The Key Ingredient to Creating a Lasting Marriage

There are many pieces that work together to create a positive, fulfilling, and healthy marriage. If those pieces made up a puzzle, emotional intimacy would be the centerpieces. They are the pieces that are the most difficult to put together, but are oftentimes the most colorful and beautiful part of the puzzle. Without them the puzzle would be dull and incomplete. With them you have a beautiful piece of art. You can have a relationship with little to no emotional intimacy, but it will be hardly bearable at its best and completely intolerable at its worst.

So what exactly is emotional intimacy?

These two words get thrown around so much, sometimes the meaning can get lost in translation. Emotional intimacy can be described as the feelings of love, trust, acceptance and respect created by the willingness of each person to share personal and vulnerable thoughts and feelings. The more open and transparent each person is, while maintaining a non-judgmental and accepting posture with one another, the more emotional intimacy is created. Emotional intimacy doesn’t just happen between two people in a romantic relationship, but can also happen in other types of relationships. Although this blog focuses on emotional intimacy within a marriage, it is crucial to every relationship, not just between romantic partners. Emotional intimacy is powerful and a critical part of any trans-formative relationship.

The Power of Emotional Intimacy

The power of emotional intimacy is that it transforms relationships and creates stability, empowerment, freedom, and deep fulfillment.

Stability

When emotional intimacy is created within a relationship it provides stability and grounding for each person. To be able to share our deepest insecurities and painful past with someone, who doesn’t run away or shut us down, provides an unbelievable amount of security. The simple truth is that most people aren’t willing or able to provide that. We usually have our defenses up because we have all encountered painful rejection in the past and we try our best to avoid that by keeping things surface level. Sometimes we don’t share because we don’t want to drive the other person away.

If you are able to share those deep, and sometimes painful, parts of yourself without being rejected or abandoned, then it draws you closer to your spouse. Over time you and your spouse begin to realize that you aren’t going anywhere and you’re both willing to stick together no matter what. This closeness gives you a sense of peace and security that is incredibly satisfying and undoubtedly hard to find.

Freedom and Empowerment

Our deepest pains and insecurities are infamous for holding us hostage. Maybe one of yours is that you think and feel that you are boring and uninteresting. Feeling that way can keep you from reaching out to people and connecting with others because you think you don’t have anything interesting to offer. When you add emotional intimacy to that insecurity (a spouse who takes the time to listen to you and your ‘boring’ thoughts and feelings while being non-judgmental and accepting) then you might start to question how boring and uninteresting you actually are. I mean if someone wants to sit with you and listen to what you have to say, then that contradicts the belief that you are boring and uninteresting. In fact, it might mean that you are kind of a catch.

That process is freeing and empowering. Emotional intimacy gives you the courage to share more and express yourself in ways that you never have before. Once it is created, its effects reach far outside of your marriage and influence your experience at work, within the family, and even while engaging in your hobbies. Emotional intimacy can help you realize that you matter.

Deep Fulfillment

Emotional intimacy leads to deep fulfillment. The fulfillment is, among other things, a love and acceptance that transform us. It is satisfying and comforting to know that someone accepts you for all of you, not just the good parts. It’s also something that can continue to grow within the marriage. The more that you commit to being vulnerable and open with one another, while being willing to listen and accept one another, the greater your love for one another grows. This can be the bedrock of your marriage and one of the most satisfying and rewarding feelings you will ever experience.

 

It is so easy to be swept away by our every-day routines. Work has a way of carrying into your off time, the list of errands you need to run is endless, and maintaining a social life on top of everything else is difficult, to say the least. All of these things are important, but spending quality time with your spouse is crucial. Whether you choose to go out on a date or have some time for yourselves at home, use the time to share with one another. Don’t use the time to just share facts about your week, but also your feelings about things. Be there for one another by being accepting, generous in your assumptions, and willing to listen. As you perfect the process, you add centerpieces to your puzzle. What once was a puzzle with missing centerpieces will become a beautiful piece of art.

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Dealing With Your Anger (Part Two)

Despite the fact that anger can be destructive, it can also be a useful and a healthy emotion when expressed appropriately. Anger is a signal that you have a need that hasn’t been met. Anger has been used in healthy ways to motivate people to change themselves and the world.

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Without lashing out and hurting others, anger can be a central piece in motivating people to make life-changing decisions for themselves and others. One example is the feeling that comes from experiencing social injustice. When a particular group or class of people is being treated poorly based on things such as their race or socioeconomic status, it is useful for anger to motivate a response to the injustice. This doesn’t mean saying hurtful things or physically harming others. Rather, it means speaking up for what is true and right and pushing for change. This motivation and action accompanied with an audience that is ready to listen and respond provide a space to be understood and cared for by others.

Since anger itself isn’t a bad emotion and instead is a healthy and useful one, what is next? Knowing that anger can be destructive on the one hand and useful on the other only gets us so far.

Getting control over the anger throttle, for those of us who struggle with its overwhelming forces at times, is the next step in harnessing its usefulness. Here are some useful tips for dealing with anger’s strong and powerful grip:

Be On Guard

Be on alert for anger’s warning signs. This comes from understanding what your body’s usual response is to anger. Pay attention to whether or not you feel that burning sensation in your chest, ball in your throat, or the tensing of your arms or hands. If you are attempting to be alert regarding when anger is about to show up, it gives you the advantage to prepare and respond appropriately.

 

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STOP!

Once you realize it is coming or is already here, stop! If you are in a heated argument with your significant other, then table the discussion if you can or walk away and take a minute to return. This is especially important early on when you are trying to gain control of your anger. Continuing to fight or argue has the potential to leave you spinning your wheels without gaining any traction. The more you leave your wheels spinning, the more your tread wears down leaving you unable to move forward.

 

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Breathe

This is one of the most important steps. To put the brakes on your anger, you need to breathe. If you do not activate your parasympathetic nervous system, by breathing, it is like trying to fight a war with a Swiss Army Knife. Pulling out those small scissors won’t get you very far here. There are several different structures for parasympathetic breathing, but one that I have found to work is to start inhaling and begin to count to 4 slowly. Once you get to 4, start to exhale and begin to count to 4 again. After you finish, start the process over again until you begin to notice your body relax and your anger level significantly drop. Respond. Now that you have executed steps 1 through 3 you are ready to respond to whatever made you angry. You should now have the ability to think clearly and respond with a better and more thoughtful response. The boss who was angry at his employees doesn’t need to yell every time now. Instead, he can pitch to his employees what he expects of them without losing it and why he has such expectations. Now if he decides to correct his employees or even let them go, it is from a place of clarity and understanding instead of from a place of unbridled rage in the heat of the moment. Things would be similar to the now calm spouse. When their significant other doesn’t do something they ask, they now don’t have to jump to the conclusion that it is because they don’t care or think that their needs are unimportant.

 

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Seek Help

If you find yourself stuck and unable to move forward from constant irritation or anger, seek professional help. Therapists go through extensive training in understanding and treating issues such as anger. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is the gift of counseling from someone who understands and can help.

These tips are a few ways to manage and control anger. Anger can be a cumbersome problem, but there is hope to overcome its sometimes powerful grip. If you find yourself continuing to be stuck even after going through these tips, reaching out and getting professional help is something you can do for yourself and those around you. It may seem far out of reach, but there is hope. If you have any questions about counseling feel free to send me an email or if you would like to schedule an appointment you can click on the link below.

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Dealing With Your Anger (Part One)

Getting angry is easy, but dealing with its effects can be anything but that. When you get angry your breathing becomes more rapid, your heart rate increases, your muscles tense up, and you narrow in on whatever provoked your anger. Whether you were cut off in traffic, yelled at by your boss, or talked down to by your spouse or friend, the effects of one episode of anger can last for a long period of time even after the situation is over that caused the anger to surface.

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If you deal with frequent anger, you know what it is like to lose control. It feels good in the moment and it seems as if you have to get it out or it will continue to build until you lose it. People around you, whether they be close friends or family, all know too well what you are like when you get pissed off. Maybe some people walk on eggshells around you because they have been hurt by your outbursts in the past while other less familiar people may know you as the over-passionate person who always seems to be irritated or worked up about something. If you are a boss, there is almost a guarantee your employees are atrophying from your constant frustration, and if you are in a relationship, your significant other is bound to be hurt by your lack of control and painful remarks.

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Anger in Relationships

Uncontrolled anger puts you in an ironic predicament of attempting to gain control by losing it. At times, it can seem to be working, but over time, after consistent outbursts, it does just the opposite. Yelling at your employees to get things done works at first. Soon though, they will either shrivel from fear of your temper, which can cripple their ability to get things done, or leave the company hoping to find a boss who doesn’t blow up on them every chance they get. Within the context of a relationship with a significant other, things aren’t much different. Depending upon the spouse, they may shrivel in fear or match your anger with their own. Regardless, over time, there will be a lack of intimacy and connection, leading to drifting apart, which can feel like living with a stranger.

Relevant Reading:

https://revivecounsel.com/making-marriage-last/

Anger Underneath The Surface

Anger isn’t what it seems on the surface. Underneath the raised voice and red face is oftentimes a lack of support and fulfillment. The angry boss and spouse long for support and connection, and when they don’t get it, they lash out, attempting to control people or situations to get that support. Whether that’s projects done on time or the chores done around the house, it is all an attempt at connection and support. The angry boss has his own boss, who demands results, and he needs his employees to perform or he will get into serious trouble. So when he asks his employees to get things done, and they don’t, it seems like a personal attack and he becomes angry. The same goes for the angry spouse. They ask for the chores to be done because when they weren’t done before mom or dad got home growing up, they were punished or ridiculed.

So now a messy house brings up feelings of anxiety and whenever their significant other refuses to do chores, it seems like they don’t care about them or how they feel.

What Now?

Anger is not simple. It is layered and can exist on the surface of deep hurt and pain. Usually, the stronger and more pervasive the anger, the deeper and more complex the hurt and pain is right below it. We long for connection and support, and the more we continue to face rejection and unmet needs, the more we become defensive to protect ourselves from the vulnerable place of being hurt over and over. That protection and defense can be anger.

Luckily, there is hope. Anger does not have to be something that overpowers you in the moment. Instead, if you make some adjustments, it becomes a great ally. Part two of this blog explores some tips for dealing with your anger and harness its usefulness as your great ally.

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The Cost Of Perfection

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When life gives a perfectionist lemon, they make lemonade alright. In fact, they make lemonade muddled with mint, mixed with pure cane sugar, stirred but not shaken, served over seven ice cubes, and garnished with a lemon twist and one lemon wedge on the edge of the glass.

The good news is that it will probably be a great glass of lemonade. The bad news is that if someone points out that they missed a step or added too much sugar, it could lead to intense stress and maybe even thoughts of “I’m not good enough” or “Everyone thinks I’m a failure”.

 

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Making the best glass of lemonade probably is not the largest concern for most of us. It is more likely that we are worried about being the best employee, student, spouse, or parent. For the perfectionist, it can be all of these. Wanting to be a great employee, student, spouse, or parent is a wonderful thing.

The problem comes whenever the perfectionist makes a mistake, such as making a B on a paper, forgetting to grab an item at the grocery store, missing an error on a report at work, or forgetting that your kid was supposed to be at basketball practice yesterday, which can be enough to cause significant stress, fear of failure, or anxiety for the perfectionist.

The anxiety can spiral into thoughts like “I’m such a failure”, “I’m useless,” or “I can’t do anything right.” Sometimes these thoughts do not go away and stick around for a while. When they do, it is not surprising to see more anxiety or depression begin to surface.

The cost of being perfect is not limited to the perfectionist. Not only is perfectionism responsible for suffering in their life, but others, such as their spouse, friends, family, co-workers, or subordinates can experience similar struggles. Since a perfectionist is very critical of their own performance, they can be equally critical of others. Therefore, they expect perfection not only from themselves but from most people around them. If they have to put so much work into everything that they do, why should anyone else be off the hook? Unfortunately, holding others to this impossible level of performance can lead to the same intense stress that the perfectionist deals with on a daily basis. This stress can create wedges in their relationships, which can either drain the other person or push them away. This is unfortunate because a huge factor in relieving the perfectionist’s stress is positive and supporting relationships. When the very support they need is taken away, they are left to deal with their feelings of anxiety or depression all on their own.

The cost of being perfect adds up, and the bill only gets more costly with time. If you have suffered from the perils that come with having to be perfect, I hope that you find healing. The good news is that there are ways to deal with these impossible expectations and the feelings that come along with them. An important one is to extend grace to yourself and accept yourself for who you are, mistakes and all. The road to self-acceptance can be a long and windy one, but the reward is well worth the travel.

Recommended Reading:

https://revivecounsel.com/importance-of-self-care-why-caring-for-yourself-is-caring-for-all/

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