There was a time before the modern age when you married for financial stability. Or for survival. Or to create alliances for political reasons. Emotional intimacy would have been nice, but not required in those long-ago days.
But today, emotional intimacy is paramount. It’s the main thing we want out of a marriage—to feel connected to another human being who loves and understands us. We want to be a team—two together facing the world’s problems and conquering them. We want to be each other’s champion. And we want even more—we want a partner who will inspire us to be our best selves and who will journey with us in the adventure of life. The key to all that is emotional intimacy. Without it, many marriages fail.
What happened to that emotional intimacy?
Many marriages start with emotional intimacy, but over time, it erodes. Couples get busy—they have work or family crises that need attending to, and their spouse gets put on the back burner until later, and later never seems to come. Sometimes there are conflicts that never get resolved, resentment builds, and couples have too much hurt to bridge. Emotional intimacy recedes further and further. And sometimes, marriages even begin without emotional intimacy because being vulnerable, and letting your spouse into your innermost thoughts, can be scary and something to avoid.
Is your marriage emotionally distant?
As obstacles to your emotional intimacy present themselves, it’s natural to cope by detaching yourself and becoming more distant. This creates a downward spiral effect, distancing you more and more. Here are some ways you might feel:
Lonely. It’s tough to be with someone and still feel lonely. You are in the same bed, at the same dinner table, going through life together but alone. It’s one of the saddest feelings there is.
Lack of Affection. If you are emotionally distant, one of the first casualties is a loss of affection. The casual touch, the goodnight kiss, the hand-holding, cuddling and sex. These things tend to fade away as your emotional connection erodes. The lack of physical intimacy exacerbates the tension in your relationship.
Conversations Are Lackluster. Your conversations are mostly about logistics and perfunctory topics. Do you need to take the car in for an oil change? Does the dog need a check-up at the vet’s? There are no more talks about how you feel and think and what you aspire to do with your life. Sharing personal thoughts is often a casualty of an emotionally distant marriage.
Loss of Empathy. You used to feel connected enough to know how your partner felt, what movies she would like, and what restaurants you should try. But now, that understanding and sharing is growing dim. And it’s hard to offer your partner empathy when you feel he doesn’t make any attempt to be empathetic to you.
Always Arguing. Where you used to avoid constant disagreement, it is now easily triggered. Couples fight all the time about the standard topics—sex, money, household chores—but now every little thing seems to trigger disagreement. You’re loading the dishwasher wrong. You left the bathroom a mess. You’re both feeling irritated too much of the time.
Managing Your Partner’s Emotions. You’re afraid to say something for fear your partner will get angry. You watch your behavior so you can avoid setting off your partner. You’re taking on the monumental task of managing your partner’s emotions. It’s an exhausting endeavor, and very difficult to keep up.
Thinking of Getting Out. You no longer support each other. Your intimate connection has faded. You no longer have your needs met, and you begin to think how you might have them met with a different partner. You feel like something needs to change.
Something does need to change. But it doesn’t mean you have to go your separate ways. You can rebuild emotional intimacy. We’ll talk about how to do it next time.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact