How to overcome the biggest stumbling block to an out-of-this-world marriage

Last week we talked about the biggest stumbling blocks to a good marriage. If you missed that and have no clue what I’m talking about, go back and read it here before reading further on this post. As I said last week (and anytime I talk about marriage), marriage is an amazing gift and adds so much joy to life. Collier and I have made it our mission to make the most of it and get absolutely everything out of marriage that we can and learn as much as possible through that process. I think we can boil almost any marriage issue down to this- an unwillingness to be vulnerable. And if we’re learning something I think it’s safe to guess that a lot of y’all are probably in the same boat. So let’s chat! As you read, keep in mind that your marriage will only be as intimate as you are vulnerable. I believe that to my core. Here are some things that have empowered me (and Coll) in our marriage (and life in general) that will help you have an even greater, more full, and more intimate marriage!

1. Identify any unspoken needs, desires, wants, struggles, hopes, dreams, disappointments, failures, past wounds or mistakes in your life.

2. Pinpoint the fears you have about sharing identified items from point 1 in your relationship and replace them with truth.
If you’re reading this 1. thinking, “I’m not fearful, how could I be fearful in the closest relationship I have?” and 2. also feel like your relationship is lacking intimacy, I would encourage you to take a deeper look at yourself! Below is a list of possible fears that may come up in you when thinking on truly showing up fully in your marriage:

-fear that your spouse will stop loving yourself
-fear that your spouse won’t be able to meet your need
-fear of being “exposed” or “found out”
-fear that your spouse will think you’re “too much” or on the otherhand “not enough”
-fear of being rejected
-fear that you’ll fail or disappoint your spouse (but let’s be real, that happens on the reg because we’re human)

Do any of these resonate with you? Some of these sound super intense but if we trace our thought process back from the things we aren’t sharing with our spouse (needs, desires, wants, struggles, hopes, dreams, disappointments, failures, past wounds or mistakes, etc.) all the way to the root of WHY we don’t share those things, I bet it comes back to one of the fears I listed. Once you identify the things you aren’t sharing with your spouse and the root reason why not, I encourage you to say those things out loud to yourself and then to your spouse because when we say things out loud that make us fearful it takes the power away from those fears and empowers you. Doing this also gives your spouse the chance to speak truth into those things.

2. Understand your emotions to cultivate intimacy.
How many times have you felt a slew of emotions only to become overwhelmed with what they mean and what to do with them? I think we’ve all been there! Something I started implementing into my life in college, thanks to an amazing counselor that I was seeing for a season, was using a feelings word chart to help me navigate my emotions. This has served me SO well in life in general and especially in marriage. It reminds me that I’M in control of my emotions, not the other way around because of this trick I’m about to share. When I’m feeling really overwhelmed, tender, processing a conflict I’m dealing with, or just feeling emotional in general, I pull out this feelings chart. I read down the list and I write down each emotion that resonates with me. As I do that, I write, “I’m feeling ________ because _________________.” As I do this it helps me understand myself better. The thing is that every emotion we feel has a place and it is an indicator. So we have to understand them and make sure we put them in a healthy place, instead of being controlled by them or ignoring them. When navigating intimacy in marriage and learning to be more comfortable being vulnerable, use the same method I listed above. “Babe, when you did ________, it made me feel _______ because ________.” Or, “I’m feeling ________ about sharing this piece of my heart or story with you because __________.” Does that make sense? When we can understand our emotions and communicate them clearly along with WHY we feel a certain way, it brings our spouse into the process WITH us instead of keeping you isolated, navigating it alone. And really, this is a way to love your spouse more fully, and actively fight selfishness...because it’s really easy to keep things to ourselves but guess what? You signed up for this when you got married and you gave up the right to keep things to yourself because marriage is about selflessness and putting someone else before you (lots of trying and failing and trying again here) for the rest of forever!

So now what? How do you implement those things consistently into your relationship? Below are a few practical tips on how to cultivate intimacy on a regular basis.

1. create a safe space to share with each other.
Consistently remind each other that no matter what is shared, you will figure it out together and embrace the process of helping each other show up in their truest form!

2. Identify areas that are hard for you to be vulnerable about (needs, desires, wants, struggles, hopes, dreams, disappointments, failures, past wounds or mistakes, etc.) and share them with your spouse.
If I can identify the things that are hard for me to share and make Collier aware of those things he can be more sensitive to asking questions around that topic and loving me extra hard in that area. A huge part about more intimacy and being vulnerable is gaining more and more understanding of how the other operates, who they are, and what is important to him/her.

3. Be present.
This one is simple but really difficult for our generation. Put your phone away. Have designated time where you are just face to face, no distractions. Collier and I implemented a designated date night once a week. We know that Mondays are OUR night (with exceptions, but in that case we reshedule to another night) and we focus on each other. I leave my phone in the car before dinner or whatever we’re doing and I have intentional conversation with Coll. This seems simple but strenghtening that connection and being present, giving Coll my full attention, is super powerful. This alone creates more safety in our relationship with each time that we choose present and give each other our time.

4. Ask questions.
Compile a set list of questions that you and your spouse ask each other each and every week. Set a marriage meeting if you will so that you can both anticipate and prepare for this time together week in and week out. I’ve listed some suggestions on questions to ask each other. Choose some that you think would best benefit your relationship. I highly suggest starting each meeting with prayer and affirmation/appreciation for each other specifically according to the week you just went through.

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-Is there anything I have done this week that may have unknowingly hurt you or disappointed you?
-What kinds of issues or obstacles have occupied your thoughts lately?
-Did you see any prayers answered this week?
-What is the best thing I can do to let you know that you are my priority and joy?
-How can I pray for you this week?
-What brought you joy this week?
-What was hard for you this week?
-How do you feel about our sex life lately?
-How did you feel pursued this week?
-Is there anything that’s gone unsaid (feelings, convictions, unresolved hurt, etc.) this week?
-How do you feel we’re stewarding our finances?

Disclaimer: I think it could be really easy to blow this info off if you’re in a season where everything is great in your marriage and you’re on cloud 9. This isn’t just for when things get hard or difficult though. These are really healthy and beneficial practices to put in place if you’re lovin’ life, lovin’ your spouse, and you guys are super content with your relationship. Because even if you’re content and happy, I believe that there are ALWAYS deeper levels. Give me all the deeper levels. I want to get all that I can out of marriage because it’s incredible and I’m learning so much about God, myself, and Collier through all of this. So tell me, what resonated with you? What practices have you put in place with your significant other to cultivate more intimacy? I’m all ears!