Tag Archive for: Marriage

My husband and I just celebrated ten years of marriage. We were overwhelmed by support from friends and family. Messages poured in through social media and texts: “What an accomplishment!”, “A huge success!”, “A whole decade of life together under your belt!” 

While it felt good to look back over the years and note the milestones we’ve accomplished together, I couldn’t help but think: Is a length of time the best measure of marital success? What about the health of the relationship?

While it is crucial for couples to celebrate their anniversary and every milestone in their relationship together, I sometimes worry we (as a collective society) put more emphasis on the number of years than we should. It can be easy to assume because two people have stayed together for a significant amount of time, they have a thriving relationship. But we’ve all been around those couples–the ones who may have been together for a long time but seem miserable and tired of each other.

What if the collective support for married couples focused more on celebrating and encouraging healthy connection instead of only glorifying the amount of time they “stuck it out together?” 

Decades of research, including recent studies published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, suggests that the quality of the relationship is a more accurate predictor of marital satisfaction than the number of years spent together.

Longevity alone does not guarantee a fulfilling and harmonious environment for the couple.

In other words, milestone anniversaries are undoubtedly worth celebrating, but the sheer length of a marriage doesn’t guarantee its success or happiness. It also doesn’t guarantee that future generations will have the skills and understanding they need to develop thriving families.

Psychologist Dr. David Banks says couples should not only see their anniversary as a time to celebrate the longevity of their relationship but as a time to evaluate the quality of their marriage. “As a couple reaches another year together, they should strive to ‘level up.’ Think about what you can do to make your relationship stronger year after year. The length of time isn’t the only measure of success,” says Dr. Banks.

So, what does a healthy marriage look like? And how can we encourage married couples to focus on increasing their relationship quality as the clock ticks by?

According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, there are five pillars of a healthy marriage:

1: Communication:

Effective communication is the bedrock of a healthy marriage. Couples who openly express their needs, concerns, and feelings create a foundation of understanding and connection.

2: Emotional Intimacy:

Prioritizing emotional intimacy is paramount to marital satisfaction and creating a solid foundation for generational relational health. It involves vulnerability, trust, and a deep emotional connection that withstands the test of time.

3: Shared Goals and Values:

Couples with shared goals and values tend to weather challenges more successfully. Aligning aspirations and beliefs creates a sense of purpose that can strengthen the bond between partners.

4: Adaptability and Growth:

Embracing change and supporting each other’s personal development are crucial for long-term success.

5: Seeking Professional Help:

When challenges arise, seeking the guidance of a marriage counselor or therapist can provide valuable insights and tools to navigate difficulties. Proactive efforts to address issues contribute to the resilience of a marriage.

For nearly three decades, First Things First has advocated for the benefits of a healthy marriage.

For those benefits to be seen and experienced in our homes, communities, and throughout generations, it’s imperative to shift our focus from the number of years to the quality of connection. As we redefine success in marriage, let’s embrace the notion that a healthy, fulfilling partnership is the true measure of success, regardless of the number of candles on the anniversary cake.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at [email protected].

It’s an election year, which means more news, more debates, and more campaign ads are on the horizon.

While many have figured out how to avoid heated politically-fueled conversations around extended family members, it’s more challenging to keep the peace when you and your spouse have different political views.

As the political landscapes become increasingly polarized in our nation, maintaining harmony within the confines of marriage can feel like a high-stakes balancing act – but it’s not impossible. With understanding, respect, and open communication, couples can navigate the choppy waters of divergent political beliefs and emerge with a stronger, more resilient bond.

Finding commonality amid differences requires a delicate touch.

Here are some strategies for married couples seeking to keep the peace and the passion alive this election season and beyond:

1: Listen with empathy and speak with respect.

The foundation of any healthy relationship rests on open communication. When discussing political matters, prioritize active listening over winning debates. Seek to understand your partner’s perspective, and ensure they feel heard and respected. Remember, love and respect can transcend political differences.

2: Establish boundaries ahead of time.

It’s crucial to recognize the point at which political discussions become counterproductive. Agree on boundaries to prevent heated debates from escalating into arguments. Designate specific times or spaces for discussing politics, ensuring that these conversations don’t overshadow the shared joys and interests that initially brought you together.

3: Find common ground.

Explore areas of shared values and interests that extend beyond the realm of politics. Engaging in activities that you both enjoy can strengthen the foundation of your relationship. Remember: a deep connection goes beyond the voting polls.

4: Embrace the art of compromise.

Successful marriages thrive on compromise. When faced with political disagreements, seek a middle ground where possible. Understand that compromise doesn’t mean abandoning personal beliefs but rather finding solutions that respect both perspectives. Two things can be true: You can love your spouse dearly, and you can completely disagree with their political views. Those two things can coexist.

5: Lead by example.

Be a model of the values and behaviors you wish to see in your partner. Encourage open-mindedness and a willingness to consider alternative viewpoints. Leading by example can inspire positive change and create an environment where differences are celebrated rather than feared.

6: Seek professional guidance if necessary.

If political disagreements begin to strain the fabric of your relationship, consider seeking the guidance of a professional counselor. A neutral third party can provide valuable insights and tools to help you navigate complex issues and strengthen your connection.

Instead of allowing political differences to drive a wedge between you and your spouse, use them as an opportunity for growth and understanding.

By cultivating empathy, establishing boundaries, finding common ground, embracing compromise, and leading by example, you can not only survive the political storm but emerge with a relationship that stands resilient in the face of challenges. After all, the strength of a marriage lies not in the absence of differences but in the shared commitment to weathering life’s storms together, hand in hand.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at [email protected].

For the last seven years, I’ve had the pleasure of working for First Things First, Inc. (FTF).

We’re a non-profit dedicated to helping every family have healthy relationship skills to pass down from generation to generation. I’ve served in several roles at FTF, but for the last twelve months, I’ve been honored to serve as President and CEO. 

This is my first of many articles to be published in this column for The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Mitchell Qualls, our Vice President of Operations, is handing me the baton. I will continue to share research-based relationship skills and best family practices with you. I’m so grateful for the dedication and exceptional content Mitchell created over the last two years. I know many families in our community have been encouraged and empowered through his writing.

So, here we are in another time of transition.

A different byline will appear in this column. A new season is approaching. The holidays and the hustle and bustle are right around the corner. If there’s one thing that’s certain to stay the same in life, it’s change.

I’m thirty-two years old, I’ve been married to my husband Daniel for almost nine years, and we have a sweet, rambunctious three-year-old named Strider. At least once a week, my husband and I talk about what we can do to create a more consistent schedule. We’re convinced consistency will make daily life easier and make everything fall into place.

But the truth is, no matter how well we plan, we can always expect change.

We can’t prohibit the flu from taking over our household. We can’t keep the tree from falling down in our yard during a storm. We can’t stop mechanical issues from happening in our car. As much as we might wish it wasn’t true, change is here to stay.

However, we can choose how we support each other when change inevitably occurs.

In 2021, Cleveland Health Clinic reported people experience increased stress symptoms when going through change, and these symptoms increase the more change we encounter.

So, we’ve already determined change is inevitable, and now we know stress is also unavoidable. What’s the solution if we can’t avoid it?

A 2017 research article published in the Innovation in Aging journal through Oxford University Press revealed healthy family relationships can limit stress, increase the production of mood-boosting chemicals in your brain, and create a sense of belonging and unconditional love.

In other words, the best way to deal with life changes and the stress they create is to have a solid support system to rely on.

While we can’t plan for change, we can work toward building stronger relationships and families that will help us weather the storms and enjoy the sunshine on the other side.

According to the Journal of Marriage and Family Review, strong families have six significant qualities in common:

1: Appreciation/affection

2: Commitment

3: Positive communication

4: Time together

5: Strong coping skills

6: Spiritual well-being.

Over the next six weeks, we’ll take a closer look at each of these six qualities and suggest ways to assess them in your relationships, along with practical tools you can use to strengthen your family for generations to come.

I look forward to continuing this relationship journey alongside you.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First and can be contacted at [email protected].

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and it’s time to start planning something special for your significant other. If you’re tired of the same old dinner and a movie routine, we’ve got you covered with 5 creative Valentine’s Day ideas.

1. Plan a Themed Dinner at Home

If you’re looking for a romantic and creative way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your significant other, consider planning a themed dinner at home. This is a great way to create a unique and intimate experience that you both will remember for years to come. Here are a few tips to help you plan the perfect themed dinner:

Choose a Theme. Whether it’s food from a specific area of the world or recreating your first date, the first step in planning a themed dinner is to choose a theme that you both will enjoy. 

Create a Menu. Once you’ve chosen a theme, it’s time to create a menu that fits the theme. Look up recipes online or in cookbooks to find dishes that match your theme and your tastes. Make sure to include appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

Decorate Accordingly. To create the perfect ambiance for your themed dinner, decorate your dining area accordingly. Use tablecloths, placemats, and napkins that match your theme. Add candles, flowers, and other decorations to create a romantic atmosphere. You can also play music that fits your theme to enhance the dining experience.

2. Craft a Romantic Scavenger Hunt

Looking for a fun and creative way to spend Valentine’s Day with your significant other? Consider planning a romantic scavenger hunt! Here are some tips to help you get started:

Design the Clues. The key to a successful scavenger hunt is designing clues that are challenging but not too difficult. Consider using riddles, puzzles, or even inside jokes that only the two of you would understand.

Select Meaningful Locations. When planning your scavenger hunt, think about locations that are special to you and your partner. Maybe it’s the place where you had your first date or a spot where you shared a particularly memorable moment. Including these meaningful locations in your hunt will make the experience even more romantic and personal.

Prepare a Surprise Ending. No scavenger hunt is complete without a surprise ending! Consider ending your hunt with a special surprise, like a picnic in the park or a romantic dinner at your favorite restaurant. This will be the perfect way to cap off a fun and memorable Valentine’s Day adventure.

3. Personalize a Movie Night

Thinking an evening at home might be better suited for you and your love? Why not try a movie night that’s tailored to your relationship? Here are a few tips to help you create a customized and memorable experience.

Select Films with Significance. Choose movies that hold special meaning for both of you. It could be the first movie you watched together, a favorite romantic comedy, or a film that relates to a shared interest. Take turns picking movies and enjoy reminiscing about past memories and creating new ones.

Prepare Movie-Themed Snacks. Make the movie night even more special by preparing snacks related to the films you’re watching. For example, if you’re watching a romantic comedy set in Paris, serve croissants and coffee. Or if you’re watching a movie set in the Wild West, try serving popcorn in a cowboy hat. Use your imagination and have fun with it.

Set the Scene. Create a cozy and romantic atmosphere for your movie night. Dim the lights, light some candles, and add some comfortable pillows and blankets.

4. Make a Relationship Scrapbook or Photobook

Looking for a unique way to celebrate your love this Valentine’s Day? Consider making a relationship scrapbook together! This project is a great way to reminisce about all the wonderful memories you’ve shared over the years.

Gather your supplies. You’ll need a photobook, patterned paper, scissors, tape, stickers, and of course, printed photos of the two of you together. 

Personalize it. Once you have everything you need, start by selecting your favorite photos and arranging them in a way that tells the story of your relationship. You can add captions, journal entries, or other special touches to make the book more meaningful.

Spend time reminiscing. One of the great things about making a relationship scrapbook is that it’s a project you can work on together. Spend an afternoon or evening going through old photos and reminiscing about the good times you’ve shared.

5. Let First Things First Plan For You!

You and your love are invited to an exclusive date night experience on February 10th, 2024 – the perfect Valentine’s Day celebration! Our new Heart to Heart Date Nights are designed to strengthen your relationship while also strengthening the mission of First Things First. Proceeds from each ticket go directly to providing a low-income or at-risk couple access to relationship-strengthening resources from First Things First.

This romantic evening includes:

  • A four-course meal for 2
  • Live music by local Harpist
  • An intimate marriage experience led by speaker, author, and Psychologist Dr. David Banks
  • A personalized Valentine’s Day gift!

Get your tickets by January 31st at FirstThings.org/HeartToHeart. Space is limited.

Lauren Hall is the President and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at [email protected].

I just turned 33 years old. I married my husband when I was 23, which means we’re approaching our 10-year anniversary. My husband was 30 when we married, which means he’s approaching the big 4-0 in just a few short months. (If you know him, please remind him of this. He loves it.)

I won’t bore you with all the details of how we met, but it started with a college research project I was working on. My goal was to write a journalistic research paper on why the average age of marriage was quickly on the rise. In 1990, the average age to marry was 20 for women and 23 for men. By 2010, the average age had risen to 29 for women and 30 for men. My project guidelines required me to find three unbiased interviewees. So, I asked a 29-year-old barista from Starbucks, whom I barely knew, if I could ask him a few questions about his views on romantic relationships and marriage. 

What I Learned About My Husband

During that interview my husband really admired marriage and saw it as a future goal. He had a history of mismatched relationships that consisted of rivaling ideals and misaligned commitments. However, he revered marriage and was consistently in pursuit of finding “the right person.” This surprised me. He drove a motorcycle, had tattoos, played guitar, and categorized himself as an artist. I made an unfair assumption that he was probably just “playing the field” or “having fun.” To my surprise, we were married 16 months later.

According to a Pew Research study released this June, America has reached the highest number of never-married individuals on record. Currently, 25% of 40-year-olds or older have never been married. This is a significant increase from 20% in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. With the rise in cohabitation, it’s tempting to assume the majority of these individuals are living with someone. However, only 22% reported they are currently cohabitating. 

While these findings alone may lead us to believe that marriage is dead in our country, there’s another side to the story. This 2023 study also revealed 63% of Americans believe it is important for couples to get married if they intend to spend the rest of their lives together. A similar study released by Pew in 2014 reported only 53% of Americans felt this way, revealing a marked increase in this viewpoint over the last decade. 

Here’s Why This Matters

While fewer people are getting married overall, it’s not because they don’t have the desire to do so or, like my husband, revere marriage itself as a major step in commitment. In general, individuals want to be more cautious with making commitments and “test their relationship” by living together or staying together for longer lengths of time before saying, “I do.” Not to mention the cultural trend to obtain a degree and build a career before considering marriage at all. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but it does play a major role in establishing priorities for how we measure “success” and “fulfillment” in life.

This theory holds true across race, ethnicity, and socio-economic divides as well. A 2021 study published by the National Library of Medicine found that low-income individuals desired marriage for themselves and saw it as a standard for living a fulfilling life. However, a multitude of factors kept them from pursuing and committing to relationships, including money problems, substance abuse, and generational trauma.

Marriage Rate

While the marriage rate is certainly decreasing across our nation, I’d like to propose a different interpretation. It’s not because we don’t desire it; it’s because we’ve slowly shifted its priority. While the reasons why are myriad, and every situation and relationship has its own story to tell, marriage isn’t dead. 

(But it has become the houseplant in the corner we forget to care for. We know having the houseplant has many benefits for our overall health, including better air quality in our home and an overall mental health boost. But there are a million other things on our to-do lists that can keep us from prioritizing those sad, drooping leaves).

What can we do to help marriage become more of a priority again in our nation? Does it matter in the long run? In next week’s column, we’ll take a look at building a better understanding of commitment and the key elements of healthy relationships. We’ll also take a fresh look at the influence of generational cycles.


Karney. (2020). Socioeconomic Status and Intimate Relationships


Feeling disconnected from your spouse can be as confusing as it is concerning. You might be wondering if you’re imagining things. (We all do this at times.) Or is this a normal feeling during a hectic season of life? (We all go through those times.) Is it a sign of something deeper and perhaps more troubling? (Maybe. But let’s not rush there.)

The question is: What will you do about this feeling of disconnection?

Here are five suggestions to help you get to the bottom of this situation. 

1. Tell your spouse how you feel.

Sounds obvious, right? We often sit with these feelings for far too long without dealing with them directly. You can be as straightforward as I just wanted to let you know that I feel disconnected from you lately. Can we talk about it?

Your spouse might feel the same way, and you can begin to address it together. Your spouse might explain how they’ve been stressed out lately and offer to plan time together to reconnect.

2. Share your need to feel more connected with your spouse and include the actions and activities that help you feel connected.

We’re all wired differently. We experience connection uniquely. Your spouse might think that if there aren’t any obvious problems, all is well in your marriage. (If we’re keeping things real, this is often the default setting for many people.)

3. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself.

This is not a roundabout way to say this is all in your head. This is human nature. If you’re mentally burned out, emotionally spent, and/or physically exhausted– disconnected from your best self –you’ll feel disconnected from those around you. 

You might need some alone time. Engage in some things that recharge and reenergize you. Don’t feel an ounce of guilt for taking care of yourself. This equips you to connect with others in meaningful ways.

4. Take a look at your circumstances.

Have there been some significant changes? Have you or your spouse’s schedules become crazy? (Has your child’s schedule become crazy?) Have your usual routines been disrupted? New career demands? Travel? Are in-laws stopping by more often? Any of these things can easily disrupt the typical ways you connect with your spouse.

If you can’t change your circumstances, you can intentionally carve out time to connect with your spouse. You might have to try some new approaches. Get creative. Be sure you’re getting the most out of your time together. (Don’t just sit on the couch and watch a movie. Snuggle it up on the couch and watch a movie.)

5. Don’t be afraid to get help.

By disconnected, do you mean things like:

  • Uninterested in spending time with your spouse?
  • Uninterested in resolving conflict?
  • Uninterested in connecting emotionally?
  • Uninterested in physical touch or sex?

These can be signs of deeper relationship issues that a date night isn’t going to fix. If you feel like your spouse is more of a roommate and less of a soulmate, it’s time to seek some counseling. Whatever you have to do to connect with your spouse is worth it.

BONUS: Focus on giving love, not receiving it. Watch what happens.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from FreePik.com

How to Overcome Built-Up Resentment in Marriage

Even though it may be hard or even painful, a healthier relationship is worth the effort.

Resentment in marriage is a dangerous emotion. It’s a silent killer of relationships. Resentment is bitterness at having been mistreated. It’s anger too, but it’s so much more. When you feel resentment, you’re reliving whatever caused the anger. This builds an emotional wall between you and your spouse.

Resentment is complex, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone. Resentment can be a mixture of anger, surprise, disgust, contempt, shock, and outrage.1  

Here are some common causes of resentment in marriage:

  • Being taken advantage of by your spouse.
  • Your spouse spends too much time with their family or friends and not enough with yours.
  • Your spouse is married to their job.
  • You don’t feel recognized or appreciated by your spouse.
  • Being put down by your spouse.

Any of these would cause you to be justifiably angry. When that anger is ignored or left unresolved, it festers and grows into resentment. Anger is a healthy emotion, but resentment is not. 

Built-up resentment doesn’t have to be a relationship killer. Your marriage can overcome it. It may not be easy, but it is possible.

Where do you start if you want to overcome built-up resentment in your marriage?

I’m so glad you asked.

Get to the root of the resentment.

To overcome resentment in marriage, you have to start at the root. Ask yourself, “When did it start? What happened that caused me to feel this way?” Maybe you feel there are several causes. Grab a notebook and start writing. Think through the timeline of your marriage. It may seem like you resent your spouse for several things, but there is likely a root cause. Remember, resentment builds an emotional wall between you and your spouse. Many issues may have compounded after that wall was built.

The intention isn’t to list all your spouse’s wrongdoings. Like a good detective, you need to gather the evidence. The exercise of writing down the wrongs will help you identify the root cause. Once you have identified the root, don’t let the other issues compound it.

Let yourself feel.

Resentment is an intense emotion. If you’re angry, be angry. If you’re sad, be sad. We often bottle up our feelings when we think others don’t care. Bottling up those emotions isn’t healthy or helpful. To overcome resentment, you must process the feelings that come with it. And as you work through this with your spouse, you must let those feelings be seen. Let them know how their action, or inaction, makes you feel. Remember to use “I” statements like “I feel hurt” or “I feel neglected.”

Focus on the good.

Your spouse is your partner, the love of your life. You may not always like them, but you married them because you love them. While resentment can cause us to dwell on the negative, overcoming resentment can only happen if we remember all the good in our marriage. Grab that same notebook and write all the good about your spouse and marriage. Write down what you love about them, how they care for you, good memories, and cherished moments. 

You’re going through this process of overcoming resentment because you cherish and value your spouse.

Talk to someone you trust.

Whether it’s a therapist, a friend, or a relative, you may need someone to talk with through this process. This isn’t about bashing your spouse. You must address your feelings first. You can’t fix someone else; you can only fix yourself. Surround yourself with a support system as you find healing. You may have someone in mind as you read this. Take out your phone, text or call them, and invite them to coffee.

★We get it: Sometimes getting the help you need can feel like it’s out of reach for so many reasons. Here are some free/reduced options for counseling and help in your personal and relational wellbeing.

Acknowledge that we all make mistakes.

We’re all human. Mistakes are in our nature. If we want others to forgive our mistakes, we must offer the same to them. However, this doesn’t mean you should excuse your spouse’s behavior when they wrong you. It means you should acknowledge their mistake and look deeper into the circumstances. If the mistake is repetitive, intentional, or crosses a boundary and they refuse to address it, you should speak to a counselor to get guidance.

Work toward forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a process. It would be ignorant of me to tell you to just forgive your spouse. I’m not a person who easily forgives. It’s often easier to forget and distance yourself from the person who harmed you. But resentment hurts you more than anyone else. If you’re looking for healing, forgiveness must come. 

It may take a lot of time, depending on the depth of the hurt. When you choose to forgive your spouse, you decide to heal yourself. Take your time and be aware of your emotional well-being through the process. Don’t let anyone rush you to forgive. Let your spouse know your feelings and the cause of them. When you are ready, let them know you forgive them. Be honest with them. 

Holding on to resentment hurts you. If you want a healthy, happy marriage, don’t let resentment keep you from working toward that.

Other blogs:

How to Stay Motivated During Marriage Challenges – First Things First

What to Do When You Feel Disrespected in Marriage – First Things First

How To Have More Meaningful Conversations With Your Spouse – First Things First


1TenHouten, W. D. (2018). From ressentiment to resentment as a tertiary emotion. Rev. Eur. Stud., 10, 49.

Miceli, & Castelfranchi, C. (2019). Anger and Its Cousins. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917714870

Additional articles:

Dealing with Resentment in Relationships I Psych Central

How to Fix Resentment in a Marriage | Loving at Your Best

5 Things to Do When You Start Resenting Your Partner

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

What Is Emotional Intimacy?

Being close with the one you love has major benefits.

Cultivating emotional intimacy in marriage makes me think of a road trip. Having a destination is essential, but the journey is where adventure lies. My wife and I love a good road trip. I could tell you countless stories of getting lost, taking detours, traffic jams, and discovering beauty along the way. 

Marriage is a lot like a road trip. Some days are blue skies and sunshine, driving through the countryside with the wind in your hair and music cranked loud. Other days are roadblocks, traffic jams, and detours. When you head out, you never know what lies ahead. The road you travel won’t always be easy, but the journey is where your marriage is strengthened and thrives. 

The journey begins the day you say, “I do.” It won’t always be easy, but all the bumps in the road help the two of you grow closer. When you tackle all those hazards together, hand in hand, it strengthens your connection. 

Researchers at Cornell University found that the most successful marriages involve communication, knowledge, and commitment.¹ Those three components are vital to a happy, healthy marriage. They also contribute to building emotional intimacy in your relationship.

What is emotional intimacy in marriage?

It’s the ongoing, intentional process of fully knowing your spouse and being fully known by your spouse. Intimacy is often equated with sex, but it’s so much more than that. There are actually five types of intimacy: emotional, intellectual, experiential, spiritual and sexual. For right now, let’s focus on emotional intimacy because it’s crucial to the other types. Emotional intimacy is the “glue” of all relationships.²

Emotional intimacy is understanding what’s happening inside your spouse (and feeling like they understand you the same way). It’s knowing all their feelings, hopes, dreams, vulnerabilities, fears, motivations, and desires. It’s gaining a better sense of what drives or moves your spouse, what interests and intrigues, and enthralls and enchants that person you’ve committed yourself to. Emotional intimacy is simply growing deeper in your understanding of your mate. 

Emotional intimacy requires couples to take on the role of a compassionate detective – an invested student of each other. Developing emotional intimacy is a continual process of learning, understanding, and empathizing with who your spouse is on the inside. Both men and women view emotional connection as crucial to a long-term, healthy relationship.³

So, what does emotional intimacy look like in marriage?

I’m glad you asked!

Here’s what people in marriages with strong emotional intimacy may say: 

It feels like I’m heard whenever we talk, even if we disagree. 

When we’re together, we’re not just two people in the same room; we really connect. 

They don’t try to fix things when I’m explaining a problem unless I ask for it; they simply listen to try and understand what I’m feeling. 

When we have a disagreement, it doesn’t feel like we’re on opposing sides necessarily; it feels like we’re on the same side trying to solve the same problem. 

We’re busy, but we make time to spend with each other. That’s important to us. 

Couples with emotional intimacy…

  • Have a stronger sense of trust and security. Knowing and being known chips away at the need to wonder how much you can rely on your partner to be on your team. You can feel safe, secure, and accepted just by being yourself.
  • Are more accepting of each other’s faults. Understanding who your spouse is gives you a better appreciation and compassion for them. It’s beautiful when that’s a two-way street in a relationship. 
  • Have a stronger physical intimacy. Emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy have a substantial effect on each other. 

How do you build emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy needs to be foundational to your marriage. All the other types of intimacy need this foundation to thrive. Here are a few ways to build that foundation:

  • Communicate daily.
  • Express appreciation for your spouse.
  • Be curious about your mate.
  • Make yourself emotionally available.
  • Be vulnerable.

Check out this article for some exercises to strengthen emotional intimacy in your marriage.

Marriage is a beautiful journey. One day, you’ll look back and take joy in the detours and roadblocks because those things strengthened your emotional intimacy. Enjoy the journey and take every turn hand in hand with your spouse.

Other resources:

Help! Our Intimacy is Gone – First Things First

7 Questions Every Couple Needs to Ask Each Other to Improve Their Sex Life – First Things First


¹Cornell University. “Love, factually: Gerontologist finds the formula to a happy marriage.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150617134613.htm>

²Gaia, A. Celeste. “Understanding Emotional Intimacy: A Review of Conceptualization, Assessment and the Role of Gender.” International Social Science Review, vol. 77, no. 3/4, 2002, pp. 151–70. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41887101. Accessed 27 May 2022.

³Wade, TJ and Mogilski, J. (2018) Emotional Accessibility Is More Important Than Sexual Accessibility in Evaluating Romantic Relationships – Especially for Women: A Conjoint Analysis. Front. Psychol. 9:632. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00632

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***