The Key to Intimacy

He was a good man who really loved his wife. He would do anything for her with one exception. He found it hard to "actively listen" when she needed to "dump" her negative emotions. After all, she didn't need him to "fix her," she just needed him to listen. He found that hard to do. Everything else in their marriage was fine, but she thought he didn't really love her, because he wouldn't listen. The truth is, he loved her dearly.

The gender difference was obvious. He thought conversation was about fact-finding and problem-solving. She really just needed him to listen, as she "dumped" her negative feelings and "tried on" different thoughts. If only he could listen as she opened the emotions of her heart, their marriage would be just about perfect.

No relationship can be intimate without listening to the one you love. That's certainly true in marriage. It's the key to marital intimacy. A husband doesn't need to solve all of his wife's problems, but he does need to listen to all of her problems. She needs to know that it's safe for her to open her heart to him, with the assurance that he loves her enough to really listen.

Active listening means that the other person knows that we are really listening to understand. We understand more than the words spoken, we understand the emotions in a heart to heart conversation. Active listening does not interrupt the flow of the conversation. It may ask leading questions to encourage more conversation. Active listening has plenty of eye contact. It is not distracted by the television, newspaper or anything else.

A husband may ask, "What are you feeling now?" Or, he may say, "Tell me more. I want to understand what you are feeling." Heart to heart conversation is more about emotions than factual data. A wife must feel safe to open her heart to her husband. When she does this, she is paying him a high compliment. She needs him to understand what she feels. He should never say, "You shouldn't feel that way." Ouch, that can really hurt. Her heart opens to him, when she feels safe to share her heart honestly, openly and without fear.

The key to intimacy in marriage is listening. If a wife can empty her negative emotions with her husband, she believes that he really understands her. She can give herself freely and completely to a husband who understands her. He is her "safe place." What would she do without him? He's that one special person in her life who really understands her. Intimacy follows as a result.