Tips for Men on Growing Intimacy in Marriage
Emotional intimacy is a key component to a healthy marriage. When emotional intimacy is lacking, a marriage can suffer. Maintaining emotional intimacy requires work and attention. Restoring emotional intimacy after it is lost can be a lot tougher than working hard to preserve it along the way.
Defining Emotional Intimacy
Emotional intimacy is generally defined as a closeness in which both partners feel secure and loved and in which trust and communication abound. When you are emotionally intimate with your spouse, you may feel as if you can see into the other’s soul, knowing their hopes, dreams, and fears and understanding them at a deep level. Relationships that lack emotional intimacy are often characterized by a lack of trust, poor communication, secrets, and hidden emotions.
Recognizing a Lack of Emotional Intimacy
Sometimes, couples don't develop emotional intimacy in the first place or lose it after a while. Ideally, both partners will work on maintaining and building intimacy. It's important to recognize your part in building emotional intimacy and being emotionally available.2
Often, couples don't recognize the signs when emotional intimacy is lacking. For example, a spouse may be blindsided when a husband announces that they want to leave the marriage. Looking back more closely over the years of their marriage, they may recall times when there was an emotional distance between them.
How to Increase Intimacy in Your Marriage
If your marriage seems to be lacking in emotional intimacy, there are a number of things that you and your partner can do to strengthen and deepen emotional intimacy.2
Silence the Electronics
Deep and meaningful emotional intimacy in a relationship depends on the quality of human interaction. Texting and emailing are important ways for you to get practical things done and to stay in touch when you are apart and too busy to talk.
Consider turning off the computer, television, video game console, cell phone, and tablet when you are together and spend some time talking, sharing, and looking each other in the eye. One tool that many successful couples use is silencing their cell phones and dropping them in a little basket or box by the door as they come home and agreeing to leave them off for at least an hour or two when they are together.
Electronic communication can be a barrier to real emotional intimacy. Work emails, social media, and entertainment can be never-ending and easily grow into distracting habits that interfere with your solid, human, one-on-one interaction.
Increase Your Time Spent Together
It can be hard to find time together as a couple. Having children in the home can often magnify that difficulty. One family therapist shared the idea of committing 30 minutes each evening to uninterrupted time with a spouse after the kids are in bed. Take care of tasks together, like dishes and grocery shopping, so that things can get done faster and you can spend more time together as partners. Similarly, having a cup of coffee together at a set time every weekend so that can help you feel relaxed and able to engage in good conversation.
A weekly date night, lunch together once or twice a week, or regular walks around your neighborhood can increase the time you spend together. Making time to focus on each other without the kids or other distractions is critical to maintaining emotional intimacy.
Be Emotionally Available for Your Spouse
After years together, couples inevitably learn what might hurt their partners. Kind and loving partners who avoid hurting each other help each other feel loved, valued, and safe. When we make the environment safe for our spouses, emotional intimacy finds its place.
Unfortunately, many people have experienced hostility from those who they trusted, felt unloved, or learned bad relationship habits. If you have a habit of belittling or emotionally attacking those who are close to you, these habits will sabotage intimacy, creating a wall in your marriage.1
Read a Good Book Together
Reading a book together and discussing what you are reading can be a good vehicle for increasing emotional intimacy. There are some great books about strengthening marriage that you can read together, but you can also choose a novel, biography, or a book about a common interest. The fact that you are reading together and talking about what you read can strengthen the trust and communication aspects of emotional intimacy, giving you a chance to share your feelings and insights without judging each other.
Seek a Balance Between Self and the Couple
The strongest marriage relationships have two interdependent partners. Each one has rich hobbies, a professional life, or a social life, and they come together to invest in the marriage relationship. Too much togetherness can be a bad thing if it deprives the relationship of the energy and experiences that interdependence brings. So, make sure to engage in some good self-care as a husband and father, and allow your spouse to do the same. And then come together as a secure and trusting couple.
Put Together a "Fun List"
Counselor Dr. Tony Ferretti recommends that couples assemble what a list of things that the couple enjoys doing together, and then carve out time to do the things on the fun list. Spending time in pursuits you enjoy together can build shared memories and experiences while strengthening emotional intimacy. Think about things you did when you were dating or newlyweds that made you enjoy time together, and consider putting them on your fun list. Explore activities that you have always wanted to try. Then make sure that you are doing something on the fun list on a regular basis.
Consider Marriage Enrichment Activities
Most communities, churches and civic organizations hold marriage enrichment classes or marriage retreats for couples. A lot of couples find that this kind of investment in their relationship pays big dividends.
Getting into a structured setting with other couples and a professional counselor or clergy can really help develop a deeper and stronger marriage relationship. This kind of focused commitment to improving emotional intimacy can be a big investment of time but may bring significant returns.
Get Help When You Need It
If you feel your emotional relationship heading downward, you may want to consider seeking help from a family therapist. You may have grown apart, hurt each other without meaning to, avoided intimacy for personal reasons, or become distracted by the demands of life. These problems can often be solved with dedication, time, and sincere attention.2
The Payoff of Emotional Intimacy
Having strong emotional bonds in a marriage relationship is important and worth the effort. Taking some steps in the direction of strengthening emotional intimacy in marriage is a vital thing to do and demonstrates your commitment to a long, strong and happy marriage.1 And that strong marriage helps you be a better father and man, as well as being an amazing husband.