week, and felt a small but immediate effect on our closeness to each other. In some ways the game was comforting because there were several questions where the answer my husband thought of for me was even more accurate than what I had thought of myself, and it reminded me of all the ways that he does know me. It also opened up the pathways for more self-disclosure after the game by raising areas for discussion that we had not even thought of.
What You Can Do
Even if you don’t want to play the game (or can’t get your partner to play with you), just giving small self-disclosures can help. If your intimacy is really low, and the thought of sharing sounds frightening, start with small things not related directly to your relationship, then work your way up. Intimacy is difficult, and I can’t promise that this small strategy will change the whole course of your relationship, but it’s certainly a place to start!
PS: If you missed Wednesday’s post about the importance of Love Maps for a healthy marriage, make sure to check it out. There is a huge connection between healthy Love Maps and intimacy!