Yesterday, we looked at some initial keys to building lasting intimacy in relationships. Most of these are obviously critical to rebuilding marriages, too, where they have stagnated or stalled after years of busyness and distraction. However, they are also helpful in building and sustaining relationships in most areas of life. Non-sexual intimacy that makes us well-liked and well-connected brings new levels of enjoyment and success that are so often missing because of the dysfunctionalities and defaults of our upbringing which can stifle our relationships to varying degrees. Most of this happens without us realising the damage that can be caused to others around us, particularly and sadly where we have a ‘father wound’. Let’s examine a few more keys.
4. Validating feelings. It’s OK to be angry, sad, disappointed or frustrated, but there needs to be a constructive outlet in conversation that is not shut down by logic, facts or correction. Though these factors of reason have an important place and may indeed help to bring change, they can also be an obstacle to relational growth if they stifle emotions which help to connect us heart to heart.
5. Processing aloud. It is relationally unfair to work out your own feelings and responses internally, as if to shut your partner out and communicate that you will only speak when you have figured things out. Building intimacy is a journey and not a destination. Understanding each other’s rhythms and pressures, plus giving some take-up time instead of nagging or harassing for responses, will all aid the processing of life in partnership and will bring greater joy overall.
6. Communicating beyond words. Not everyone is equally articulate, so it is not easy to put into words what needs to be said. Yet, although we need to keep trying, there is more to communication than syntax. Knowing what sort of things need to be said or left unsaid and at exactly what time requires a sensitivity that is other-centred. Asking ourselves first what it is that actually needs to be communicated, and then how to say what we need (and not just what we want) to communicate, can be a subtle but important key to identifying needs beyond our own.
7. Getting help. Friends can give us perspective on life and help us rebound, even if we can’t or shouldn’t share some matters with them (spousal betrayal happens with friends too easily). However, expertise can also be important via pastoral and professional counsellors who help us see what we thought we knew in productive ways (not to mention helping with past hurts and abuses which are common relationship blockers). We often need to make the time, swallow any pride, and push through the shame barrier. As a Christian, I can never underestimate the value of reflecting on biblical guidance in prayer, too, as I believe that God consistently speaks to me about me! He regularly puts His probing finger on issues of my heart to prompt ongoing tweaks and adjustments, because none of us has ever ‘arrived’.