Plus, seven ways to build that emotional intimacy.
Ask anyone who has been in a long-term relationship: The initial passion of their romance waned over time. Your beloved becomes a very human person with strengths and major annoyances that become increasingly challenging and difficult to ignore. We see the fairytale and Hollywood versions of love and wonder why we have failed in our own relationship to live happily ever after.
Let's set the record straight; relationships take work. If you or your partner ignore your relationship, it will grow stale and unsatisfying. Sex alone cannot provide the fullness of emotional connection needed for healthy relationships. In the healthiest and most satisfying relationships, both people work on improving themselves and being there for their chosen spouse or partner. It requires continual emotional growth.
Here are seven ways to build emotional intimacy:
1. Acquire self-knowledge. The more you can understand and know about yourself, the more you can share with your spouse. Guys, how many times have you been asked what you are feeling and your response been, "I don't know?" It may be true that you don't know, but it could be helpful to be curious about what you are feeling. Gals, slow down your talking and ask yourself, "What am I feeling?" Then share your feelings with your man. Stay away from pointing to what he is doing wrong.
In our culture, anger is a "catch-all" emotion. Get to know your deeper emotions. Name the emotions which are driving the anger: Maybe it is disappointment, betrayal, rejection, or loneliness. You can then say, "I feel [emotion] when you [insert a behavior]. It would work better for me if you [provide a solution]." And add: "What do you think?" or "Do you have any ideas that might help?"
2. Be vulnerable. By sharing your feelings, you are exposing a piece of the inner you. This can feel risky or vulnerable. When you expose who you really are, you risk rejection, judgment, shame, and other uncomfortable feelings. Know that these feelings are normal, and everyone feels them. They help you have empathy for others when they share their vulnerabilities with you. When both people are careful with each other's vulnerabilities, a sense of safety and trust is built into your relationship. Vulnerability deepens emotional intimacy.
3. Be trustworthy. Develop your trustworthiness by only agreeing to do what you are willing to do. And following through by actually doing it. If you agree to mow the lawn, then mow the lawn. If you know you can't do something, then say "No." People will trust your word if they know you follow through and do what you say you will do.
4. Be respectful. Always treat others as you want to be treated. Learn to value your spouse's ideas and perceptions. You don't have to change their mind to make them agree with you; just know it's okay to disagree sometimes.
5. Believe that your relationship is more important than either individual's needs. Those couples who protect their relationship above their own individual desires do better and are more satisfied than those who are "me-focused." Focusing on getting your own needs met sets you up to be disappointed with your spouse. If your goal is to have a happy spouse, then you should focus on making sure your spouse's needs are met. When your spouse's emotional needs are met, they are more open and interested in meeting your needs. Now you have a positive feedback cycle instead of a deprivation cycle.
6. Believe that serving your spouse is ultimately best for you. As both of your needs get met, you feel good about yourself and your spouse. As both people benefit from the relationship, your emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy needs are met better than ever.
7. Be a safe person for your spouse. Create a safety zone for your partner free from verbal or physical assaults. The better you treat your spouse, the better you will be treated. This means stopping all put-downs and blaming. Own your mistakes and apologize. After all, how you treat your spouse ultimately affects your safety and stability too.
If you take time to cultivate emotional intimacy through the above list, your sex life will be better than ever. If you and your spouse feel emotionally connected, you both feel better about yourselves and each other, which can lead to a more satisfying sex life. If you like slow, gentle kisses, then tell him. If you prefer Hollywood-style passionate kisses, then ask for that. The point is to talk about your needs and desires and follow through with actions that please your partner. Be curious about when you get off-base with each other, and find a way to connect emotionally. As you meet each other's needs, emotional intimacy grows.