Posts Tagged: lonely marriage

This is Risky Business: How to Improve Intimacy Part II

Do you ever find yourself feeling alone even when you’re surrounded by people? Do you feel like you’re doing life by yourself, even though you’re married? Even couples who have been together a long time, might still complain that they just don’t feel that close. The missing ingredient is INTIMACY. If you are single or married, understanding what INTIMACY is and why everyone needs it, will help you with all of your relationships.

Even though Sexual Intimacy gets a lot of air time, there are actually several different types of intimacy that contribute to relationship happiness. Today, in Part 2, we will talk about the different types of intimacy and what you can do TODAY to improve your intimacy with yourself, with God and the important people in your life.

Intimacy is Risky Business

Many people are initially afraid of getting close to people because of fear of judgment or rejection. People use various tactics to keep people at a distance, like being “too busy” or being “too different” but these are excuses to avoid the scary risk of getting close. Here are some different types of intimacy with their inherent level of risk.


Types of Intimacy

Intellectual Intimacy is feeling bonded over intellectual ideas, work or creativity. It occurs when people work closely together on a project researching ideas, solutions and presentations. You may share intellectual intimacy with your partner, co-workers, co-creators, research team, or political party group. LOW RISK

Recreation Intimacy is experienced by those who engage in physical and mutually enjoyed activities. People who hike, knit, ski, or play tennis together connect with one another through interests and physical activities. LOW RISK

Spiritual Intimacy is best explained by the sharing of same or similar faith or belief system. In Christianity, scripture describes spiritual intimacy a binding together of all believers through the Holy Spirit’s truth, power, and unifying force of love. Activities like prayer, bible reading, meditation, acts of service enhance the shared belief system and bring an assurance of mutual acceptance. MEDIUM RISK

Sexual Intimacy is fully experienced between married couples in the presence of safety, trust, love and commitment. It involves the physical act and responses of sexual partners leading to feelings of love, warmth, closeness and attachment. HIGH RISK

Emotional Intimacy is the bonding through shared feelings. You may feel emotionally connected to any person that shares fears, hopes, weaknesses or jubilation. Emotional Intimacy is also experienced when you feel heard, validated or comforted through pain. HIGH RISK

 You and Intimacy

You may find that you share different types of intimacy with different types of people. You may connect closely with a person at work over intellectual concepts, but share no recreation intimacy at all. Close friends overlap on many intimacy levels. Couples who report being happy and loving will usually share all the Intimacy Types at some capacity. They find each other intellectually stimulating, spiritually aligned, with compatible interests and activities and sexually attracted and active.

In my work with couples, I’ve found that Emotional Intimacy is the hardest to achieve in marriages because each partner is often responsible for causing emotional pain to the other. If emotional intimacy is off, then sexual intimacy is often negatively affected as well. For the last 4 years, I’ve been working on a book that peels away the obstacles couples face that inhibit healthy emotional intimacy.

Recently, I’ve blogged a lot about the physical and psychological abuse that is present within couples relationship, and how to get help to stop this destructive pattern. I call these the USER and ABSUER relationships. Couples in destructive relationships often have a high level of emotional reactions and intensity, but lack true emotional intimacy.


For the next few weeks, I will be focusing more on what I call LOSER relationships. No, I’m not talking about the “couch potato” husband or the “Soap Opera and bon bons” wife. I’m talking about the couples that LOSE OUT on true intimacy with one another. The three big obstacles to Emotional Intimacy are Fear Issues, Control Issues, and Trust Issues. We will walk through all three of this in the coming weeks in order to help you improve your intimacy in your relationships. Check out this resource if you want to go more in depth. This book will take you step by step into getting the love you want, and avoiding the rest.

Click here for more information on how to have healthy relationships.



Living Alone in a Marriage for Built for Two

Intimacy is something we all want and need, but it is often the last thing we prioritize in our busy lives. Marriage partners often feel more like passing ships in the night, than two loving friends and partners. Many couples’ mantra is “Divide and conquer,” not “One for all, and all for one.” Given the busy and complicated lives we live, some dedicated time to improve marriage intimacy is time well spent.

True Intimacy between friend or spouse is: sharing your experience with him/her without fearing judgement or rejection, and sharing his/her experience without judging or trying to change/fix him/her. You are able to accept your friend fully even if she is very different with a very different experience of your relationship. You are able to share deeply with your spouse without fear of being judged for your feelings. You are able to listen to your spouse’s feelings and experience without trying to change him. You feel seen, known and unconditionally accepted.

If your marriage is emotionally distant or lonely, ask yourself some of these questions:

  1. would you rather “be right” or “be loved”?

  2. do you have trouble admitting you’re wrong for fear of looking foolish, weak, ignorant or bad?

  3. do you avoid opening up to your partner for fear of being judged?

  4. do you avoid closeness with your partner because of past loss in your life?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you probably stand in your own way of true and meaningful intimacy in your marriage. To be truly seen, known and accepted doesn’t just happen without insight and effort.

Steps to Achieve True Intimacy in Relationships

1. First, offer this kind of love to yourself. You won’t be able to love someone intimately until you’ve offered intimate love to yourself. For me, this means coming to God and accepting his unconditional love in the face of mistakes, failures and shortcomings. At the time I want to most deny, lie about or hide from my mistake, I try to turn to God instead. When I know that I am accepted and loved no matter what, I am able to offer myself this same kind of love and forgiveness. God’s love changes me. This is intimacy with the self- seeing myself as valuable, knowing the truth about myself, and loving myself unconditionally. You know- just the way God does.

2. Second, Show Up to Your Relationships. Intimacy requires vulnerability. It requires that we show up fully, exposed and real, to the people in our lives. It means instead of using sarcasm, criticism or nagging, we use wholehearted language with our friends or spouse telling them exactly what we want. Instead of, “Oh look who finally decided to come home,” we say, “I missed you today, I want to spend time with you.” Instead of passive-aggressively running the other way in an argument, we get to the heart of the matter and resolve it with compassion. Instead of picking fights and criticizing our spouse’s faults, we share our feelings with vulnerability and strength.

3. Thirdly, Take A Risk Even When There’s No Guarantee It Will Pay Off. Being vulnerable is risky business. Seeking intimacy with others is risky, too. It truly is Walking by Faith. You don’t know if your partner will return your vulnerability. You don’t know if showing up to your life will bring criticism or judgement. You don’t know if your efforts toward greater intimacy will backfire. That is the Faith Walk- going where Love calls you to go, even when there is no guarantee that it will work. Your friend or spouse may abandon you still. She may not join you in this level of intimacy and may choose a different direction. That hurts, but it’s ok, because you’re going to be ok. When you are abandoned or feeling rejected, God doesn’t abandon you, and you won’t abandon yourself.

More Like Roomates than Romantic Partners?

Sometimes partners in a long term relationships end up feeling distant and cold toward one another. This could be because of their demanding professions, busy schedules, or children’s many activities, but more often than not, marital distance stems from a fear of real intimacy.

When couples get close to the vulnerable edge of intimacy, they often become afraid and defensive. True intimacy requires that each person share their weaknesses, fears, and failures. Emotionally distant couples take turns fending off getting too close, too vulnerable, and too exposed. Partners can often feel inadequate when their partner expresses emotion or asks for more heartfelt communication. Not knowing what to do, how to connect, or how to make their partner’s tears stop, they can mistakenly react in anger or withdrawal. This can shut down intimacy all together.

If you’re in an emotionally distant relationship, you will feel…

  • Hopeless. Sometimes you feel like you are trying to draw water from an empty well.
  • Dismissed. You feel unimportant and not taken seriously.
  • Unloved. You take your partner’s emotional withdrawal as silent disapproval, rejection, or disinterest.
  • Anxious. Because they keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, you constantly wonder how they truly feel about you.
  • Self-doubt. Because your emotional needs so often go unrecognized in your relationship, you wonder if you’re just too needy or if he’s just too immature.
  • Desperately Alone. Oftentimes a person feels they are lonelier in their unhappy relationship than they would be as a single person in no relationship.
  • Abandoned. You feel like the person who is supposed to love you the most rejects you at your core. You feel like your partner is either unable or unwilling to love you the way you need to be loved, and that you must do what it takes to just survive.
  • Frustrated. You both use sarcasm, joking and passive aggression to communicate, but just skim the surface of what’s truly important. This repetitive dysfunctional cycle results in unresolved issues and broken communication.

Want to know more about this, and how to feel more like romantic partners than roommates? Click here to take a short relationship quiz, and get tips for improving emotional intimacy.

Married and Lonely: Does this describe you?

Couples come to my practice for all kinds of reasons: communication breakdown, complicated circumstances, reconciliation after marital mistakes. But one of the hardest obstacles to overcome is a lonely marriage. You may feel rejected, forgotten or un-important. You may even feel hopeless at ever making it better. I’ve heard many people say that their lonely marriage is so painful, it would be better to be alone and lonely, than married and lonely.

a wall between them

What is a lonely marriage, and how is it created? A lonely marriage consists of two well-meaning people who respect and love one another, but lack the skills or understanding to be deeply connected and intimate.

Symptoms of a lonely marriage look like:

  1. focusing on the kids’ and their activities but avoiding close contact.
  2. staying busy with work and personal goals, but letting the marriage take a low priority.
  3. trying to communicate about marital issues results in big fights and silent withdrawals without real resolution.
  4. forgetting what it feels like to have common interests, fun together, or stimulating conversations.
  5. decreased frequency and enjoyment in sexual or romantic experiences.

If you see these symptoms in your marriage, you may be married to a Loser. A loser isn’t the couch potato, it’s someone who loses out on really knowing you. Because they fear the vulnerability of intimacy, they hide their fears, weaknesses, and true feelings. You may find yourself doing the same.

Take a short quiz here to find out more about your marriage, and if loneliness is an issue.

A loser isn’t the couch potato, it’s someone who loses out on really knowing you.

Characteristics of a Loser

  • They avoid sharing personal feelings, thoughts, or ideas because emotional intimacy makes them uncomfortable.
  • They may be unable to have emotional closeness because they are emotionally immature- hopelessly stunted in their emotional development.
  • They may say things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “Why do you always make a big deal out of things,”  or “I’m just not an emotional person. I don’t know how I feel.” They will say almost anything to avoid emotional  vulnerability and intimacy.
  • They feel pressure to fix problems for you instead of empathize with you.
  • When asked if something is bothering them, they deny that anything is, and shut the conversation down.
  • They may be successful in many areas of their lives, but when it comes to close relationships, they use various  tactics, like withdrawal, humor, passive aggression, etc. to keep an emotional distance.

You may feel like you’re married to a Loser. Or maybe you feel like you’re the Loser, and you want to learn a different way to relate in your marriage. If you want to find out more, click here to take a short quiz. Though living in a lonely marriage can be painful, it is also an opportunity to make necessary changes inside yourself and your marriage.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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