The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

Your Marriage Needs an Intimacy Checkup

Sept. 14, 2016

Intimacy is one of the deepest needs of the human heart. We all crave it and we all enjoy it when we experience it in our marriages. Today, you need to pause and consider how you’re doing on the intimacy in your marriage. We experience and express intimacy in different ways, so think of this as an intimacy checkup. You go to your family doctor for your annual physical, well, today is your annual relational! Intimacy Self-Evaluation We put together a self-assessment which is a perfect tool to go along with this article. Download and work through the self-evaluation of how intimacy is working in your mind, your heart, your soul, and your body, and you’ll have a picture of where your strengths lie and also where your growth areas are.I Want It! Intimacy is a full person experience: it’s your mind, heart, soul and body all in one. In the world of marriage research, we talk about cognition, emotion, physical intimacy, and spiritual intimacy. Rather than get all “woo woo” talking about intimacy, we want to keep it very real. Intimacy is nothing more than an exchange or a mutual interaction.[i] It’s a sharing between two people. You can share your thoughts, your emotions, your spirituality, and your body. When you share all of those things in a deep way then you have deep intimacy. We’re going to go into each of these areas one by one so you can consider how you’re doing and if it is an area where you need to open up more. But first a caveat: If you’re in an abusive marriage, more intimacy is not going to help. You need safety in order to share more intimately. If you give intimacy to someone who is not safe, you’re really giving them knowledge. And knowledge is power, and if that power is abused it is going to lead to even more hurt. On the other hand, if you’re both healthy people – even if your marriage is unhappy and distressed and you both get your ugly on – becoming more intimate and showing your softer, deeper emotions and thoughts will give your spouse something easier to embrace. If this is reciprocated, you start to create healing and something new and much healthier in your marriage. Cognitive Intimacy: Sharing Your Thoughts Ever used the expression, “A penny for your thoughts!”? Think about that request: we say that when we want to know someone more intimately. When we say “a penny for your thoughts” we’re asking to be invited into the world of their mind. Here’s a good quote from a study in 1993: “The amount of personal information individuals disclose is positively related to how intimate they consider their relationship and positively related to marital satisfaction.”[ii] Remember, we defined intimacy as an exchange. In cognitive intimacy, or in the context of our minds, this is just an exchange of information. When we disclose our thoughts to one another, this is cognitive intimacy. Caleb gave me a man's perspective on this. He said often he has WAY more stuff going through his head than what he verbalizes. (I tend to think out loud, so this is a foreign concept to me…) He has to put sincere effort into disclosing his thoughts. He’s not holding back intentionally, he’s just in his head. But here’s the deal: self-disclosure significantly predicted ratings of intimacy by husbands and wives on a day to day basis, meaning that you feel more intimate if you’re sharing what’s going on in your head. There are a few parts that go with this and you need all of the following parts in order to do this type of intimacy well:[iii] Obvious, but you have to share your thoughts. This is called initial disclosure and is the starting point. Your spouse needs to do the same. The next critical point is called partner responsiveness which just means that the listener has to audibly and visibly react to the disclosure in a way that is relevant to the content that has been shared. Respond in a way that is relevant and that communicates that you understand, you care, and you confirm your spouse’s perspective.

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