The anxiety you feel in your gut when Valentine’s Day rolls around comes from the vulnerability the holiday brings.
No other day, beside your anniversary, is so much expectation placed on you to prove love. Society sends the message men are emotionally incompetent buffoons, who don’t love well. The greatest fear of men is to be found incompetent and Valentine’s Day sets men up to feel incompetent at love. Valentine’s Day becomes a test, failure confirms a deep fear, success provides temporary relief until next year.
The greatest fear of women is to be found unloveable. Valentine’s Day becomes the test, if your spouse does the right things to convince you that you’re lovable, you win. If not, you’re left to wonder and despair. Society sends the message you have to look and act a certain way to be lovable and that men are the judge.
All this testing, fear, and risk of vulnerability leads many men and women to settle for shallow connection in marriage.
Some people avoid the test and declare Valentine’s Day stupid. They say “I love my spouse every day not just on Valentine’s Day so we don’t do anything special.” It gets them off the hook and allows them to stay shallow all while sounding sweet. Others desperately desire deeper intimacy but fear vulnerability and end up sabotaging their partner’s attempts.
Risking vulnerability in relationship turbocharges your journey toward deeper connection.
To calm fears and experience true intimacy in your marriage, practice approaching vulnerable areas in your life with your spouse.
Start with being present.
Vulnerability is delicate and cannot be rushed. Everyday busyness robs couples of the time and focus it takes to develop deep connection. Being present with your spouse requires giving them undivided attention. It helps to be close physically, at arms length or touching and looking at each other. The proximity and attention sets the stage to convey emotional availability which is being present in a romantic relationship.
Ask each other open ended questions.
Open ended questions are the ones that cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. They require explanation. Asking questions like “what makes you the most excited about our relationship?” promote deeper and more meaningful conversation than questions couples typically ask each other like “did you feed the dog?” Continue the conversations by discussing your dreams, desires, and wishes for life. Then progress into more vulnerable topics like worries, irritations, and fears.
Listen for emotion.
Listening is good, but if you’re only listening to come up with a defensive response you’ll miss the magic. Even if you listen so well you could repeat every word they said, your listening will feel robotic. Don’t simply listen to the words, listen to the emotion. Even a statement like “I love my job” can contain vastly different meanings if said sarcastically or with an excited tone. Pay attention to the emotion behind their words.
Validate their emotion.
This doesn’t mean you have to like or agree with their emotion, only that you recognize they are experiencing the emotion and understand how they could feel that way. For example, if your spouse shares about being passed over for a promotion at work, responding to them by saying “feeling disappointed is sure draining” will show your spouse you are paying attention to them on a deeper emotional level than nodding or parroting their words back to them. Join your spouse where they are for intimate emotional connection. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” -Romans 12: 15.
Respond to the emotion with connection in mind.
For example, If your spouse is sad respond with comfort. The movie Inside Out illustrates this concept perfectly. The more you respond to their emotion with connection in mind, the more it will be reciprocated by your spouse, and the deeper your relationship will grow.
If risking vulnerability isn’t reciprocated and doesn’t result in mutual vulnerability and thereby greater connection, keep at it. Remember it takes time to develop deeper levels of trust.
A word of caution; If vulnerability results in pain, emotional or otherwise, get help. Counselors can journey with you to discover the reasons for your pain and provide individualized direction to heal your relationship.
Intimacy in marriage comes from mutual vulnerability and accepting the gift of your spouse’s love. You and your spouse are not perfect, mistakes will be made from time to time. Asking for forgiveness is especially vulnerable and restorative. Embrace vulnerability in your relationship and offer your love without holding back and you’ll experience less fear and more wonderful intimacy with your spouse on Valentine’s Day and every day.
Check out the sidebar for your NEW BONUS GIFT 19 Questions to Ask Your Spouse for Deeper Connection.