Dear Fellow Husband: How To Find Emotional Connection With Your Wife
Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this post it's because you’re having problems connecting with your wife. It is called “How to Find Emotional Connection With Your Wife” after all.
And, if you need to find something, it is by definition lost, so let's start there. You’re lost. There's a problem and that is OK, because we all have problems of one kind or another.
I’ve been through plenty of seasons where my wife and I are not connecting well. What I’d like to do is share a good way I’ve learned to navigate out of that problem that has proven helpful for me and other men.
Admit you have a problem.
Step one, start by admitting that there is a problem -- and more specifically, you have a problem. Would you be surprised how difficult it can be for some guys to admit there is a problem? Maybe not. Would you be surprised how difficult it can be for some guys to admit that they are, if not the problem, then they at least have partial ownership of the problem? If you’re reading this, let's just start by admitting that there is a problem and that you have ownership of at least a portion of it. What does this look like?
If you feel an emotional distance with your wife, then chances are she feels it worse than you. As you hear her express sadness, frustration, or even anger about feeling emotionally distant from you, chances are what sounds like a “3” on a volume knob to you is actually a 10 for her. And, if you are only recently feeling the distance, or hearing her comments about it, chances are she’s been talking to you about it for longer than you know. So, don’t minimize the problem. She probably feels it more deeply than you, more acutely than you, and for longer than you.
Its OK to be honest about the reality of the situation, in fact you should be. Being honest about it respects the reality of what your wife has experienced and is feeling. Being honest also allows for the most helpful solution to be found. Imagine if a patient kept hiding their symptoms from their doctor out of fear or stubbornness; the diagnoses would continue to be wrong and what perhaps could’ve been addressed in a relatively simple way instead is now chronic or metastasized.
An old friend had a funny phrase for when guys who were going bald young shaved their head. He called it “facing the wolf”. Here’s a chance for you to ‘face the wolf’ with the reality of your situation. Don’t minimize, be honest. What are you minimizing? What do you need to be honest about in regard to your emotional intimacy with your wife?
Dear Fellow Husband:
If you feel an emotional distance with your wife, chances are she feels it worse than you.
Don’t blame shift.
Yes, it takes two to tango but being honest about the situation also means being honest about your contribution to the situation. Anyone can see and point out the wrongs and flaws in other people; that requires nothing of them. Being critical is easy. Being vulnerable is hard. You’ve already done the first hard step of admitting there is a problem and being honest about it.
You know that guy at your work who won’t admit his mistakes? Everything is the boss's fault, his coworkers’ fault, the clients’ fault? Isn’t that the worst? Don’t be that guy with your marriage.
Here’s the deal, I get it. I can be scared to admit mistakes or wrongs because I hate feeling or being seen as incompetent or weak - that’s like kryptonite for men! But the reality is, sometimes I am incompetent and weak. Sometimes I do wrong my wife. We all do. So don’t shift the blame to her or anyone else, absorb it because it is true.
Why are you quick to put the blame on your wife but slow to see your role in the problem? Do you feel incompetent or weak?
By this point, if you’ve admitted there’s a problem, not minimized it but faced the reality of it, and not blame shifted, then you are already where you need to be: taking ownership.
An old mentor of mine, John Bryson, made a list that is helpful when it comes to taking ownership:
Boys take. Men give. Boys create problems. Men solve problems. Boys complain. Men figure it out. Boys pout. Men endure. Boys blame. Men own. Boys wish. Men do. Boys start. Men finish. Boys stiffen their neck. Men bend their knee and their will to God the Father.
The reality is you don’t have to be an Alpha Male to do that. All you have to do is take ownership for one step, then the next, then the next until your race is done. Look at it practically. If you continue to minimize, blameshift, and don’t take ownership, nothing will change. The emotional distance will not just remain but more than likely grow.
However, if you can do these three things, you’re off to a great start to changing the dynamic of your marriage toward one of more intimacy. Let me give you two huge examples of what I mean.
True forgiveness and mercy require specific wrongs.
When you face the reality of your situation, don’t blame shift, and take ownership of it to your wife, you actually create an opportunity for her to give you specific forgiveness and mercy. My worst apologies sound like, “I’m sorry about that.” What exactly would my wife be forgiving and being merciful toward in response to that?
Contrast that with an apology that sounds like, “I’m so sorry I spoke to you like that. I know that made you feel alone and disrespected. In the moment I was more concerned with this problem at work than being loving and attentive to you.” She can forgive that because it’s true, real, and specific. Specific apologies and specific forgiveness are powerful antidotes to score-keeping, bitterness, and contempt. Actually, they’re better than antidotes, specific apologies and specific forgiveness are like water to a marriage - with them, a marriage can flourish and produce fruit.
Being truly loved requires being fully known.
But better yet, my wife doesn’t forgive “that” comment I made, she’s forgiving me. In a moment where I’ve wronged her, she is extending to me love and mercy and forgiveness. She sees my selfishness in that moment because I’ve owned it and she is choosing not to meet me with punishment but with mercy.
Tim Keller, a pastor in Manhattan, said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”
See, the strange and sad outcome of minimizing, blame shifting, and not taking ownership is that not only does it remove opportunities for forgiveness and mercy but it also removes opportunities for you to be fully known and for your wife to meet you with true love. And separate from those moments, a marriage will die.
But the hope for you is that humbling yourself by admitting there is a problem, not minimizing it, not blame shifting, and taking ownership of it, you create opportunities for deep emotional connection and intimacy occur -- where both of you are fully known, forgiven, and truly loved.
Written by Nick Bogardus
Nick, his wife Kim and their three energetic kiddos live in Orange County where he is a pastor at Cross of Christ Church in Costa Mesa. Prior to ministry, Nick worked in the music business for 10 years. He also taught as an adjunct at Biola University and was awarded a fellowship to study at their Center for Christian Thought. Nick has a love/hate relationship with both running and USC football and enjoys surfing, cooking with live fire, and hosting dinners with Kim.