Early on in my marriage, when I was playing baseball, I would go out of town for a week or ten days for a series on the road. When I would cam back home, it would take my wife a day or two to warm back up to me—to feel connected emotionally.
Even scientifically, this is a reality. It’s not just emotional, it’s a physical reality. When we are away from our spouse for a significant period of time, the brain is virtually in a drug-withdrawal state. The oneness of marriage and bonding of sex isn’t just spiritual or emotional, it’s neurological—it’s how God made us.
God made us holistically, and the spiritual is connected to the emotional and to the physical.
The wife in the Song of Songs is seeking emotional intimacy with her husband too:
On my bed by night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not.
I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.
I sought him, but found him not.
The watchmen found me
as they went about in the city.
“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
Scarcely had I passed them
when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go…
—Song of Solomon 3:1–4
She was in “winter.” She was struggling – something was wrong, something was off. Her husband leaped and bounded toward her and wooed her heart, but she’s still a little raw. There’s some vulnerability that’s exposed here.
She’s expressing emotional intimacy and emotional need. The absence of her husband has exposed some fear and insecurities in her heart.
Being safe emotionally is the thing that all other things in a marriage depend on. Emotional abandonment occurs when couples either refuse to communicate on a deep level, or they speak in such an abusive way that one of the partners withdraws. And without emotional safety in a marriage, defensiveness and selfishness grow and that makes it impossible to be vulnerable or intimate.
“Vulnerability is taking off your armor and giving someone your sword. They can defend you or harm you” -Elliot Grudem
Think about that picture: all of us as Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters have the armor of our fig leaves and the sword of self-defense, and when we begin to trust, it’s like handing that to someone.
What will they do?
And in marriage, if they keep hurting you when you're open, you eventually just close up, making oneness impossible.
Ephesians 5 says husbands should love their wives, cherishing her. We are to cherish our wife—it means to care for her, to dote on her, to pursue her emotionally and engage her.
So are you emotionally available to your spouse?
Questions to Ask*
Is your spouse accessible to you?
1. I can get my spouse’s attention easily.
2. My spouse is easy to connect with emotionally.
4. I am not feeling lonely or shut out in this relationship.
5. I can share my deepest feelings with my spouse. He/she will listen.
Is your spouse responsive to you?
1. If I need connection and comfort, he/she will be there for me.
2. My spouse responds to signals that I need him/her to come close.
3. I find I can lean on my spouse when I am anxious or unsure.
4. Even when we fight or disagree, I know that I am important to my spouse and we will find a way to come together.
5. If I need reassurance about how important I am to my spouse, I can get it.
Are you emotionally engaged with each other?
1. I feel very comfortable being close to, trusting my spouse.
2. I can confide in my spouse about almost anything.
3. I feel confident, even when we are apart, that we are connected to each other.
4. I know that my spouse cares about my joys, hurts, and fears.
5. I feel safe enough to take emotional risks with my spouse.
*Johnson, Sue. Hold Me Tight. New York: Little, Brown and Company. 2008. pg. 57-60.
Editor's Note: This blog is an excerpt from Jim’s sermon, Emotional Intimacy, and was first posted at JimEssian.com.