With the everyday stress of running a household and new financial demands, little hurts and annoyances in a marriage can pile up. Often we look to sex for relief and reconnection. The flood of good feelings from sexual intimacy and stimulation can temporarily override bad feelings, and for a while you can move on believing all is well.
But what if I told you that there was a way to get naked with your man without taking off your clothes? A way to keep things juiced up between you…well before hitting the bedroom?
When it comes to getting naked, vulnerable communication is about as bare as it gets. I once heard the word intimacy described as “into-me-you-see.” That means that raw feelings, and the tender needs they point to, are being seen and exposed, even if it feels scary. Think of honest, vulnerable communication as part of your foreplay to richer intimacy. There are certain steps that will help you get there. They are as follows:
STEP 1: Self-Inquiry.
What is it that you have had little grievances about? Perhaps he doesn’t help clean up as much as you would like or hasn’t heard your plea for a romantic night out in awhile. Whatever it is, have you tended to push it aside or have simply nagged him about doing it? Either way, I’m guessing that you don’t feel heard or cared for on those fronts. Identifying aspects of the relationship that really bother you is the first step.
STEP 2: Identify your feelings.
Over time, little hurts build and form into resentment—which is sure to put a damper on your desire for him. Just like it takes two to tango, it takes two to openly communicate; however one person can often get the ball rolling. Feeling words like “sad”, “lonely”, “worried”, and “scared” have the potential to capture more of the essence of what is happening for you then moving straight into an action plan, and are an important step in helping him to feel compassionate and connected to you.
STEP 3: Identify what you are longing for.
Understanding universal needs and how they are operating in your life is also a very powerful way to expose yourself, and can open the door to feel his love and affection. These include the need for connection, to feel loved, to be seen/ heard, to matter. They also include needs for order, self-expression, contribution, cooperation, and appreciation.
STEP 4: Get specific.
The more clearly you can identify a specific action, phrase, or behavior to discuss, the easier it will be for him to understand and be able to try and meet your needs if possible. When using feelings and needs language in dialog, the form looks something like this:
“When you____(specific action), I feel ____(sad, hurt, annoyed) because I’m really wanting/ needing_______(us to work together, respect for my effort, more alone time with you).”
And may conclude with a vulnerable request: “Would you be willing to…(specific action)?”
At first, this may feel awkward or challenging for you. If you were raised with the idea that if you care you shouldn’t have your own needs, or “needs” were just a code word for a demand—(I need you to-!) then trying to think in this way may seem like I just gave you a foreign language assignment. Which brings me to the final step.
STEP 5: Abolish the language of demands.
If you notice that you are more often than not hearing yourself say “YOU need to…(do this or stop doing that, give me attention, fill in the blank)” with your spouse than watch out! You are on a downward spiral that is sure to send intimacy flying out the window.
It certainly doesn’t mean that you and your spouse don’t live up to your agreements. Especially in today’s modern marriage, negotiating roles and defining and following your own agreements are a huge component. It’s when you move from a two-part collaboration to a “one person is driving this ship” mentality that you’ve stepped out of vulnerable, mutual invitation and consent to the struggle for power and control. Your spouse will feel it and will either respond with collapsed submission (which seriously isn’t sexy), or distant resentment and withdrawal (that means less attention on you).
So what can you do to turn your ship around? Practice getting naked with your communication. Practice vulnerability. Dive deep into your heart and take a solid look at what is sincerely out of your control. If you are someone who isn’t aware of or tries not to have any needs, think about becoming more honest with yourself.
Begin to use feeling language more and more and introspect into your deep emotional longings. When you begin to get more intimate with yourself, it will be easier to get more intimate with your man. When you have a clearer idea about what you like, how you are feeling, and what you want more of you can ask for it more directly.
Sure it may mean that the dishes go unwashed for a night or that you really own up to the fact that you take on too much and need more fun or support. Whatever you discover in this process or let go of, I can assure you that you will start to feel happier, healthier, more vibrant, and more excited to get down and dirty even when the going gets a little rough.
If intimacy between you needs a lift then having your man hear, see, and respond to you differently will be a refreshing change, and may very well translate into your level of turn-on. Being seen for your innermost needs and desires can be not only healing but thrilling when your vulnerable exposure is felt and received. Ready to try on this new way to get naked? Check out www.cvnc.org for more tools and information.
For practice and/or guidance in developing vulnerable communication for couples and creating greater intimacy in your marriage, go to www.jennifernorstrom.com/schedule-a-session/ for a free consultation.
Jennifer Norstrom, LMFT ©2015, all rights reserved.