Better Communication: Better Intimacy

Posted: June 11, 2011 in Love and Marriage
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Intimacy implies so much more than sex, but that’s what most people think of when that word is used.  It’s the part of a relationship that should be reserved for marriage, but without emotional intimacy, a sexual relationship, even between spouses, can be hollow and dysfunctional.  Sexuality should be a loving product of the relationship, not the point, or the driving force to it.

Mort Fertel, who I’ve previously referenced in this blog, says the two most important keys to a good sex life are physical condition and emotional intimacy.  The physical part is a pretty easy fix.  If you’re not in shape, get to work, and you’ll get there.  Anyone who commits to physical fitness can achieve the results.

The emotional part can be more elusive.  One thing became painfully clear to me during our separation and it now seems so obvious, I don’t know how I missed it.  Two unhealthy people can’t have a healthy marriage.  It doesn’t even make sense.  If the people in the marriage are struggling with personal issues, those problems will be part of the relationship.

If these are significant issues, then each person will have to get well as an individual. This may mean therapy, as I needed, or being healed by God’s love and grace, which my wife experienced.  Whatever problems you have apart from the marriage, you will still have within the marriage.  Finding someone to love does not make these go away. It may temporarily take your mind off them, but they will still be there, and they will affect you.

For the small stuff, and, to dismiss another popular cliché, it’s not all small stuff, the secret is incredibly simple.  It’s communication.  You have to tell your partner what you think and feel.  He or she can’t read your mind, and it’s selfish and immature to assume that your spouse “should know.”

I used to keep everything inside, and resent my wife, who not only hadn’t done anything wrong, she didn’t even know there was anything wrong.  Then, at some point, I would blow up.  Whatever was going on at the time would usually have little or nothing to do with what I was upset about.  It just reached a certain point and I unloaded.  Nothing was accomplished except that my wife would get hurt, and I would feel bad.

During those first few days that my wife and I were back together,  and before we had talked everything out, the stress of the uncertainty about our relationship was affecting me in the bedroom.  I’ve never had issues there before, and it really caused me some anxiety, which only made it worse.  I decided to talk to my therapist about it.

He told me it was very common under the circumstances, and that it almost certainly wasn’t a physical problem, but an emotional one.  He said that we should take things slow and talk everything out, and that the problem would most likely go away on its own.  At my next appointment, I told him, “I took your advice about talking everything out, but didn’t follow the advice about taking things slow, and as far as that problem going away, oh yeah…it did!”

It was the open, honest communication that created the emotional intimacy.  That led to a new level of physical intimacy that wouldn’t have been possible without it.  We began applying that same communication to every area of our lives. If I had a question about something, I asked.  If something bothered me, I said so, instead of telling myself it wasn’t important, and my wife started doing the same.  We were careful to say it in loving, non-accusational ways, and it created a mutual trust and understanding that kept the air clear and brought us closer than we’d ever been.

As an example, my wife likes to play video games and I don’t.  For her, they are a way to “disconnect” for a time, especially when work has been stressful.  I used to see it as her disconnecting from me and I would resent the time she spent playing.  We had never talked about it.  Now, I willingly give her time to play because I know it blesses her, and she willingly limits her game time to make sure to give me the time and attention I need.  Additionally, we discovered that I do like to play kinect and we bought one so we can play together.

Just last night, my wife was talking about something and she stopped herself and said, “That’s the old way of thinking.”  I asked her what she meant and she said, “Hoping you’ll figure out that I don’t want to go instead of just saying so.”  It really is a new way of thinking, and it leads to a new way of acting.  We communicate openly about everything, and we’ve never been closer.


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