One of the primary obstacles couples attempt to overcome in therapy is feeling emotionally disconnected. Life tends to get in the way, with careers, kids, home upkeep, and family activities leaving little left over for intimacy. When couples express a lack of connection, I often ask, “Can you tell me about a time when you did feel emotionally connected?” Almost inevitably, the time they describe is before they had children.
One of the most complex challenges that many couples will face is having a child. Having children emotionally revolutionizes a relationship—not just temporarily, but for a lifetime. Not only does the couple need to adjust to the transition from two to three (or more), priorities shift, roles are redefined, and there is a profound change to the level of responsibility and freedom within the relationship and in life itself.
While most couples adjust accordingly, many find that their level of intimacy starts to wane. I am not referring to sexual intimacy per se; I’m referring to emotional intimacy, which of course includes sexual intimacy. Couples who become parents may begin to feel estranged and disconnected.
Reclaiming emotional intimacy after the birth of a child is not always easy. Many people in our culture feel overwhelmed and are overworked. What is it that allows the need for the dishes to be done to take priority over emotional intimacy? The answer may lie in the pursuit of “having it all.” We want to perfect parents, to give our children everything, and for our marriages to be happy, sexually exciting, fulfilled, and emotionally intimate.
For couples to become reconnected emotionally, they need to free themselves from the disproportionate focus on the child. They must accept that they need to schedule time alone for themselves, be it in the form of a date night or getting away every so often for a weekend. While some couples resist the idea of scheduling their time together as opposed to being spontaneous, as they probably once were, it’s a fact that once a couple become parents, they need to be more practical in order to sustain the level of emotional intimacy and connection that keeps a marriage healthy. Sometimes couples need to become industrious, intentional, and creative in their attempts to rekindle the intimacy and passion they once had.
Couples need to recognize how important the component of friendship is to their relationship. We treat our friends with kindness, consideration, and empathy. In order to sustain a happy marriage, couples must not forget the significance of being friends with each other. Unfortunately, couples sometimes treat strangers with more consideration than they treat each other; they take each other for granted.
It’s also worth noting that the small things are significant in sustaining emotional intimacy and connection—things such as a post-it note that says, “I love you,” or sending a text that says, “I’m thinking about you.” Also, I recommend that couples take a small amount of time, even five minutes if that is all they can muster, to be COMPLETELY PRESENT for each other. No technology! They must have eye contact and be genuine in wanting to know how the other is doing. Integrating these small things on a daily basis can help maintain or even boost emotional intimacy and connection. And, of course, it will benefit their sex life as well.
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