Emotional Openness


Those of you who are married, are you able to have an intimate conversation with your spouse? And when I say, “intimate,” I’m not using a code word for talking about sex, although the conversation may be about that. I’m talking about any conversation that involves a lot of emotional openness from both of you. That conversation could be about hopes, dreams, disappointments, unmet expectations, or anything you’re feeling vulnerable about. The conversation might be deeply connected to your marriage, or it could be about something completely different.

Believe it or not, I meet so many couples who would say, “No, we can’t have an intimate conversation.” Typically, one of the people in the relationship may desperately want to have those deep and meaningful conversations. And it isn’t always that their partner doesn’t want to have intimate talks. Rather, the other person might even say that they do want to have those types of conversations, but just isn’t capable of actually opening up when it comes time to do so.

Maybe they can’t do it because it’s just too difficult or they fear they might feel manipulated. Or maybe they know it will require them to change something about their behavior, and the level of emotional openness and connectedness that it would require makes them feel too vulnerable and exposed. There are all sorts of reasons that couples don’t end up having intimate conversations as often as they should.

The reality is that the marriages that continue to grow and reach the next level are between people who are able to have conversations—not explosions—even about topics that are difficult, uncomfortable, and require vulnerability. If you find that your marriage doesn’t have much in the way of intimate conversations, I want to encourage you to work to change that. Try to bring up a topic that would require some openness from both of you. If you have one or two “big topics” that you know you need to deal with, I suggest that you start out with something a little smaller until you’re no longer new to it. You need to crawl before you can run!

If you find that these conversations are too intimidating or challenging for one or both of you, keep at it! Doing new things isn’t easy (or fun) the first time. This is the emotional equivalent of going to the gym, and you don’t need to try to run an emotional marathon or attempt an emotional powerlift on the first day! You can work at it, little by little, and watch your marriage grow and flourish as you both let your partner into more and more areas of your lives.

However, that won’t be the immediate result for every couple. If you and your spouse are genuinely making an effort to cultivate intimacy and keep running into problems, I’d encourage you to reach out to a counselor who is specifically trained and gifted in helping couples work through communication difficulties and roadblocks. You don’t have to face this challenge alone, and you certainly are not the first or only couple to run into challenges when it comes to emotional intimacy. Whether it’s something you can develop through conversation with each other or through conversation together with a counselor or coach, I can promise that developing emotional openness will result in winning more often at home!