3 Habits Of Successful Couples: How To Cultivate Emotional Intimacy
When it comes to honesty in marriage, we often get the same general list of questions:
Do you have to talk about everything?
Is keeping secrets from your spouse ever okay?
Are secrets always a hindrance to becoming “one” in your marriage?
The issue of secrets in marriage is one of the more divided conversations among marriage counselors and pastors today. One camp finds it acceptable, depending on the circumstance and emotional framework of the partners. Others find the very thought of secret-keeping appalling. And yet whenever we are asked these questions, we always encourage couples to ask themselves this question:
Are you willing to take the risk to speak the truth in love to each other in order to know the other person and be known?
Knowing and being known is not only fundamental to all of humanity, but it’s the most basic foundation of real, intimate relationships. Healthy intimacy exists between two people who both know and are known by each other in a deep, personal way. The personal connection allows them to respect and honor that priceless gift given to them by their spouse.
Accomplishing this kind of intimacy is, of course, not easy. It is a commitment you make and continue to make on a daily basis. This kind of intimacy must be become a lifestyle – not an isolated event.
From the time we’ve spent cultivating intimacy in our own marriage – and our time working with other couples – we want to give you these 3 lifestyle habits that successful couples implement well:
- THEY MAKE THE CHOICE TO LIVE WITH NOTHING HIDDEN.
Leanne Payne wrote, “The unconfessed is the unhealed.” You cannot keep secrets compartmentalized inside your heart, away from life and relationships. They will pollute even those things that are true and right and beautiful, staining them with their own darkness until one can no longer distinguish between the “real” and the “presented.” We cannot choose to live in deception and be led by the Spirit of Truth at the same time.
Sadly, we – and our marriages – will continue to be as distant and lonely as the secrets we keep.
Too many of us have gone too long hiding our true selves from our spouse; it may take us days – maybe weeks – to show them who we really are. It may take even longer to build trust and intimacy. If this is your current situation, don’t be discouraged – here is a good place to start.
We challenge you to ask yourself this question, “What have I kept hidden from my spouse that I need to tell them?”
Are you willing to let go of your secrets to have intimacy with the one you love?
George MacDonald says, “Few delights can equal the mere presence of the one whom we trust utterly.” You cannot trust your spouse utterly when secrets exist between you.
Are you willing to trust being truthful in love more than anything that you fear or desire?
- BE QUICK TO RECONCILE AND FORGIVE.
Even while trying our best to love in our marriage, we will hurt each other. We have developed some simple but very effective tools to reconcile hearts wounded in relationship. This reconciliation goes beyond acknowledging wrong and asking for forgiveness. In order to reconcile we must allow ourselves to feel the pain that we have put our spouse through and then put that pain into words that they can identify with. If we refuse to forgive our spouse, we have placed an impenetrable barrier to intimacy in our marriage. We don’t forgive because the other person deserves it; we forgive because Jesus forgave us and He tells us to forgive. Many people invite torment into their lives and marriage because they refuse to forgive. (Matt 18:34-35) Thorough forgiveness goes beyond forgiving the offending behavior and requires forgiveness for all the painful effects resulting from the other person’s behavior.
- DON’T FORGET TO LOVE YOURSELF.
If you don’t like the gift you’re giving, you’re not going to give it freely.
Another step in cultivating intimacy is learning to love yourself. Sometimes the idea of loving ourselves becomes confused with self-indulgence and following our feelings. Rather, we learn to love ourselves by being able to see ourselves the way God sees us and living in such a way that we will feel good about ourselves before Him.
The truth is that if we feel guilt about something we’re doing or shame in who we are, we won’t ever get vulnerable with anyone. When we keep shame and guilt hidden, the enemy speaks lies to us about our identity. But when we love ourselves by accepting the truth of who Jesus says we are, living openly and intimately with others can become an ongoing lifestyle!
*From the book Marriage Hacks.
by Barry & Lori Byrne