A lasting marriage develops from a couple’s ability to resolve conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship. We grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. The willingness to feel vulnerability and to open your heart is essential to real intimacy. Communication is a fundamental skill for building connection and contact. What we say and how we say it tends to have a powerful effect on bringing us closer together or farther apart. Feeling attacked, criticized, judged, or shamed, tends to build walls between people. Judgments and criticisms tend to close the heart. Sharing feelings has a tendency to open the heart. Its an invitation to move closer together. Building a safe place in a relationship opens the heart and feeds the soul. Acknowledging your partners feelings with empathy and caring breaths life into the marriage. We also have learned that there’s a healing power inherent in intimacy. Your immune system is less effective when you are in conflict with your spouse. There’s great stress in feeling that we’re unsafe. We’re learning that love and intimacy are important factors in health and well-being. Learning how to open your heart and be intimate with another human being is a powerful, healing experience. Conversely, couples who are contemptuous of each other may be more likely to suffer from stress and illness than other people.

We could say that marriage is a spiritual path, that its natures repair process. We have all been wounded along the way to some extent. There are no perfect parents. Any unfinished business we had with our parents becomes a compelling agenda with our partners. Often the very things we cherished about our partners in the beginning of the relationship become the things that tend to rub us the wrong way later on. We all have felt misunderstood or maligned by the very person we thought understood us better than anyone else. True intimacy brings vulnerability. No wonder that we’re all fearful on some level of making an intimate connection with another human being. The people we love become very powerful to us. Sometimes we need to dilute that power so that we won’t feel that frightened of being hurt. It’s often a struggle to work at maintaining a loving connection in the face of such fear. We learn to protect ourselves by attempting to make the other person less important. The safety and connection of the relationship may become compromised.

Dr. Darryl Feldman