Husband and Wife together

Working on Emotional Intimacy – Discussing the Past

The following is from lesson #27 of the Marriage Repair Workshops.  For more information on how you can attend these workshops, CLICK HERE.

Emotional Intimacy is one of the hardest phases of the entire process of rebuilding and repairing your marriage.

We have been building up to this point for half a year [prior lessons in the Marriage Repair Workshops]. You will need all of your Verbal Intimacy skills.   You will need to be able to skillfully keep the Spirit present during conversations, and skillfully retreat and regroup if things start to fall apart.

Remember, work your hardest to maintain the Born Again Marriage mentality, meaning, continue through Season 1 as if you are getting to know someone for the first time.

Hopefully, if your spouse worked hard during Season 4, they went through some significant personal changes that we call being Born Again as an individual, just like you did.

You would like the opportunity to be treated like a new person. You would like your spouse to seek to discover your changes for the good.  You will need to keep doing the same as you enter this phase.

Courtship is getting to know each other. Your commitment is to your God and your identity and your purpose more than it is to the other person.  Commitment to the other person comes later, after some trust has been built. Commitment to them doesn’t come until Season 2.

In the Verbal Intimacy phase of Season 1, you started getting good at communication with the Spirit on general topics about the present.

This is like the first few dates after you meet someone for the first time.  If you can’t mutually enjoy talking about what is going on today and this week, you can’t go on to the next phase.  Review D&C 50 if you need to.

For an experience to be “Edifying” both need to be uplifted by the interactions.  So keep practicing this. Remember, trust in talking about deeper subjects like the past pain is not part of the Verbal Intimacy phase. That will come gradually while working on Emotional Intimacy.

Couple walking together

In the Cognitive Intimacy Phase of Season 1, you practiced talking about each other’s future plans.  Remember, as if you are in the very early stages of dating in a new relationship, you are not yet trying to synchronize your future plans. You’re only becoming very aware and clear of each other’s future hopes, plans and dreams.

If you were starting to date someone, if you didn’t have some respect for and a desire to further explore the other person’s vision of their marital future, you wouldn’t want to nor would there be any need to share with them the details of your past.

As we next enter the Emotional Intimacy phase of Season 1, you are now going to practice listening to each other talk about each other’s pasts.

If you had recently met someone, and you had enjoyed some Verbal Intimacy with them, and if, when talking with them you were interested in and impressed with their future plans (Cognitive Intimacy), you would want and need to get to know their past before you would risk falling in love with them and committing to them.

Intimacy Pyramid diagram from the Lazarus Lectures

Unfortunately, in our youth, we were probably too immature and undisciplined to enter a relationship with this kind of wisdom. Attraction, fun and the sensation of feeling in love were often, incidentally, some of the more intense motivators for proceeding into marriage.  We have since learned that such criteria for commitment need some improvements.

So, to successfully talk about each other’s pasts, you are going to need all the stability you worked on during Season 4, and your skill at signaling and returning to Season 4 as needed.  You are going to need your 4 Square Listening Tool.  Both of you.

The Emotional Intimacy phase is not a time to resolve what has happened in the past.  It is a time to just share and listen.

If you had just started to get to know someone, you would not be “fixing” their past or “correcting their perceptions.”

In order to move on to the next phases of intimacy, you each need to have the skill of listening to the other person talk about their past in a way that feels complete to them.

Work your hardest to talk and listen in 3rd person while working on Emotional Intimacy.  This will help decrease leverage Satan has on triggering your defense mechanisms.

Because your spouse has worked through Season 4, we can assume they are Born Again, meaning, they are not the person they used to be.  So, talk about any experiences you had before going through Season 4 as if it was with someone else.

Example: “Six months ago I was in a relationship with a guy that scared me really bad.”  Or, “I was once in a relationship with a woman who seemed constantly distracted by other things and never gave me the time of day.”

couple looking to future together

Now, remember, if you were dating someone for the first time, you would not be correcting them as they told their story.  Remember, you can tell just as much about a person by the way they tell their story, as you can by the story itself.

For instance:  “This dumb old man made us pull wagons across the country promising us a great place to live and then dumped us in this desert next to a lake you can’t even drink out of.”  Or, “Although it was challenging, we were blessed to be led by a prophet to a land safe from mobs where we could worship in peace and safely build a temple.”  Same story; two very different ways to tell it.

Satan and his Demons hate it when 2 people experience Intimacy of any kind.  Watch carefully for their disruptive intrusions.  Watch for how they twist words and meanings.  Watch for how demons “trigger” you while listening to the other person talk about their past.

Think about how you would feel if someone was sharing something painful with you about their past.

woman looking out window

Think about how you would feel if it was someone else who had scared them or hurt them.  We would each have an instinctual response of protecting the one who had been through pain, soothing them and fighting for them. This is Charity.

If you are “triggered” into Self-protection mode, it is time to signal and retreat and regroup.  You need not retreat for days.  With practice, you may only need to retreat for minutes, but if necessary, you should take days.

We know we have completed the Emotional Intimacy phase, not when all the things of the past have been resolved, but when all the essential pieces of the past have been shared and both feel edified and validated.  This may take many attempts.

After each Emotional Intimacy attempt you will need to retreat and regroup.  Such sessions can be very difficult, and as such, very exhausting.  You will need to rejuvenate in your personal time with God.

During this time, after you have gotten some strength back, review as if on video tape, your participation in the process.  Turn your attention to yourself, not your spouse.  They will be doing their own work on their own time.

Use the following checklist as you self-evaluate:

When you were speaking….

  • Did you keep the Spirit with you?
  • Did you stop when the listener disconnected so they could regroup and re-engage before you continued?
  • Did you maintain your dignity?  Especially if the other lost theirs?
  • Did you avoid gas-lighting and blaming, etc?
  • Did you retreat and regroup as necessary if you felt invalidated or any other triggering emotion while the other was listening?
  • Did you watch for Satan’s participation in your conversation?  Can you identify any ways he tried to disrupt the conversation – and blame it on your spouse?

When the other person was speaking…

  • Did you avoid becoming defensive?
  • Did you maintain an exploration attitude?
  • Were you able avoid “making it about you” and keeping your mind on what the other person has been through from their perspective instead of your “reality”.
  • Did you work to find useful and edifying interpretations of the other’s words instead of correcting errors in communication?
  • Did you signal a need for retreat and regroup as needed?
  • Did you use the 4 square listening tool to help you maintain your presence of mind and stability of brain chemistry?
  • Did you seek to understand and use reflective listening skills?

This is just one of over 100 lessons taught in the Marriage Repair Workshops – by Maurice W. Harker, M.ed and team.

If you are ready to learn these and other Christ-centered principles and breathe life back into your marriage, register for the weekly Marriage Repair Workshop. For more information or to register: CLICK HERE.

I'm Not Okay, You're Not Okay, but That's Okay book cover

To read more writings of Maurice W. Harker, Director of Life Changing Services, read his powerful book on marriage and relationship recovery and repair called, Life Changing Services,

[To get your FREE ebook copyCLICK HERE]

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