God created us in His image, including being made with some of the same relational characteristics as the Triune God. We have the capacity and desire for connection, closeness, community, and dependency. God planned for married couples to meet many of each other’s needs for love and connection through the oneness of marriage. Emotional intimacy cultivates oneness.
Some of the most important elements of emotional intimacy are unconditional (agape) love, commitment, trust, respect, honesty, and vulnerability. Emotional intimacy exists when two people are committed to the well-being and development of each other, fully trust each other, and know they are perfectly safe with each other.
Fear can be one of the biggest deterrents to emotional intimacy. Fear can come in many forms: the fear of rejection, judgment, losing control, appearing weak, or getting a negative response. God does not want us to fear emotional intimacy in our marriage for any reason. This type of fear is not from God. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Numerous behaviors and responses can be roadblocks to emotional intimacy. Here are some of the most common behaviors that are detrimental to growing intimacy in marriage:
- Being independent is when a husband or wife tends to be private, is unwilling to share thoughts and feelings, appears self-sufficient, prefers taking care of their own needs, and does not involve their spouse in decision-making. A couple should strive for neither independence nor over dependence, but rather healthy interdependence.
- Being avoidant is when a husband or wife withdraws when upset; prefers to not deal with conflict; and perhaps becomes angry if their spouse expresses emotions or needs. The other spouse often feels emotionally detached from the avoidant spouse. Placating is a form of being avoidant: attempting to avoid conflict or hostility by making concessions or appeasing.
- Being passive aggressive is when a husband or wife prefers to be passive (silent) rather than express honest feelings or directly confront issues, but then acts out in negative ways. People who are passive aggressive don’t always exhibit outward anger or appear malicious—instead they may procrastinate, blame, sulk, be chronically late, and resist accomplishing requested or expected tasks.
- Being sarcastic is when a husband or wife jokes around by saying the opposite of what they mean. Sarcasm is criticism and is often accompanied by negative attitudes such as disapproval, contempt, scorn, and ridicule. Sarcasm in marriage can be annoying, hurtful, and destructive.
There are other damaging behaviors to oneness like self-pity, non-biblical criticism, defensiveness (inability to listen to another’s point of view), and excessive anger. At the core of all of these behaviors is a sinful attitude.
If the emotional intimacy you desire with your spouse needs improvement, start by taking a look at your own actions and behaviors. Sin is one of the biggest obstacles that blocks emotional intimacy in marriage. Get quiet before God and ask Him to reveal any sin in your life that may be disrupting your closeness. Vulnerability with your spouse begins with vulnerability with God. We can only truly embrace the “two hearts becoming one” relationship by placing God at the center of our relationship and being fully submitted to Him. If you are struggling with sin, confess it to God and repent. Then humbly share your struggle with your spouse in a transparent, honest conversation. This will be the start of a growing intimacy with God and your spouse.