“Do You Know Me?”: A Spouse’s Longing For Intimacy
By: Ryan Hovis, MA, LPC
Remember the times you spent with your spouse back when you were dating?
So many people look back on those magical times in their lives, thinking of them as the moments when they felt truly known and understood by their significant other.
It can often feel like your spouse was one of the few people, perhaps even the only person, who truly knew you or understood you at that phase in your life. It is in these spaces that envisioning a life together seems wonderful and incredible. Who doesn’t want that kind of intimacy for the rest of their lives?
And with those feelings, many couples move on towards marriage. However, something happens. After the festivities are over, after the newness of the marriage wears off, routine settles in. And with routine comes a predictability that loses that “x-factor” feeling that was there in the beginning of the relationship.
Further, the feeling of being known and understood by the other partner in the marriage becomes something of a theoretical conversation instead of a felt reality. Sure, you know plenty about your spouse, and your spouse knows plenty about you. But do you feel known, deeply, intimately and completely? In most cases, spouses report that in this phase of their relationships, that feeling of “being known” or “being seen” no longer exists in the relationship.
In many of the couples who come to me seeking healing, almost all of them highlight this shift in the relationship. Although those points in the relationship are different, and the reasons behind the shifts are as unique as the couples themselves, most people in a marriage state that their partner “no longer knows who I am anymore.” How is it possible that two people, who have spent time knowing and growing together intentionally lose the ability and the sense to feel and experience connection?
The reality is that often relationships hit a point where the pursuit to know the other lessens, and we all move toward an “autopilot” mode. We acquire knowledge about the other person; know their habits, tendencies, and can even reasonably predict the other’s behavior, reactions and responses to most circumstances. The problem with falling into this mindless pattern is that we know just enough about the other person.
Life is rarely static. We are all constantly changing in one way or another. New life circumstances, new goals and new growth areas all arise throughout our lives. Consequently, our marriages continue to change as well.
However, couples that have a difficult time often assume that what they know about their spouse remains static, and the pursuit to see the new in the other diminishes. The result is that the marriage has changed, but the people in the marriage are unwilling or unable to see the changes in the relationship, and thus, become dissatisfied with their spouse.
If you feel that you are stuck in a marriage where you feel you don’t know your spouse anymore, ask yourself this question. Where have you been searching for a new person in your spouse? Remember, you, your spouse and your marriage live in a constant state of flux, and you always have something more to learn about the person you share your life with. Looking for that part, and seeing them in the light of that ever present change can start a new direction for your marriage.
Tips for Seeing the New
Spend quality time together. In the busyness of you lives, it becomes easy to sacrifice time with your significant other because you“already know” about them and need to attend to the events that are pressing now. Being intentional and setting aside time every day (even it is 10 minutes) will drastically change how you see your spouse, and allow the opportunity to explore where you, your spouse and your marriage are growing and changing. Make sure that this time is devoid of distraction (TV, children, bills, etc.) so that you can be fully present to what your spouse is saying.
Reflect what you hear your spouse saying. Many spouses move too quickly to assume they know exactly what their spouse is intending by their message, and jump to responding without ensuring clarity. By slowing the conversation down, many couples realize how much they actually miss and, more importantly, misattribute meaning their spouse intends. Restating what you hear in your own words not only offers and opportunity for your spouse to clarify what they said, it can also highlight areas where you are misunderstanding your spouse.
Compliment your spouse. One of the reasons the magic wears off from dating to marriage is that most couples stop complimenting what they appreciate and value in the other. Continuing to offer positive feedback regarding what you value in your spouse, even if you’ve said it before, has several positive effects. First, looking for the positive aspects of your spouse predisposes you to be looking for the good in them instead of noting what irritates you about them. Second, reminders of what you value in the other often changes their response to you, and by complimenting what you see and appreciate will often increase the very things you like about your spouse.
Do you feel like the above questions just aren’t enough to get past the distance between you? We’re here to help. Reach out to our therapists to help you heal the gap between you, resolve conflicts and, overall, improve your marriage.