God created you with the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy. But intimacy doesn’t just “happen” even if you and your spouse are having sex. A key component of intimacy is a sense of being connected. Connection by itself is not yet quite intimacy, but it’s getting closer. And there are things you can actively do to build the connection between you.

We’re talking in this series about the process of developing true intimacy between husband and wife. Whether you’re just getting started, or your intimacy has completely broken down, this road begins with honesty and safety, and then trust. Once those factors are in place, the ingredients are present to develop a real and lasting connection.

This is what some people think of when they say “fall in love” or “fallen out of love.” That emotional fuel is real and it matters. But fireworks are temporary. Feelings are fickle. The kind of connection that is needed for intimacy includes chemistry and emotions, but it goes far deeper.

Trust grows between you when you both sense that you each are for each other and for the relationship. Next, how do you move from there to a strong and lasting connection?

Displaying Empathy

Think of your relationships broadly – friends, coworkers, church associates. When you sense that someone “gets” you, don’t you naturally want to move closer? That feeling of being understood naturally creates connection.

You can do that for your spouse.

Showing empathy is a skill some people find easier than others, but it’s absolutely something you can learn. It helps when you can look at your spouse with compassion. Even if they have hurt you, they have also experienced hurt. Feeling compassion for their struggle, whether or not you had a role in causing their harm, is a mark of unselfish love.

Empathy doesn’t excuse bad behavior; it’s simply getting out of your own emotional minefield long enough to see and feel things from your spouse’s point of view. And your spouse senses this when you listen without trying to interrupt or correct. You’re feeling the weight they are carrying and being with them instead of trying to “fix” them. You are seeking their heart.

Sometimes empathy means apologizing – not because you got caught, but for the way your actions, words, or behavior affected your partner. You become aware of what it’s like to be married to you, and are unwilling to continue to cause your spouse pain. You care enough to be about the process of becoming who God needs you to be to your spouse.

If you share something vulnerable and your spouse responds with contempt or criticism, they’re not yet safe; you need to slow down. But if you allow your spouse to see and know you and they do the same, you’re building healthy connection and starting to experience intimacy.

Healthy Vulnerability

This means letting down the walls around your own soul when you’re with your spouse. Doing this is unwise and counterproductive without a measure of safety and trust between you. But once that foundation is present, healthy vulnerability is a choice.

No human being is 100% safe. Love always encompasses a measure of risk. Therefore it helps greatly to be growing your own connection with God in this process. Basing your security in your relationship with God instead of your spouse’s behavior allows you to let your walls down in a healthy way in your marriage.

Healthy vulnerability involves giving up control. We humans love to be in control! But holding on to control will completely prevent intimacy. This is why you can only develop the connection fueled by vulnerability when a measure of safety and trust has been established.

Vulnerability involves you being able to communicate your needs and desires to your spouse, not demanding they “fix” you, but putting it out there. You become more comfortable with your own sexuality, and share that verbally, creatively, and also physically together. You are allowing your spouse to see the real you, and allowing the real you to respond to your spouse.

Building Connection

Building a sense of connection together is something you do, not primarily something you wait to feel. It develops best when all the various aspects of your life and human nature are included.

So a few action steps that build a sense of connection.

  • Doing things together. If you’re both busy this takes real intentionality. This is important for both men and women, but many men feel more connected when doing something together rather than simply talking. Get creative. Look for opportunities.
  • Choosing your focus. You see more of what you choose to look for. Scientific research shows that those who choose to look for something to be grateful for in their spouse each day have a stronger emotional connection together.
  • Rhythms of communication. Healthy communication in a marriage happens in various ways; short moments of “thinking of you” or “I’m here,”, catching each other up on what’s going on, and longer conversations about challenges, problems, money, sex, and more.
  • Investing in the “us” of your marriage. Date nights are an example of this. Whether it’s date night or something else, you need dedicated periods of time weekly (or thereabouts) to just focus on the two of you. Sometimes that needs to be conversation, and somethings that should be doing activities together.
  • Invite God into the center. Praying with and for each other is a huge step in building connection. This is not a matter of “God, please fix my spouse.” This is seeing His perspective, inviting His intervention, and following His leadership – together.

Those are just some of the more important aspects of building a strong connection together. The good news is that feelings usually follow actions. This is where ongoing investments in your marriage bring perhaps the largest results.

And as connection deepens, intimacy becomes possible and even exciting. We’ll talk about that authentic intimacy next time.

Your Turn: What are you doing now that fosters a sense of connection between you and your spouse? What steps will you take next to grow your connection? Leave a comment below.

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  • Connection between you and your spouse doesn’t just happen. Here are some important and practical steps to build connection needed for healthy intimacy.   Tweet that.

Intimacy Not Good In Your Marriage?

When you said “I do” you were anticipating things would be good between you. But you may now be thinking, “This isn’t what I signed up for.”

It’s likely nobody ever taught you how to love well. Our online course Fully Alive Marriage shows you how to overcome the issues in your relationship, learn to love well, grow emotional and physical intimacy, and develop a healthy marriage that lasts.