By Archie L. Bost
Do you want to come home to your marriage? If you feel close enough to your spouse that you can trust him or her with your heart, you're blessed. If your marriage feels distant you're not alone. Too often, the close connection God wants married couples to enjoy becomes strained and broken. Couples can try to repair the damage by applying wise principles to their marriage, but no advice or new found skills will make a difference unless they feel emotionally safe, close, cherished, and respected together. It's that strong emotional connection that truly motivates spouses to build a healthy marriage. Here are some practical ways you can build a strong emotional connection with your spouse:
You must have a genuine interest in the other person and be alert to not only the needs but the interest of your spouse. There must be a growing understanding of each other, with happens only by intention. Realize that, even in the midst of your fighting, both you and your spouse yearn to be seen, understood, and valued. Understand that both of you are longing for the other to be a trustworthy person who will be emotionally available and respond in a caring manner.
Don't settle for an emotionally distant marriage; know that there is hope for your marriage to change. Working with your spouse, review each of your schedules and build in time for each other regularly. Recognize how your past affects your current relationship. Understand the ways in which you were hurt and what vulnerable places you now have, so you can seek healing for those issues and not blame your spouse for them. Talk about your daily disappointments and the little ways you each (often unintentionally) hurt each other, so these small things don't build up into big things that will come between you. Work on resolving the big issues of disagreement in your marriage, remembering that marriage is not about me, but we or us. Try to actually be there for your spouse whenever he or she needs you, seeking to understand and respect the differences you and your spouse have in your families of origin and your lifestyle preferences (such as getting up early or staying up late).
Be reliable, so your spouse will know he or she can count on you to be honest, dependable, and on time. Let your spouse know that, no matter what, you will always care for and value him or her. Be genuinely interested in doing what's best for your spouse and your marriage, not insisting on your own way.
Make sure that your marriage is a top priority in your life. Give plenty of time and energy to your relationship. Whenever you find yourself harboring resentment against your spouse, pray for God to help you forgive and reconnect.
Be approachable, genuinely listen to your spouse without judging, criticizing, or problem-solving. Make sure your spouse knows that you care about his or her thoughts and feelings. Ask questions to get more information so you can better understand what's bothering your spouse, and why. Then discuss the issue, offering comfort and constructive suggestions for how to do things differently.
Regularly touch, hug, and kiss your spouse, being in close physical proximity whenever you can. A gentle, caring touch has more power than most people realize. This touch must be a non-sexual touch that would be appropriate in any environment. Holding hands while sitting, riding in a car or walking along the way is another way to expressing caring heart. Many have said that they feel safe when there is regular touching or holding of hands.
Strive to understand the emotions that lie beneath the emotions you and your spouse express, so you'll know how to more clearly bring the real issues to the forefront of your discussions. Acknowledge each other's different emotional patterns, respect the way you each feel and the ways you each express emotions, and focus on your feelings during an argument instead of the details of what you're fighting about. Most people remember the feelings of an argument but often do not remember what the argument is about. Use self-control when expressing your emotions by understanding them before expressing them. Listen gently to your spouse, trying to discern what's in his or her heart and use a tone of voice and body language that communicates respect for your spouse.
Make sure your goal is to work toward a solution, therefore avoid defending yourself or blaming your spouse. Strive to understand your spouse's perspective on the issue and to clearly communicate yours. Respect your spouse's perspective, even if you don't agree with it. Ask questions to clarify what you heard until your spouse agrees that you heard him or her correctly. Be willing to be influenced and to do things differently. Believe that change is possible, no matter what your situation, because all things are possible with God. Persevere through setbacks, speaking words of kindness to each other, and support each other as you each try to change.
Honestly express how he or she has hurt you, without criticizing your spouse's character or highlighting his or her faults. Listen as your spouse shares how you have hurt him or her and strive to understand the significance of the hurt. Express your emotions clearly and take ownership of your own emotions. Discuss how the hurtful event happened - what you did and why you did it. Take time to understand the perspective of your spouse, and take responsibility for hurting your spouse, and ask for comfort and reassurance. Forgive. Commit to being available to your spouse in the future.
Heart connection is necessary for a marriage to be more intimate, feeling close and safe. Heart connection doesn’t happen without intentionally working to stay connected. While it takes work, it is worth the time and energy that it takes. In fact, staying connected is actually fun, so enjoy the journey.