Intimacy is something that everyone wants for their marriage. But achieving that requires risk. Because to deepen intimacy in your marriage, you will need to open up to your spouse, to be vulnerable.
Building Intimacy with Vulnerability
Intimacy is complex. It is not something that happens passively; you must work with your spouse to put it together. Vulnerability is a crucial piece, one of the four primary aspects working in sync as parts of the whole.
Your spouse is not a puzzle you can solve. Whenever you think you know everything about them, you’ll always find something new. Irreducibility means respecting the fact that your spouse is a fully realized human being, with an infinite number of intricacies. Their emotions, thoughts, and motivations run incredibly deep and constantly change. No matter how long you’ve known them, they will always surprise you.
Knowing that you can’t fully comprehend your spouse does not stop you from trying. On the contrary, curiosity compels you to pursue them, to get to know them, to understand them. It’s the eternal pursuit of marriage to know and be known by one another. Every day of your relationship should be a dance, an adventure where you relish another chance to learn something new about each other.
Humans crave connection. But fear of rejection and pain can cause you to close yourself off from others, to protect yourself. Because opening yourself up to another person means you are handing them the power to hurt you.
Marriage is different than other relationships. You committed to fight together, to depend on each other, to have each other’s back. You can’t have that deep connection to one another if you are not willing to be vulnerable. So try to let that person into the places you have shielded from others.
Yes, there is risk here. But this is where the payoff is. When another person can see you and accept you for who you truly are, you will find an incredibly deep, profound connection.
Your spouse craves that connection as well. That’s why you married each other! By sharing in your spouse’s joy, sadness, pain, hopes, fears, and dreams, you can understand and accept them for who they are. You too will be able to empathize with them, to see the world from their perspective.
It’s beautiful when these aspects work together as you build intimacy with your spouse. Irreducibility lets you acknowledge that there is always something more to discover about each other. Curiosity drives you forward to learn it. Vulnerability allows each of you the opportunity to see more about the other. Empathy enables you to fulfill each other’s deep need for connection and acceptance.
This empathy you find when you are at your most vulnerable with each other is the very thing that will deepen your intimacy in marriage.
What Does Vulnerability Look Like?
Vulnerability in marriage means opening up to your spouse. It’s about allowing them to see and to share your emotions, experiences, needs, and beliefs. And a large part of confiding in them is opening yourself up to the possibility of being hurt.
Take Emotional Risks
By revealing yourself to your spouse, you allow them to decide how to react to your vulnerability. At that moment, they can choose to offer empathy, acceptance, and love, the very things you crave. They can also choose to reject or dismiss a part of you that you hold dear.
In giving them this opportunity, you are telling them that you trust them, that you believe the best in them. That despite your fear of being rejected, you are allowing them the opportunity to know you better. Confiding in your spouse despite the risk is essential to building intimacy with them.
However, you do need to be careful. Building risk is a process, and you can’t just jump to being 100% vulnerable all the time. You need to make sure to lay the groundwork necessary to grow together and deepen your intimacy with each other safely.
Your Journey to Emotional Intimacy
To help you take these emotional risks, we’ve created a bonus discussion guide for our much-appreciated supporters. This will guide you as you begin the process of discussing vulnerable topics and learn more about each other. Head over to our Patreon to download it today.
Create the Safety to be Vulnerable
When taking steps towards opening up with your spouse, you need to know that it’s safe to do so. Obviously, if you are in an abusive marriage, you must wait until your abusive spouse becomes a safe person before choosing to be vulnerable with them. And if you are in a distressed marriage, certain destructive behaviors will need to be deal with before it becomes safe.
For example, you might share with your spouse how you struggle with changing a particular habit. In a distressed marriage, your spouse might take the opportunity to berate you for not changing rather than choosing to listen and empathize. Or you might find yourself reacting so strongly that you accuse them of being intentionally unsupportive or being the reason why you struggle with that issue.
You will need to address bad behaviors like this to ensure that you both can open up without hurting the other. Once you can create a baseline level of safety for each other, you will be able to start exploring what it means to be vulnerable with each other. Starting slowly will give each of you the practice and opportunity to relearn how to extend empathy to one another. And the more you practice this, the more easily and the more deeply you will be able to find connection with your spouse.
Here are four ways to make your relationship safe enough to allow both of you to be vulnerable with each other:
It’s not fair to ask from your spouse what you aren’t willing to offer yourself. To encourage vulnerability from them, you need to be vulnerable yourself. By doing this, you can help your spouse see that you can be a safe haven they can open up to. And when they do open up to you, extend the very empathy that you seek towards them.
2. Build Trust
It’s easier to take emotional risks when you know that you can trust your partner with your vulnerability. Build trust in your marriage by being transparent, honest, and faithful. Start with the small things, like following through on your promise to pick up some eggs at the grocery store, and work your way up. This way your spouse will learn to trust you enough to be vulnerable with more significant issues.
3. Raise Issues Appropriately
Sometimes in an effort to be vulnerable, it’s easy to forget that your spouse has other things happening in their life. When they are stressing about the possibility of losing their job, maybe find a better time to tell them about that dream vacation in Bali you’ve wanted to go on since you got married. If you bring up important topics at difficult times for your spouse, you are more likely to be rejected. So remember to empathize with them by choosing when to bring up tough topics wisely.
As you and your spouse make vulnerability a habit, you will find that it becomes easier for both of you. Maybe right now, you are finding it very difficult to share certain things about yourselves to each other. You can ease into this is by sharing smaller things or things not directly about you. As you get used to this, you can slowly start to open up with each other more and more.
Vulnerability does not happen overnight. You need to practice care and safety to lay the groundwork for greater vulnerability. And the more you create safety, the easier it will be to be vulnerable, and the more you practice this, the stronger and deeper your marriage will become.
 Julia C. Obert, “What We Talk about When We Talk about Intimacy,” Emotion, Space and Society 21 (November 1, 2016): 25–32, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emospa.2016.10.002.
 Patricia Carter and David Carter, “Emotional Risk-Taking in Marital Relationships: A Phenomenological Approach,” Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy 9, no. 4 (October 8, 2010): 327–43, https://doi.org/10.1080/15332691.2010.515533.
 Elizabeth Fawcett, “Helping with the Transition to Parenthood: An Evaluation of the Marriage Moments Program,” All Theses and Dissertations, April 19, 2004, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/etd/1135.
 Carter and Carter, “Emotional Risk-Taking in Marital Relationships.”
 E. M. Waring, “Facilitating Marital Intimacy through Self-Disclosure,” The American Journal of Family Therapy 9, no. 4 (January 1, 1981): 33–42, https://doi.org/10.1080/01926188108250422.