There is something unique about doing pre-marital counseling with engaged couples. As you talk with them they giggle, they blush, and they insist on holding hands throughout the entirety of the session. Conflict is far from their minds. Instead, they have visions of white picket fences, sunsets and cute puppies. Then they get married.
We’ve all been there. We dated, fell in love, got engaged and then waited. It is often in that period of waiting that those perfect pictures of marriage begin to show wear and tear. Weddings to plan out. Invitations to pick out. In-laws to figure out. And that’s just engagement.
To me, marriage was freedom. After my wedding day, I didn’t have to wonder what I was doing that weekend, or if I would have a date. Nope. I had plans every Friday night for the rest of my life – with a young, beautiful wife.
But as any married person can attest, life happens. Kids, mortgages, setbacks, layoffs, disappointments, debt, worry, death, frustration…. and the list goes on and on and on.
How do you know if your marriage is thriving or not? How do you know if it is good, bad or indifferent?
Here are questions I have asked people in an effort to find out:
How is (insert spouse’s name here)?
How is your marriage?
How are you enjoying marriage?
What’s going on with you and (insert spouse’s name here)?
Lame. Major lame. None of those questions ever seemed to get to the heart of the issue that I was asking. It enabled others to say, “good” or “fine” or even to elaborate on aspects of their marriage that weren’t all that important.
A couple of years ago, my mentor asked me a question that really rocked me. It cut straight to my heart and was very difficult to side-step, even if I wanted to. The way he worded it, it wasn’t even a question. But it did help me evaluate how healthy my marriage was. It was this:
Tell me about the emotional intimacy you have with your wife.
Wow. What a great way to ask about the deeper connection in marriage.
It’s like when Steph and I go out for dinner. When we were dating, we’d chat endlessly about a myriad of subjects. Then after 5 kids and a whole host of issues, our dinner conversations became a lot more mundane, perfunctory, or simply uninteresting. When we go out now, I think about this question. My goal becomes moving us deeper and deeper into emotional intimacy the longer we are married.
How do you do that? Here are a few ideas:
1. Pray. I know, I know. This one sounds so….spiritual. But it’s true. For whatever reason, praying is one of the toughest things Steph and I do together. For you men reading this, I’d encourage you to find a few times a week to pray with your wife. I promise you, the more you do it, the simpler it becomes.
2. Talk. My wife and I love a glass of wine together some nights. It is about sitting down together regularly, and often. My wife and I love our time in rocking chairs on the front porch after the kids have gone down. We decompress, talk about the day, sit in silence, or just think out loud – together.
3. Play. This becomes something you really have to be purposeful at doing. With young kids, Steph and I are tempted to go on dates that involve going to a movie, grabbing some coffee and then going home. Those are all good, but sometimes we need to mix it up. A couple of months ago we went country dancing. (We are thinking about salsa lessons once we move to Phoenix.) Go play golf together. Go shopping together. Yes, men, that means figuring out a way to enjoy doing that.
This is a question we ought to be thinking about regularly. How is the emotional intimacy in my marriage?
What are other ways to build emotional intimacy in marriage? Any ideas?