When people ask Karen and me to explain to them the secret of our marriage, I usually have a one-word answer: God.
God is the secret of our marriage. He is the secret of why we are together. The greatest intimacy that we experience is the spiritual part of our relationship.
That’s why we work hard to create spiritual intimacy in our marriage. But spiritual intimacy requires emotional intimacy. And emotional intimacy means both spouses need to be aware of and understanding of each other’s emotions.
Do you know why couples fight? According to research, the top five subjects of fights between couples are work stress, money, children, sex, and housework. All of these have one thing in common: It’s one spouse not caring how the other spouse feels.
A husband can’t identify with how his wife feels about the kids not being disciplined.
A wife isn’t empathetic when her husband comes home needing to vent about work.
Spouses need validation from each other. Emotions are not always right but they are always real. Whether the other spouse understands or not, a spouse sharing his or her emotions wants to be heard.
Men and women both want to know what they’re feeling is important. You don’t have to agree with each other, but you do need to validate each other.
An important aspect of validating emotions means allowing your spouse the freedom to vent. It doesn’t mean fighting all the time. But it does mean giving your spouse the right to disagree without paying a price. They need to be able to say “That hurt me” or “I’m frustrated” without being ignored or attacked. They need to feel safe.
Without that kind of validation—without empathy and listening without defensiveness—a married couple will struggle to find true emotional intimacy.
Here’s a test of your emotional intimacy. Sit down with each other and ask these kinds of questions:
- Am I doing a good job?
- How can I improve?
- Are your needs being met?
- Am I doing anything that frustrates you?
- What do I do that hurts you?
Early in our marriage, I would never have sat down with Karen and asked her those kinds of questions, because I didn’t want to hear the answers. I definitely wouldn’t have empathized with how she felt.
But today, Karen and I can open up with each other and talk without fear. We check in on our marriage, asking and answering those questions on a regular basis. We both know the other cares about our emotions.
The emotional intimacy that results is one of the keys to our happy marriage.
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today