Intimacy, not passion, creates a feeling of happiness and fulfillment in a long-term relationship.
All relationships go through stages in the process of maturing. Each stage contributes in its own way towards increasing closeness. If spouses work through the following stages, they can become the very best of friends:
Butterflies in the stomach
The start of a new romantic relationship is often the most exciting because everything is new and full of passion. Riding the wave of intense emotions, we’re ready and willing to do anything for our beloved. We use affectionate words, give hugs, and go on romantic dates and walks. At the beginning, we don’t have to try very hard to feel happy.
The second stage is similar; all those emotions, although a bit less intense, are still fairly strong. But eventually, a moment comes when they fade, and then the relationship starts to require a bit more work.
Is it over?
When the first stage of falling in love passes, sometimes a relationship enters a crisis. Some couples break up, because they think that if they don’t feel the same passion anymore, the flame of love has totally burned out. It’s true that some feelings do fade away, but only to make room for something more profound: intimacy.
Research shows that it’s intimacy, not passion, that creates the feeling of happiness and fulfillment in a relationship. Intimacy is an emotional or spiritual closeness with another person on which true friendship is built. Passion also plays a role in a marriage, but the fact is that with time — or perhaps with the arrival of children — our feelings change and evolve, and it’s good to make sure we keep the fire burning, even if the flame is less visible.
The later stages of a relationship are crucial, as this is when we become more invested in the relationship and we open ourselves up to each other more than ever. We confide in each other and talk about our fears, difficulties, and weaknesses. It’s important to create a space where both feel safe so this can happen.
By creating space, I mean focusing on the other person when he or she talks about the things that are important to them — even if those things aren’t important to you — and not judging. If your spouse comes to tell you about something they’re not proud of, and you say, “How could you do something so stupid?” then there is a good chance that in the future you won’t find out about their feelings and things that aren’t going so well in their life.
An atmosphere of trust and safety is essential. If we give each other our understanding and support and don’t judge each other, then chances are good that it will be a significant milestone in building our friendship within our marriage.
The choice is yours
Whether your spouse will be your best friend depends largely on you, and on whether you are emotionally mature and ready to open up and bare your soul before your spouse.
Adam and Eve were naked in paradise and had no secrets, and the same is possible in every marriage. The key is for both spouses to trust the other sufficiently to share their greatest secrets and to seek support even in the most embarrassing situations.
Breaking that barrier of fear and shame isn’t easy, but it gives the marital relationship the chance to enter the next stage: a stage where your spouse is your best friend, the first person to celebrate your greatest successes and wipe away your tears in your biggest failures.
How to rebuild intimacy in a marriage — even during dry spells
5 Exercises for spouses to revive their once passionate love