The relationship in marriage naturally changes over time. Emotional intimacy that was once passionate and exciting can diminish unless steps are taken to help maintain it. To help understand why emotional intimacy in marriage can fade over time and what a couple can do to create emotional intimacy in marriage, I have interviewed therapist Scott Lloyd Sherman.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“After receiving my BA from UC Riverside in Social Sciences Divisional I served for two years as a Conscientious Objector working in State Mental Hospitals as a Psychiatric Technician. I was fortunate to work in Therapeutic Community models so medications, while used, were also augmented by group therapy and community therapy.”
“Later I went back to college and received my Masters in Sociology from San Francisco State University. I again found myself going to work in a State Mental Hospital, in Mendocino County (now the Dharma Realm University in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas) as a research sociologist. My primary interest was in studying the self help drug abuse program called The Family and how it came about to be so effective in helping heroin addicts heal.”
“Shortly after becoming licensed I began serving as a child and family therapist. I was also soon supervising three interns and together we worked with numerous individuals and families over the next ten years or so, building up quite a successful business.”
Why does the emotional intimacy in marriage tend to fade over time?
“Many reasons: After the initial romancing period the issues of our pasts begin to play more active roles in our relationships. Those issues are part of what attracts us to each other (the repetition compulsion). We come to be together so that we will be “worked” to become more fully integrated. I think of this phenomena as The Relationship Cauldron (see my blog). Without acknowledging this and building a support system for doing our unique personal work in our relationship we will need to give each other more space: To move away from each other.”
“If we are attached to the “live happily ever-after model” of marriage then we compare our own stressed relationship with that model and find it wanting. However, thanking our partners for helping us access our profound sense of emptiness due to our wounded-ness can help us to build a more realistic and stable intimate basis. When couples see the going into an issue as “sacred” in the sense of visiting the temple of healing and not taking the others stuff personally then the marriage can be strengthened.”
“A common reason for this fading has to do with our having other affairs. Affairs do not happen in a vacuum. We become distracted from our own personal work by having children, becoming overly involved in our work, getting into drugs and/or alcohol, having extra-marital affairs, etc. When one person begins to move away the other will either push hard to reestablish the closeness or move away accordingly. Either tact can be damaging to the marriage. Ultimately, no matter what the affair, it is a distraction to keep us from feeling the discomfort or pain having to do with our personal and ancestral wounds.”
What type of impact does a lack of emotional intimacy have on a marriage?
“In short, we crave as a basic need emotional intimacy and will find it one way or another. A drifting apart happens. Other pursuits take precedence. We are all seeking Village and will find the support we need to heal one way or another. Fairly often this happens in the late 30’s, 40’s or 50’s. It takes lots of living to get it that we need to make big movement towards doing our own personal growth work. None of us are immune from this.”
How can a married couple create emotional intimacy back into their relationship?
“Recognizing the drift away from the intimacy and talking about this is important. In my web-site under “Tools” are some instructions on how to actively and reflectively listen to each other. Open, eye-leveling communications can rebuild intimacy.”
“I also regularly prescribe for myself and my clients that sacred time be set aside for intimate relationship building: Dating one night a week, at least. Taking a weekend off once a month to get away from routine tasks and other possessive pursuits is critical. Getting away for a longer period of time at least once a year is also very beneficial.”
“Also paying attention to five critical times in a family’s day-to-day living is critical. These times are: 1. when we get up, 2. when we eat, 3. when we leave the home, 4. when we return; and, 5. when we go to bed.”
“The most significant time is coming home. We live in a toxic world and taking time to “get home” spiritually and to feel ourselves in our own home, in a grounded sense, allows for us to be open to re-connect with our loved ones. Going out into the world and returning is a mild form of jet-lag. Yet, it can be very taxing and include such common sensations as “road-rage”, boredom and frustration with work, financial stressors, job stressors, other frustrating relationships, etc. It is all too easy to not get home even when we are home. We tend to continue to process the day “out there” even though it is the past and we are “here.” Making a point of “being home” helps us to reconnect with our loved ones. This has to do with the concept of “quality time” versus “quantity time.””
What last advice would you like to leave for a couple that is having a difficult time with emotional intimacy in their marriage?
“Sort out whose stuff is whose. As it is estimated that 80 to 85 % of our relationship issues has to do with communications it is also estimated that only about 20% of our issues is with our partners or family members. The larger remaining portion has to do with our personal histories. This gets back to how by honoring the awareness that we are all striving in one way or another, intentionally or accidentally, to become fully integrated: To become highly spiritual beings.”
“Make time to sit down and actively hear each others understanding of the reality of the marriage. What do they perceive, how does that affect their emotional well being, what sense do they make of that in terms of emotions and personal history; and, what do they want and need from the other person to help them to move along on their path. The one not talking is to only register what has been said; and not in their mind arguing, reasoning, fixing, etc. Only remembering so that they can tell the one sharing what they heard. If they got it right (really right and not just 50% or so) then they can move on to the listener telling their side.”
It is amazing to me, still, how this simple to do (although hard to learn without practice) can reduce tensions and re-establish intimacy. We all want and need to be honored or “seen.””
My web-site scottlsherman.com, under “Tools” and my blog, shamanicvisionpsychotherapy.blogspot.com in several sections offers more information to benefit and or individuals struggling to make sense out of their realities.
Increasing Your Sexual Activity in Marriage
How to Put the Sizzle Back in Your Marriage
How to Deal with Annoying Husband