Do you long for deeper emotional connection with your spouse?
We’ve been talking a bit this week about how emotional connection is a prerequisite for great sex, and how sex can feed emotional connection, but it cannot completely replace it. We do need to feel “known.”
But how do you build emotional connection?
Is it just that you talk a lot?
Emotional connection depends largely on talking, but not all talking leads to emotional connection.
Earlier this week, a man left this comment on the blog that illustrates this well:
When my wife wants to talk, which is frequent, she really doesn’t want me to talk she just wants me to listen. So i have to sit there and listen. Most of what she has to say, is chit chat stuff about her day and job. Really minor stuff really. But she will quiz me about it later so i have to focus as hard as i can to remember every little detail of what was said. It’s exhausting. Its given me headaches. And if I don’t remember all of it i get accused of not listening.
So the couple is talking, but they’re not really sharing on an emotional level.
What many of us haven’t fully grasped is that there are different levels of communication, and we don’t really build emotional connection until we get to at least that fourth level: sharing emotions. If your spouse asked you, “how was your day?” You could answer in any of these ways (with real communication and vulnerability increasing with each level):
The 5 Levels of Communication
How was your day?
Oh, you know, you win some, you lose some.
It was really busy. I was running around all day, and my appointments were often running late.
Super busy day. Our boss is driving everyone crazy, and doesn’t know how to manage people well.
It was busy and discouraging. Just felt frustrated a lot of the day, because there’s so unneeded busy work going on all the time, and so much backbiting in the office, and it’s become a not-very-nice place to work.
Today made me wonder if this is really what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. I always thought this was the kind of job I wanted, but there’s so much politics, I’m not even using my education the way I want to. I’d like to pray about whether we need to make a change.
When we spend all of our time sharing facts (basic chit chatting about what happens) or opinions (I hate Trump; I love Trump); then we don’t really connect.
To connect, we need to touch people’s hearts at the emotional level.
I recommended to the man who made that comment that they try the high/low exercise everyday–with a twist. Here’s how it works:
The High/Low Check In, with a Twist
Every night, either at dinner, or just after dinner, or as you’re heading to bed, share the time today when you felt the most in the groove; and then share the time that you felt the most defeated and discouraged.
Why do it that way instead of best/worst?
Well, maybe your worst time today was when you had a migraine. But that doesn’t necessarily tell us what happened on an emotional level. Saying instead that your worst time was opening up your inbox and seeing 278 unopened emails, and feeling overwhelmed, and being scared to look deeper because you’re afraid there are a few that will make you feel guilty about something–well, that’s emotion! it may have been a trivial moment if you look at what you did all day, but that moment reflected where you were emotionally.
Or maybe the best thing that happened was that you find out your book was being published in Russian (I found out yesterday that The Good Girl’s Guide is coming out in Russian!), but my actual time I felt the most in the groove was reading someone else’s comment on Twitter about something I had wrote. It touched me more emotionally.
So it’s not the best and worst things that happened to you. It’s when the best and worst feelings manifested themselves.
When we can share emotions, we feel connected, because we’re more vulnerable.
For introverts especially, answering this form of the high/low question can be much easier than having to answer, “how was your day?” or “what did you do today?” (And bonus: it works great as dinner time conversation every night with teenagers and children, too!).
As I was thinking about this post, I got a great email with another idea that I want to share with you! When Allen Wolf first created the concept of You’re Pulling My Leg!, he thought he was simply helping two mutual friends get to know each other. Little did he know, the lighthearted card game not only forged a lasting relationship (which eventually led to marriage) for the two, but continues to help strengthen friendships, relationships and marriages—all from players asking each other questions!
I took a look at some of the questions (and borrowed one or two) and then decided to create some of my own. Because I do want to help you feel emotionally connected, and that doesn’t automatically happen when you talk. We need to have easier ways to open up and touch emotions, and these are some great prompts!
10 Questions to Grow Emotional Connection
1. Tell me about a time you had trouble forgiving someone.
Learn what hurts go deepest!
2. Tell me about a time you avoided someone.
When we avoid people, it’s often a fear of a deep emotion we’re trying to avoid: anger, insecurity, rejection. Or sometimes it’s not a big deal; it’s just awkwardness! See what makes your spouse uncomfortable.
3. Tell me about the first time you really felt like you were an adult.
What makes you feel like a grown up? When did you really feel as if you had separated from your parents?
4. Tell me about something you recovered from.
Was it a common cold? Or a heartache? Let’s see how deep this can go!
5. Tell me about someone you used to want to be like, but now you really don’t.
Whom we admire tells a lot about our fundamental value system. When who we admire changes, often there’s a perspective or value shift. Or sometimes people just let us down! Either way, it’s a good peek into your spouse’s emotional state.
6. Tell me about something you got away with as a kid.
Here’s a window into your spouse’s relationship with their parents!
7. Tell me about a personality trait other people think you should have–that you just don’t.
I’m always being told to be nicer and gentler, but that’s not who I am. It is, however, something I beat myself up over. What box are people always trying to put you in? What about your spouse?
8. Tell me about a year in your life you would repeat.
Where is your “happy place”?
9. Tell me something, good or bad, you learned from your dad (or your mom!)
Again, let’s see how our parents influence us. What first comes to mind often reveals a lot about our emotional connection with our parents.
10. Tell me about the period of time you felt closest to God in your life.
When did you feel close to God? Have you lost that? Why?
Want to go deeper still with emotional connection?
Try my 50 conversation starters for couples! Or sign up for my emotional reconnecting ecourse that can help you build these deeper conversations into your marriage.
Emotional Connection does not have to take a long time.
It may just be a few minutes a day, with deliberate questions and check-ins. It’s not that we have to spend hours baring our souls.
But when we’re intentional about connecting to our spouse, we’ll feel heard, accepted, loved. And that will have dividends in all areas of your marriage–including the bedroom!
Does your marriage get to the “Emotions” level? Or are you stuck on Facts or Opinions? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum