One of the major things marriage provides is it's the best chance to create an intimate connection with another person. It's part of marriage's elegant design. You and your spouse can create an entire part of life that only the two of you know about. Yet, this intimate connection is also a source of major frustration.
Because the marriage of your dreams is not likely the marriage of your spouse's dreams. One of the hurdles to creating a close intimate connection with your spouse is an unrealistic togetherness expectation. Stated another way, this is idealized or fantasy togetherness. In my mind, expectations are really planned disappointments.
So what expectations did you bring into your marriage?
You and I both have them.
Here's a list of common ones.
1. You want a relationship with your spouse that is
- just like the family you grew up in (denying the reality of weaknesses in your family of origin).
- or nothing like the family you grew up in (denying the reality of strengths in your family of origin).
2. You want your spouse to make up for the damage you experienced in your family of origin either
- by providing what you did not get.
- acceptance, validation, approval, security, etc. OR
- by accepting your extremes (clinging or distancing) without requiring you to mature.
3. You want to feel loved, accepted, and appreciated for your uniqueness and you expect to feel safe and cherished.
- Romantic love should make everything right with the world.
- If he/she truly loved me, he/she would understand my needs and wants and know what to say or do to meet my needs and wants.
4. My spouse wants the same things from our relationship that I want, so if I give him/her what I want, he/she will give it back to me.
- A "give to get" relationship
Answer this: How often do you give up or rearrange yourself for the sake of connection and/or intimacy?
A far too common belief about intimacy is an expectation of trust and reciprocal disclosure as a requirement for deeper levels of intimacy.
It would sound something like this: "I'll tell you about me, but only if you tell me about you. If you don't, I won't either. But I want to, so you have to. I'll go first, and then you are obligated to disclose too: it is only fair. Before I go first, you have to make me feel secure because I need to be able to trust you."
Does safety (i.e. trust) as a requirement for intimacy, foster true self-disclosure? Or does it foster self-presentation?
What's the difference you ask?
Self-disclosure is exactly what it sounds like – a revealing of yourself, be it thoughts, beliefs, ideas, reactions – in the presence of another person. But true self-disclosure also involves a bit more. It involves a willingness to reveal myself to another and take responsibility for myself in a relationship with them.
Tell me if this sounds like self-disclosure:
I feel abandoned when you tell me you're going to do something with your friends, and I'm not invited to join.
On the surface, this sounds like self-disclosure – but it's not. This is more like manipulation than a disclosure. I'll tell you about my abandoned feelings in hopes that you'll change, so I don't feel abandoned.
True self-disclosure would go more like:
When you tell me you're going to do something with your friends and not me, I feel scared because I don't feel good enough about myself, nor do I feel strong enough within myself to be alright without you. Consequently, I want to respond to my fear by controlling you and forcing you to stay and do things with me whether you want to or not, so I don't have to deal with my fears and own inadequacies.
Is self-disclosure safe within any relationship?
That's not a guarantee beforehand. What's revealed could be used against you. But self-disclosure presents the opportunity to get to know yourself in the presence of your spouse.
Self-presentation, on the other hand, is the portrayal of what you think your partner wants to encounter, or what you think the situation calls for – it's not a revealing of yourself.
Many people state they're interested in intimate relationships or that they want more intimacy in their marriage – here are a few things to know about intimacy and intimacy expectations:
- Intimacy is just as likely to be disconcerting and uncomfortable as it is to be warm and fuzzy.
- Obsession with intimacy leads to less satisfying relationships.
- People who pursue only intimate relationships limit the pleasure and freedom of less demanding relationships.
- Seeking understanding is often a demand for your partner to understand you the way you understand yourself.
- "Accept me the way that I am."
- Asking your spouse for validation of your inaccurate self-portrait.
- Demanding that your spouse understands what you yourself haven't figured out about you.
Many times the complaint about lack of intimacy is actually the inability to tolerate the intense awareness of self and/or other.
When your spouse tells you that they have no interest in travel, knowing full well that you love to travel, what happens to you? Do you feel rejected and unloved? Do you appreciate your spouse's willingness to tell you who he/she is, whether you like it or not? Do you immediately plan to give up travel or get a new spouse?
What about a third option – you can accept that your spouse is not you, and you can both love your spouse, and love to travel.
Marriage presents countless opportunities for self-disclosure due to the differences between you and your mate. But a truly intimate relationship only occurs when you show up - as the real you.
It's a leap of faith, yes, but it's the only pathway to true intimacy.