Want to Keep the Romance Alive?
Thousands of blog posts, video clips and books come out every year on how to keep the romance alive in marriages. They usually range from ideas like going out for candle-light dinners and massages all the way to taking luxurious trips together. While these ideas can be helpful to keep the romance alive, an even more effective approach (and far cheaper) is cultivating emotional intimacy. By definition, emotional intimacy is knowing the inner world of your spouse, what makes them tick, what their greatest hopes are, what their greatest fears are. Getting to know your spouse on this level requires intentionality because thoughts and feelings change often. What does emotional intimacy have to do with romance and physical intimacy? Everything! For the majority of women, they cannot be physically bare until they are emotionally bare. All too often in my private practice, I hear men complain about the lack of sexual frequency in their marriage; yet, they are doing little to nothing to cultivate the emotional intimacy. Most women are unable and unwilling to become sexually intimate until they feel emotionally connected. Women crave emotional sex to the same extent that men crave physical sex. Emotional sex involves non-sexual touch, spending quality time together, and sharing intimate thoughts and feelings. The more women receive this, the more they naturally want to become sexually intimate. The reverse is also true. If a woman feels like she is only touched when her husband wants sex, he spends little to no quality time with her, and he rarely shares from his own heart and listens to hers, her desire for sexual intimacy will dry up quickly.
One of the best ways to cultivate emotional intimacy is to do a daily head/heart check. Psychologist John Gottman talks about the importance of the head/heart check becoming daily book ends for couples. The first head/heart check should take no more than 5-10 minutes and is done in the morning before a couple goes their separate ways for the day. The head is anything on your agenda for the day, such as appointments, tasks you must get done and deadlines you must make. The heart is what you are feeling and why. A good guide to this is mad, sad, glad or fear, and why. Feelings can usually be fueled on two levels. The first is they can be connected to the agenda (head) items for the day, such as feeling mad about an appointment you have with a supervisor you dislike. Second, feelings can be totally unrelated to the tasks of the day and instead be an undercurrent you’re feeling, such as sadness because of problem in an important friendship or fear over your job security.
The mad, sad, glad, or fear and why approach can be really helpful for men in particular because it provides a concrete guide on how to share their feelings. Most men get flustered when asked to share their feelings because it sounds so foreign to them. But, this approach tends to be easily understood and applied. Moreover, this approach illustrates to men that they don’t have to fabricate feelings that aren’t there to cultivate emotional closeness, but rather just put words to what’s already there. The second head/heart check should take anywhere from 30-60 minutes and should occur sometime before the couple goes to bed at night. This is time for both spouses to follow up on the items shared from the morning, such as, “How did that appointment go today with your supervisor?” or “How’s your sadness you discussed this morning about your friend?”
Following this daily rhythm can be one of the most effective methods for cultivating emotional closeness in a marriage. Having your spouse know your inner world and being continually tuned into you through this technique can feel extremely comforting and connecting. And, you guessed it--as feelings of emotional connection skyrocket, sexual intimacy will be close behind.