How To Build Emotional Intimacy In Your Marriage
Words By Selena Frederick
We all have countless opportunities for distraction: phones, TV, the internet, work, over-committing to activities at church or with friends, and the list goes on. There is so much fighting for our time, attention, and energy, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Too often, the one who needs and deserves your attention most is the one who loses the fight: your spouse. Please allow me to get a little blunt with you: that needs to stop. If we want a God-honoring, thriving marriage we must make building emotional intimacy in our marriages a priority. Scripture reminds us that our lives are like a mist or a vapor (James 4:14) and that the “thief” wants nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) us—our marriage included.
So how do we combat emotional isolation and emptiness in our marriage? How do we guard and defend our marriage covenant against the temptation to engage and find emotional satisfaction online with someone other than our spouse? Do you hide sin from your husband in hopes that your husband doesn’t find out? When the lines feel blurred and the war between your flesh and spirit wage—how do you respond? Who or or what governs your response? Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you and your husband had a fight or you felt distance from one another. Did you resolve it by allowing your emotions, or how you felt, to dictate your response?
The trouble with emotions is that although they are God-given, powerful, and feel real to us, they can cause hurt, breakdown, and emotional isolation in our marriage if left out-of-control and ungoverned (James 1:20). We need the Lord’s help to filter through, guard, and keep them.
Be Deeply Rooted In Scripture
In order to guard our hearts and combat the raging emotions we face in the heated battles of marriage we must first be deeply rooted in scripture. Charles Spurgeon said, “Visit many good books, but live in the bible.” By being deeply rooted, I don’t mean simply reading a verse every few days; I mean live in the Word, lest we forget that God’s Word is alive and battle-worthy! (Hebrews 4:12).
Scripture paints a continual picture of the beauty of obedience to God’s authority and the fruit or blessings that come from submission to His words rather than how I feel in that moment. Rather than allowing my emotions to rage out of control, I can look to the bible for the truth about God and myself.
In it I read about how God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Galatians 5:22-23 teaches me that the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, self-control (to name a few) and that life in the Spirit is where this fruit is produced.
Friends, daily scripture study is not a check off box on our to-do list—it is, and should be, the well-spring of life and one that we cannot go a day without. And practicing this spiritual discipline with your spouse is one way to experience new levels of emotional intimacy.
Begin with the end in mind.
If reading scripture together feels like a scary request because lately your marriage has felt cold and isolated, or maybe you haven’t ever read scripture aloud together— start with building your friendship while keeping scripture reading as something to work towards as a couple.
After being married for seventeen years, I can confidently say that whenever my husband and I have taken the time to laugh together, or try a new activity we always feel closer afterwards. It’s not easy because it requires us to be intentional.
We must make time to be friends and to become better ones. If we don't, we risk losing closeness as we go from task to task, or from one distraction to another. We don't naturally drift toward health in this area, we drift toward dysfunction. So we must be intentional.
When is the last time you and your husband spent quality time together? Do you recall the last time you and him laughed together so hard that your insides hurt? Or do you remember the last time you made each other feel valued and loved (not just on your anniversary)?
Again, our tendency is to drift into apathy and dysfunction, so how can you make sure you’re spending quality time with your husband?
I’d like to leave you with a few practical steps to get you started:
1) Make dates happen.
Try to schedule standing appointments with each other on your calendar to intentionally block out time and block out distractions. It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive to be edifying. I would also encourage you to find a time that works for you both. Lunch dates or date days have been some of our favorite times to spend together because we aren’t too tired or worn out mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Give each other your best!
2) Have meaningful conversations.
When you are together, put phones away and talk about important things. Talk about Jesus. What has God put on your heart? What are you reading and learning from the Bible? What are you dreaming about? So many times we forget to articulate the most important things on our minds. Ask probing questions and go further in your conversations.
3) Get out of the house.
This might be easier said than done at this moment of history. However, sometimes a short coffee or ice cream date is just the trick. Turn off the TV and get out of the house spontaneously. Go for a walk or a drive. Some of your best moments will happen when you're spontaneous and have no agenda other than being together.
Don’t waste another moment. Make the time. Talk to your husband, get a date on the calendar and make quality time a priority in your marriage. One final thought for the wife who doesn’t know the last time she spent any real time with her husband—pray for soft hearts, and quality conversation. Go into the first date knowing that it might feel a bit awkward at first, you may even have a few disagreements, but stay committed to work through it. Emotional intimacy takes time but it is an investment worth making.