Does your spouse know the real you?
For many, this question stirs up insecurity and anxiety. Being “real” in marriage means we show our spouse the broken and messy parts of our lives we normally try to hide. It means we speak our mind and hope they don’t run away. Emotional intimacy seems scary, if not impossible. Thankfully, this does not have to be the case.
Emotional intimacy is not only possible in marriage, but what God wants for every one of us. Marriage doesn’t have to be just one more place where we act fake or put on a face. It can be the place we feel the safest. It can be a relationship where we are fully known and fully loved. To better understand how, we first need to set a few things straight.
Emotional Intimacy means to know and be known without fear of rejection. And it is this kind of intimacy that God intended us to experience from the beginning. In Genesis 2, we see Adam and Eve together, “naked and without shame.” They had nothing to hide and no reason to fear. They were both fully exposed and fully known. Rejection was never a concern.
This idea of “naked and without shame” also gives us a picture of what it means to be emotionally intimate in marriage (and it doesn’t just mean being physically bare before one another). Emotionally intimacy means there are no masks, fake smiles, or hidden sin. It means actually knowing about your spouse’s past, both the good and the bad. It means being honest about how you struggle in the present. It’s regularly communicating your dreams and desires for the future.
Emotional intimacy means having confidence your spouse will respond to the real you with love. It’s never having to be afraid you will scare them away. It’s knowing you can be truly vulnerable without fear they will laugh at you, leave you, or make light of your struggle.
In short, we were made to be fully known and marriage is intended to mirror this reality.
Why then is it so difficult? That is where sin comes into play…
Tragically, the fall of humanity in Genesis 3 ruined this picture of emotional intimacy. Just as sin made Adam and Eve aware of their nakedness, it also brings insecurity and shame into our lives. Now, left to our own devices, we are fearful and selfish about our vulnerabilities. Instead of being open and honest, we hide our imperfections and failures. We fear the rejection we might experience if we get found out or are ever truly real. The “real you” seems too scary, too gritty, or too broken to fully share with your spouse. It feels safer to cover up our true selves.
However, living this way is exhausting and in contrast to all God wants for us. This “fake” kind of life drains us of enthusiasm and joy. Instead of being the place where we should feel the safest, marriage makes us feel alone and insecure. Before long, your spouse is more like a business partner you occasionally exchange information with, than an intimate partner you share life with. This is not how God intended marriage to function.
Thankfully, there is still hope…
Thanks to Jesus, we have an opportunity to fight the effects of sin and be real with our spouse. He gives us the confidence to be vulnerable because he, himself, was vulnerable on the cross. Jesus knew every messy, broken part of us, and all the stuff we try to hide. Yet, while we were still sinners, he died for us (Romans 5:8) With him, there is truly no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Because we can be fully known and fully loved with Jesus, we can trust he will give us the strength to do the same with our spouse. He shows us what it looks like to live without fear of rejection. And even though we will not see our intimacy fully restored until heaven, practicing authenticity, trust, and communication now can help your marriage be a glimpse of what’s to come.
As you process through being emotionally intimate with your spouse, it will help to be honest with yourself and ask the following questions…
If you have unconfessed sin, your thought life is likely highjacked by it. When this is the case, it is difficult to be truly vulnerable with your spouse. As scary as it may seem, you need to find an opportunity to confess.
If you tend to be closed off or compartmentalized, being emotionally intimate can be difficult. Start simple by asking yourself why you feel a particular way and go from there. Remember it is harder to allow ourselves to be known than it is to know others. Consider using statements like “I feel…” or “I’m excited about …” When you listen to your spouse, lean in, care what they are saying, and ask thoughtful questions.
Don’t make growing in emotional intimacy a personal battle. Ask your spouse and community for help. If your spouse shares something in intimacy and vulnerability, don’t make them feel less than or afraid to speak up. Make them feel comfortable and encouraged. Prioritize oneness, don’t try to put them in their place.
When we start to take steps toward emotional intimacy, we begin to understand just how much we were made to experience it. In a world of inauthenticity designed to make us feel like outsiders, there is nothing greater (other than a relationship with Christ) than having a spouse you can be completely real and vulnerable with. In marriage, you can address your issues together, no matter how gritty. You can be fully confident that your spouse won’t run away. It is truly worth fighting for.