Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this post it’s because you’re having problems connecting with your wife. It is called “How to Find Emotional Connection With Your Wife” after all.

And, if you need to find something, it is by definition lost, so let’s start there. You’re lost. There’s a problem and that is OK, because we all have problems of one kind or another.

I’ve been through plenty of seasons where my wife and I are not connecting well. What I’d like to do is share a good way I’ve learned to navigate out of that problem that has proven helpful for me and other men.

Admit you have a problem.

Step one, start by admitting that there is a problem — and more specifically, you have a problem. Would you be surprised how difficult it can be for some guys to admit there is a problem? Maybe not. Would you be surprised how difficult it can be for some guys to admit that they are, if not the problem, then they at least have partial ownership of the problem? If you’re reading this, let’s just start by admitting that there is a problem and that you have ownership of at least a portion of it. What does this look like?

Don’t minimize.

If you feel an emotional distance with your wife, then chances are she feels it worse than you. As you hear her express sadness, frustration, or even anger about feeling emotionally distant from you, chances are what sounds like a “3” on a volume knob to you is actually a 10 for her. And, if you are only recently feeling the distance, or hearing her comments about it, chances are she’s been talking to you about it for longer than you know. So, don’t minimize the problem. She probably feels it more deeply than you, more acutely than you, and for longer than you.

Its OK to be honest about the reality of the situation, in fact you should be. Being honest about it respects the reality of what your wife has experienced and is feeling. Being honest also allows for the most helpful solution to be found. Imagine if a patient kept hiding their symptoms from their doctor out of fear or stubbornness; the diagnoses would continue to be wrong and what perhaps could’ve been addressed in a relatively simple way instead is now chronic or metastasized.

An old friend had a funny phrase for when guys who were going bald young shaved their head. He called it “facing the wolf”. Here’s a chance for you to ‘face the wolf’ with the reality of your situation. Don’t minimize, be honest. What are you minimizing? What do you need to be honest about in regard to your emotional intimacy with your wife?

Don’t blame shift.

Yes, it takes two to tango but being honest about the situation also means being honest about your contribution to the situation. Anyone can see and point out the wrongs and flaws in other people; that requires nothing of them. Being critical is easy. Being vulnerable is hard. You’ve already done the first hard step of admitting there is a problem and being honest about it.

You know that guy at your work who won’t admit his mistakes? Everything is the boss’s fault, his coworkers’ fault, the clients’ fault? Isn’t that the worst? Don’t be that guy with your marriage.

Here’s the deal, I get it. I can be scared to admit mistakes or wrongs because I hate feeling or being seen as incompetent or weak – that’s like kryptonite for men! But the reality is, sometimes I am incompetent and weak. Sometimes I do wrong my wife. We all do. So don’t shift the blame to her or anyone else, absorb it because it is true.

Why are you quick to put the blame on your wife but slow to see your role in the problem? Do you feel incompetent or weak?

Take ownership.

By this point, if you’ve admitted there’s a problem, not minimized it but faced the reality of it, and not blame shifted, then you are already where you need to be: taking ownership.

An old mentor of mine, John Bryson, made a list that is helpful when it comes to taking ownership:

Boys take. Men give.
Boys create problems. Men solve problems.
Boys complain. Men figure it out.
Boys pout. Men endure.
Boys blame. Men own.
Boys wish. Men do.
Boys start. Men finish.
Boys stiffen their neck. Men bend their knee and their will to God the Father.

The reality is you don’t have to be an Alpha Male to do that. All you have to do is take ownership for one step, then the next, then the next until your race is done. Look at it practically. If you continue to minimize, blameshift, and don’t take ownership, nothing will change. The emotional distance will not just remain but more than likely grow.

However, if you can do these three things, you’re off to a great start to changing the dynamic of your marriage toward one of more intimacy. Let me give you two huge examples of what I mean.

True forgiveness and mercy require specific wrongs.

When you face the reality of your situation, don’t blame shift, and take ownership of it to your wife, you actually create an opportunity for her to give you specific forgiveness and mercy. My worst apologies sound like, “I’m sorry about that.” What exactly would my wife be forgiving and being merciful toward in response to that?

Contrast that with an apology that sounds like, “I’m so sorry I spoke to you like that. I know that made you feel alone and disrespected. In the moment I was more concerned with this problem at work than being loving and attentive to you.” She can forgive that because it’s true, real, and specific. Specific apologies and specific forgiveness are powerful antidotes to score-keeping, bitterness, and contempt. Actually, they’re better than antidotes, specific apologies and specific forgiveness are like water to a marriage – with them, a marriage can flourish and produce fruit.

Being truly loved requires being fully known.

But better yet, my wife doesn’t forgive “that” comment I made, she’s forgiving me. In a moment where I’ve wronged her, she is extending to me love and mercy and forgiveness. She sees my selfishness in that moment because I’ve owned it and she is choosing not to meet me with punishment but with mercy.

Tim Keller, a pastor in Manhattan, said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”

See, the strange and sad outcome of minimizing, blame shifting, and not taking ownership is that not only does it remove opportunities for forgiveness and mercy but it also removes opportunities for you to be fully known and for your wife to meet you with true love. And separate from those moments, a marriage will die.

But the hope for you is that humbling yourself by admitting there is a problem, not minimizing it, not blame shifting, and taking ownership of it, you create opportunities for deep emotional connection and intimacy occur — where both of you are fully known, forgiven, and truly loved.

 


 

Written by Nick Bogardus

Marriage365 Nick Bogardus

Nick, his wife Kim and their three energetic kiddos live in Orange County where he is a pastor at Cross of Christ Church in Costa Mesa. Prior to ministry, Nick worked in the music business for 10 years. He also taught as an adjunct at Biola University and was awarded a fellowship to study at their Center for Christian Thought. Nick has a love/hate relationship with both running and USC football and enjoys surfing, cooking with live fire, and hosting dinners with Kim.

 

 


 

12 thoughts

  • Angela

    This is so good! I’m not married but recently went on a few dates with I guy I was looking forward to getting to know. After a 1.5 wks of not hearing a word from him, I’ve decide if I do, to not pursue it any further. Along with the lack of communication, I’ve found it hard for me to respect the lack of courage of owning his intentions. Yes, it’s hard to be vulnerable and not comfort to feel weak but women respect courage, even if it were to include him saying he’s no longer interested. Just be honest and communicate.

  • Julia

    Dear Nick,
    I cannot express how accurate your article is. Let me try, as a wife of 30 years, let me say at least 25 of which our relationship was mostly “deader than a door nail”, I can attest that what you have written here can and does work miracles. The next miracle that needs to happen is getting Husband’s to read articles such as this. Most will be in the divorce lawyers office with nary a clue as to how they could have turned everything around. Thank you for trying. God bless!

    • Nick

      Thanks for the kind words, Julia, and I’m thankful to hear about how your marriage navigated out of being ‘dead as doornails’ to what I assume is living and life-giving.

  • Nobody

    My husband is a master at blame-shifting and disrespecting me when I have an issue. He won’t own anything. He doesn’t apologize, nor accept my apologies to him (and I do apologize specifically as you advise). Today I attempted to apologize twice, he turns his back on me refusing to acknowledge my efforts, and hasn’t spoken to me since last night when I was frustrated that dinner was turning in to a hog slopping event instead of a family meal. Last year he started up a long distance affair (for the 2nd time) with his ex-gf; when I found out he just yells he didn’t do it as we looked at proof on his phone, minimized it with “I didn’t have sex with her! (yet!)”, said he’s allowed to talk to whomever he wants, and told me to get over it. There was no mercy for my damaged heart.

    I begged for counseling as a condition of staying married, he agreed but once we started he told me counseling was stupid and refused to do it anymore. That was nearly six months ago. It just feels empty around here. I wish he would read things like this, I wish he’d do counseling with me, I wish he’d apologize for giving me the silent treatment as punishment for feeling frustrated. Whenever I try to bring something up, he punishes me like this. Several times he’s walked out on me and stayed gone several days, to punish me for objecting to his secrets and lies with other women….or just because I’d like a calm dinner instead of hog slopping madness. It doesn’t take much for him to punish me.

    I miss being in love with him, with anybody. He complains we don’t have sex enough but never considers how bad he makes me feel, how inferior he makes me feel, how chilly our marriage has become. And even if I had sex, it doesn’t make him be nice. Day before yesterday I got in bed with him willingly to have sex, and we did, but he told me my butt was fat and afterwards said my new shirt looked bad and I had no boobs. That’s what I get for having sex with him. Some time back I sent him naked photos of myself and on that day, he was calling his ex-gf and walked out on me the day after that. What good does sex do for us? And if I can’t have sex the moment he wants to, he masturbates instead of waiting until I am free to join him. Then I found out he was posting naked pictures of me on the internet without my permission and told one of his male friends who saw me there. I was so humiliated and he just blew me off, got mad at me for being upset about it, so I apologized for being upset before he packed his things and left again. He just put me out there like some cheap object; my own husband. I mean nothing to him.

    It’s a very sad marriage. When I read these articles I just become more depressed because I know there is a cure for our disease but he will not participate in helping me fix it. He will own nothing, it’s all my problem, my fault. Instead of trying to understand my frustration at dinner, he’s decided I’m stupid and angry over the pasta. Seriously. He’s decided it has nothing to do with his bad manners and disrespect, therefore I am punished with his hateful treatment and silence. After he turned his back on my apology this morning he spent the rest of the day in bed as the kids and I cleaned house, laundry, grocery shopped, put it all away, etc. Then he got up to leave for work, i assume, who knows if he went to work or not, but he left his crackers all over the bedroom floor crushed into the carpet, his drink bottles and other messes beside the bed and spilling to the floor. Just walked off and left food on the floor for me to clean it up once he left.

    Be sure I will not mention the crackers and mess, I would get punished again for pointing it out. Like I didn’t dare mention that he was home off work for a week but couldnt put his own laundry away after I washed and folded it all and carried it to his dresser for him. Open a drawer? Oh heck no, he’s off work! He does no work at home. he watches TV all day while I work at home. I think I have the saddest marriage ever. After treating me like dirt all day he tried to call me once he drove away from home, I didn’t want to talk to him anymore. I’d been trying to talk all day and he wouldn’t let me but suddenly I am supposed to just get over it because he’s decided I should. He says things like, “it’ll be OK, it’s no big deal, we’ll talk when I get home….” minimizing it, but it’s never OK and we never talk about any of it because he will never own any of it. He’s angry I’m still hurt by his affairs and denies all accountability. I shouldn’t have raised my voice about dinner last night – but does that justify getting ignored, not looked at and not spoken to for the next 48 hours by him? I told him I was sorry for doing it – but he’s not sorry to treat me like this.

    This is why I am up again at 2:30 AM, anxious and sick to my stomach and sad unable to sleep. I turned my phone off, I don’t want to hear his lame excuses that blame it all on me and the kids. He tells me I’m a bad mom and should be like his mother, says my kids are bad but he leaves crackers crushed in the bedroom floor treating their mom like crap.

    I had so much hope in the counseling; I thought maybe, just maybe, it would pull our crashing marrage out of this tail spin but he refused so here we are, crashing. He knows we are, he just doesn’t care to make any effort. I should be happy like this under his thumb, he’s decided I deserve it. If I could find a job to pay our bills I would kick him out of the house because this constant state of abuse is killing me inside and he seems to enjoy it. I’m so freaking sad. I think I’d like to call him because I need love, but he’s not speaking to me and I would just be embarrassing myself further by begging for him to forgive me and he won’t, and it will hurt worse. Whenever he comes home again he will be angry my phone was off, angry at me but none of that will be his fault, so we will just pretend nothing happened and sweep all this under the rug with everything else we don’t deal with. A huge lump in the floor we pretend we don’t see and tip toe around the mess careful not to touch it lest the pile start to collapse. Once that starts there’ll be no hope anymore.

  • Kim Q

    Thanks, Nick. Good stuff there. I have been that husband and, thanks to the grace of God and my wife, have come to a better place. My wife and I have since counseled many couples in crisis, most of them “Christians.” One common thread that seems to run through the many husbands we’ve met with is that they view their wives as “the enemy.” They may not realize it at first, or acknowledge it when it is pointed out to them, but the fact remains. I realized this about myself. When my wife criticized my (un-Christlike) ways; when she had opinions and values that ran counter to my (worldly) ones; when she was overly emotional about a (seemingly) trivial thing, I saw her as someone to be countered. Someone to do battle with. An enemy.

    It was a pivotal moment when I realized (with the help of God and His disciples) that my wife was not my enemy. She was created to be “help” (ezer in hebrew). And the help she had to give me had to do with spiritual things. Emotional things. As a (typical) man, I was only able to connect with (or even name) a few emotions: anger, frustration, impatience. In order for me to emotionally connect with my wife, I had to develop (with her help) a whole vocabulary of emotional language. And realize that I was experiencing those emotions (which I didn’t).

    It has been an incredible journey and I still find myself moving in fits and starts. Sometimes one step forward and two steps back. But I think for the Christian husband it is critical to recognize that God gave us our wives to be help; because He foreknew that we would need it. We men are not good without the women in our lives and God said as much. They are our proving ground. They are the media through which we are tested as to our Christlikeness. If it isn’t good with our wives we have no hope of ministry beyond the front door. It is immediately tainted with hypocrisy.

    Emotional connection is spiritual connection. I must be in touch with my own spirit (and Christ’s) before I can connect with my wife’s. That is a lifelong, but certainly worthwhile, pursuit. Blessings!

    • Kim Q

      Sorry, I didn’t realize that this was not an overtly religious website. I would delete the comment if there was an option to do so. Feel free to delete the comment or not publish it. Thanks and apologies.

      • Nick

        Hey Kim, great post, man! I appreciate the vulnerability and insight you shared there. I’m also so thankful to hear how God has shaped your heart and marriage with the Gospel. Thanks for sharing the hope you have!

        (I’m not the moderator but I’m glad they posted what you wrote)

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