In preparing for marriage many couples appear to possess an umbilical-like bond of closeness and togetherness. Having developed a shared sense of emotional intimacy they seem equipped to deal with life’s joys and tribulations. But the process of accommodating a shared understanding of emotional intimacy is not an easy task for some couples.
The task of reaching a shared sense of intimacy requires openness, intimate disclosure and attentiveness to one another in all aspects of life. It requires a total giving and a willing outpouring of the inner emotional world. And if one partner has heretofore been accustomed to an autonomous world that revolved around the self, there can be enormous inner resistance to departing from this security of self. Though the rewards of being in love and togetherness are obvious, partners do not like abandoning earlier freedoms and yielding to the influence of the other. While the attraction of drawing closer is ever present there are inherent feelings of vulnerability and anxiety for some partners.
If he finds out about my issues of trust will he reject me? Will she laugh and belittle me if I she knows all about me? Will he abandon me and think I’m weak? If she discovers I cannot really express my feelings, will she stop loving me?
Sometimes difficulty in expressing emotional intimacy can become more acute for men, who perhaps since childhood have inhabited a culture of not expressing their feelings. Societal influences may have taught them to ‘live from the neck up’ and develop the cognitive way of knowing to the exclusion of emotionality. Giving expression to tender, gentle, loving, sensitive feelings may take supreme effort for the male and endless understanding and patience for the female. It may also necessitate the male to engage with a host of feelings repressed since childhood. The feelings that have long since been locked away must now be encountered and rehabilitated before that partner can reach out and embrace intimacy. And this can sometimes be a challenge for the female who may have long since come to terms with her own emotionality. She may feel that her partner’s deficit in this area is holding back the real work of building the future together.
The journey towards facilitating emotional intimacy is an essential task of marriage. And, fundamentally, it is the responsibility of both parties, and not merely the partner who has the greater road to travel. For that partner it will require greater openness, honesty, and courage. And it will require patience, understanding, endless support and encouragement from his / her partner.
Discuss with each other what you understand by emotional intimacy! What are the obstacles that might hold you back from closer emotional union? Reflect on how you might assist each other to open up more!
The Accord marriage preparation course, “Marriage – A Journey Not a Destination” offers an extensive series of activities around issues relating to the preparation for marriage. For further information visit: www.accord.ie