by Crossroads Therapist Michael Hutt
Emotional Intimacy and the fall?
I have counseled numerous couples, and their problems could be boiled down to this: they desire emotional connection and intimacy from their partner. Couples will present with a variety of complaints. Many of these problems need to be tackled head on, but at the core is a simultaneous desire for and fear of emotional connection.
In the gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees approach Jesus asking him his thoughts on divorce. He immediately refers them back to the story of creation as a baseline for the answer (Matthew 19:3-6). If Jesus uses the creation account to express the ideal model for marriage, then it makes sense for us to examine this to see what else we might learn about marriage for today.
There is much that could said about Genesis 1 & 2 as it pertains to the relationship between Adam and Ever. For the purpose of this blog,I would like to focus on Genesis 2:25. “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” There are two phrases that piqued my curiosity in this verse: naked, and not ashamed.
Nakedness & Shame
At face value, the word naked conveys the idea of being without clothes. However, there seems to also be a connection to vulnerability- the idea that everything is out in the open with minimal protection. They were in this state with no shame. This all seemed to change once Adam and Eve ate the fruit. At this point, there seemed to be this compulsion to hide from one another and hide from God. There seemed to be fear that was not present before.
Connection to marital problems today
The creation account provides a model for how to do marriage. The man must be willing to put ALL of himself out there for his wife. This includes the not so pleasant side. This includes his fears, insecurities, hurts, disappointments, regrets in addition to hopes and dreams. The woman must be willing to put all of herself out there for her husband. This includes her fears, insecurities, hurts, disappointments, regrets in addition to hopes and dreams. This is easy early in the relationship during the infatuation phase. This is also easier when times are good and there are no problems. Unfortunately, trouble will come for marriage and families – that’s the bad news. The good news is it gives you an opportunity to practice bringing the more vulnerable parts of us to our spouse.
Easier said than done
I have several catch phrases in my sessions, and one of them is “easier said than done.” It’s one thing to write about sharing vulnerable parts of ourselves but quite another to do it. Two things need to happen for this to work well: 1) the sharing partner needs to identify their vulnerable emotions and parts; 2) the partner receiving this needs to handle it delicately and responsibly.
Identifying and sharing our own emotions
There are many factors that influence this. Sometimes in our families growing up, we learn to ignore our more vulnerable emotions so we forget about them. Other times we see the vulnerable emotions but are scared to share for a variety of reasons. I mean after all, it is easier to fight over the trash not being taken out than to address underlying concerns. Ie “I’m worried if I can’t count on you for the little things, can I count on you for important things.” Other times it is hard for us to own our mistakes. We become defensive instead of acknowledging our imperfection. Ie “I totally forgot the trash, and I’m sorry. I just want to give you my best but I worry it isn’t good enough.” Now I use these examples in an exaggerated way to highlight the vulnerable emotions. Most couples don’t talk like this all of the time. They may use humor, or metaphor to get their point across in an equally effective way.
Receiving our partners emotions
Again. there are many factors that impact our ability to receive our partner’s emotions. If our families growing up taught us to ignore vulnerable emotions than we may get freaked out when our partner does the healthy thing and attempts to share. Other times, we may be distracted and miss the significance of an interaction. We don’t realize out partner is handing us their heart and through inattentiveness we accidentally stomp it. Sometimes we let our spouse down and we need to own it. Even if our spouse brings something to us gently and delicately, it can be hard not to feel attacked. We may have been taught growing up that mistakes are unacceptable.
You will never do this perfectly
Going back to Genesis, sin leads us to hide from ourselves, from our spouse and from God. We will inevitably screw this up. The good news is that it is in repairing mistakes that make a strong marriage versus doing it right. How well a couple recovers from missing each other’s cues and bids for intimacy (sharing good and bad parts) is what makes a great marriage.
So what are you waiting for? Go get “naked” with your spouse and expect mistakes to happen!