Dating Advice #51 - Building the Emotional Investment Portfolio
These newlyweds are trying to build emotional intensity. Do they have the same needs? How is it done?
Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I want to thank you for your wonderful articles. I have gained a lot from them while dating, and now while being married.
My wife and I have been married four months, and thank God our marriage has been good. But I feel the need to have a more deeper, loving and emotional relationship together, and to feel more dependent upon one another. My wife hasn't expressed the same need (probably because she doesn't feel it), but she would like to fulfill that wish of mine.
I was hoping you could give me some advice as to how to create a stronger bond between us, and to show me how to motivate her more to feel a similar desire for closeness. If this is important to know, our main mutual goal is to raise our children to be as happy as possible.
First of all, congratulations on your recent marriage. We wish you and your wife a loving, happy and fulfilling life together. We're grateful that you asked us a question about emotional intimacy in a marriage, because it's a topic about which dating, engaged and married couples sometimes lose their focus.
Emotional intimacy is the foundation of an enduring, loving relationship and it is essential for keeping a marriage strong. When a couple is dating, they build emotional intimacy by revealing personal info, sharing ideas and thoughts, and confiding in each other. Over time, they build a level of mutual trust and emotional support, and their affection for each other grows as well. Most daters nurture their budding intimacy by phoning each other often to talk about how their days have gone, and they make an effort to show how they appreciate and care for each other. Over time, they see each other as close, trusted, friends and look forward to being together.
Once a man and woman announce their engagement, they may become so preoccupied with the details of their wedding and their new life together that they put their emotional intimacy "on hold' for a period of time. That's not necessarily destructive. If they have been dating long enough to have developed a strong emotional connection, then for a period of time they can live on the "interest" their relationship has accrued. They may make periodic "deposits" in their emotional intimacy account during the engagement. But whether or not they do so, after their marriage it is crucial to resume "investing" in their emotional intimacy.
Unfortunately, many married couples don't understand this simple rule of marital economics. They gradually get caught up in the "business" of living as a married couple (jobs, bills, community work, house maintenance, children) and forget to make "deposits" into their emotional intimacy account. After living on interest for a while, they start to dip into the principal. And if they dip too far, they can go bankrupt.
All of us start marriage with the highest hopes for our lives together. However, few people tell newlyweds that it takes ongoing effort to keep a marriage going strong. Couples who adopt the following habits will find that the "effort" is well worth the rewards of a close, loving marriage:
- Keep your marriage a priority. Career, investments, involvement in community, material possessions and relationships with friends and family should never be more important than the relationship with your spouse.
- Go on a "date" with each other once every week or two. Find a few hours that you can spend alone, without children or friends. You can go out on the town, enjoy coffee together in a café, or take a walk though the park. This is your time to enjoy each other's company and talk about the kinds of things you discussed when you were dating. Steer away from subjects like household "business", money problems, child discipline, or other points that may detract from focus on each other.
- Touch base with each other at least once during the day with a phone call. No matter how busy each of you may be, spare the few seconds it takes to say, "Hi, honey, I was just thinking about you and want you to know that I love you," or "I know you're nervous about the presentation you have to make this afternoon. I want you to know I'll be rooting for you, and I know you'll do a great job."
- Remember how eager you were to do favors for each other when you were dating? Keep it up, by helping with the dishes, offering to pick up the dry cleaning, or calling to say, "I thought I'd stop at the grocery on the way home from work. Is there anything you'd like me to get?"
- There's a principal in Jewish thought called "hakarat hatov" -- acknowledging the good. Too many of us forget to apply this principal to marriage. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and when we know that the most important person in our life appreciates us, we feel a stronger connection to him/her. Get in the habit of saying, "Thank you," and telling your spouse how much you appreciate what they do for you, your home, your family and even your community. You'll find that you will soon hear return "thank you's" and compliments as well.
- There's an expression, "Don't let a sore fester." If you and your spouse need to resolve an issue, find an appropriate time to talk about it and work toward a solution. This can help small problems from becoming larger ones. Of course, if you are like most couples, there will be one or two "sticking points" (like money and child-rearing) that will be the basis of many disagreements during your marriage. These "sticking points" will never be completely resolved, and it doesn't pay to re-hash all your past disagreements on a certain subject each time you argue. Instead, tackle each issue independently. If the two of you have trouble resolving disagreements effectively, try getting some help in this area by using a self-help book or a seeing a therapist for a few lessons on healthy ways to resolve disagreements.
Understand that the development of emotional intimacy is an ongoing process, and if you take the advice we have offered, you should see the bond between you gradually intensify.
At the same time, it is important to realize that each of you has different emotional needs and emotional capabilities. Your wife may not need the same level of emotional closeness that you desire, or it may take her longer to open up to you.
It is also important to understand that each of you should not become too dependent upon each other. It is neither realistic nor fair to expect a husband and wife to meet all of their spouse's emotional needs. Each partner can and should have his/her own friends and independent interests.
Newlyweds usually find that it takes time to learn how to balance their independent needs with their relationship with their spouse. Most couples need to work on this balancing act throughout their marriage. If the two of you make marriage your priority, both of you will find the right balances in your lives.
We hope that our advice has been helpful, and we wish you and your wife a great life together.
Rosie & Sherry