Many times as a marriage counselor, I have heard the phrase “he just doesn’t care about me.” Of course there have been many different variations of that phrase, but each time the same thing is meant…“We are not connected emotionally.” Emotional intimacy is one area of intimacy that is the hardest to achieve. There are a couple of reasons for this difficulty.
- Most men are afraid of emotions. As young boys, we were taught that big boys don’t cry. We have been led to believe that we are not supposed to show emotion at any time. Therefore, we do not know how to handle the different aspects of our emotional lives.
- Men and women think differently. Most of the time, men think logically or at least with the analytical side of their brains. Women, for the most part, think emotionally. Women actually have the ability to function with both sides of their brains at the same time. Men do not have that ability.
- Women can have a tendency to rely on their emotions, while men tend to ignore their emotions.
As you can see, connecting emotionally can be very difficult. God did not wire us the same way, but at the same time, He did intend for us to “be one together.”
Empathy is the word that keeps coming to my mind as I think about Emotional Intimacy. dictionary.com identifies empathy as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” In other words, empathy means “I know what you are feeling and I am feeling that with you.” This meaning is different than the word sympathy. Sympathy means “I’m feeling for you.” You can sympathize with someone without feeling empathy. Your sympathy does not always lead to an emotional connection nor does it enhance a relationship. Empathy will do both. How can we find this emotional connection? How can we develop emotional intimacy?
- Create a safe environment for your spouse to share emotions. If you get mad at your spouse when he/she is upset, then you are not safe to be emotional around. If your spouse shares something that is bothering him/her, you cannot become defensive. When you show defensiveness, you are telling your mate that you do not care about their feelings. Wives need emotional security. They need to know that they are loved in spite of their feelings or emotions on that particular day.
- Learn to listen between the lines. Listen for the tone of voice and watch the body language of your mate. Much of our emotions can be seen in those two areas of communication. Our words do not make up the majority of our speech, that is why it is imperative that we learn to listen for more than just the words.
- Listen for understanding…not just to answer back. We, both men and women, can be guilty of listening just enough to know what we want to say next. When we are doing this, we are not truly listening. We can not understand our mate without listening with our whole self.
- Learn to care about what your mate cares about. This point is trying at times. We are opposites many times. We like different things. We want to do different things. We know about different things. If we want to be emotionally connected, we have to learn about the issues that are important to our spouse. Ask questions about whatever is important…”why is this important to you?” “Can you explain this subject so that I might be able to understand?” “Can you teach me?” Do not do this sarcastically, but rather be genuine.
- Learn to express yourself around your mate. No one can read the other person’s mind. I know that the longer we are together, it seems that my wife can read my mind. She actually answers some of my questions before I can finish asking them. But I know that she cannot read my mind. I have to learn to be open and honest about what I am thinking or feeling. The same is true going the other way as well. She has to be open with me about her feelings.
These five steps seem to be simple enough, right? They take a lot of time and effort on your part to truly connect with your marriage partner. Start working on these steps. Ask where you have fallen short. Listen for an honest answer, without any defense. You will begin to connect in ways that can and will transform your marriage.
How do you try to connect emotionally with your spouse?
Bradley D. Watson, BCBT Directed Path Ministries
After spending more than 25 years on church staffs, God has allowed me to take the experiences and knowledge that I gained to develop a Biblical Counseling ministry. The basis of this ministry is to allow God’s Word to shine on the main issues in peoples’ lives in order to bring His resolutions to problems.