Those who are alone are not the loneliest; that title belongs to those who find themselves alone in their marriages.
Why do we find ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically isolated from the one we love?
Why does every connection attempt result in conflict?
Why does the person I know the best not know me at all?
What happened to the person I used to know? How did we get here?
There are many roadblocks to intimacy, but poor communication is the most prolific.
How can two walk together unless they have agreed? (Amos 3:3). Scripture teaches that Christians build their lives and relationships on the Rock (Matt. 7:24-25). So, how can a Christian couple build their metaphorical house (life, home, and family) in wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (Pro. 24:3-4) without being on the same page, i.e., communicating with one another as they learn and grow in their personal relationship with Jesus? They can’t, which is why communication is key to an authentic, intimate relationship.
In my practice, I see various forms of poor communication. However, I see one central theme - fear of rejection. Shame is often at the root of this fear. Frequently, an attachment wound is unknowingly activated within the marriage, and the spouse begins to withdraw. This pulling away is the foundation upon which the protective wall between a husband and wife is built.
Typically, pursuers and avoiders find themselves married to one another. The pursuer wants to take a wrecking ball to the wall and “resolve the issue.” At the same time, the avoider is busy fortifying the wall to keep themselves safe.
The best, most effective way to tear down that wall is brick by brick, i.e., slowly, patiently, establishing yourself as a safe person with whom your spouse can be vulnerable. The key to crafting this safety lies in communication (both verbal and non-verbal).
In Sex & Intimacy, I mentioned authentic communication as a foundational skill necessary to cultivate intimacy:
Authentic communication – Communication is more than the transmission of information.
o Listen to your partner without judgment or an agenda.
o Demonstrate active listening, i.e., receive your partner’s message(s), ask clarifying
questions to deepen your understanding, and share what you hear them saying,
allowing them to correct any misunderstandings.
o When sharing, speak for your heart to be heard, not to create distance or
confusion, i.e., do not deflect or project your rejection of a part of yourself onto
your partner. Share your hopes/dreams/desires/pain/shame.
o When your partner asks clarifying questions, receive them as attempts to understand
you, not judge you. Do not be defensive.
As you practice these skills, you are developing the Foundational Traits to Foster Intimacy:
Trustworthiness – Never share your partner’s story. It is his/hers to tell.
Humility – Never forget, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” Your partner doesn’t need judgment or criticism; they need understanding and acceptance.
Love – Place your partner’s vulnerability and need for empathy above your need(s) or agenda, i.e., place their need(s) above your own.
Respect – Honor your partner’s experience. Their journey has helped to shape them into the person that you love.
Angela W. Startz, MAHSC, CCLC