Yesterday, I asked, what is the one thing? What do you believe is that one thing necessary for a happy marriage. I promised that I would answer the question today, so here it is.
My answer to the question is emotional security. If you have emotional security, you will have a relationship that will not only last but it will thrive. It will be hot and heavy. Some people call this emotional attachment but I think that is one step away from the home run. Emotional attachment comes after I am emotionally secure. Look back at the list I gave you, they all lead to emotional security. If the relationship is to last, it will move past those things and end up in emotional security. Relationships that do not end up with a high level of emotional security will not last. The reason is simple. Things like romance, love and passion are not on a constant flow. They ebb and flow throughout a life time. Sometimes, they will flow hot and heavy. Sometimes, they will ebb slowly and trickle along. It is in these times that the emotional security will act as the glue that keeps the relationship together.
You may have heard it said that most affairs are not about the sex. It seems so counter-intuitive but I think that it is right. Certainly affairs happen for a variety of reasons, but after talking to more cheaters than I care to count I am convinced that one of the key reasons for the affair is almost always an attempt by someone to feel more emotionally secure. Please hear what I am saying, I am not saying that the person who was cheated on is to blame for the affair. Who we need to blame is almost always a losing conversation. What I am trying to get at is the reason for the affair.
You can have really hot and heavy sex without being emotionally secure for a time. If you don’t believe me, go walk a local high school hallway. Talk to some college students. Young people are having sex and often it is temporarily fulfilling and sex that they enjoy. It is really hard to be emotionally secure with your spouse and have boring sex. Guys, if you are having a hard time getting your wife to want to have sex, it is probably because she does not feel emotionally secure with you. If you don’t believe me, go ask her how emotionally secure she feels. Be prepared for an answer you might not like. This is the first place I start when a couple comes to me with an unhappy sex life. We almost never have to go anywhere else.
Our level of emotional security is directly determined by the answers we find to three core questions. The first question is am I being heard? This does not just mean do you hear me, but are you actively listening to what I am saying. Are you hearing the words and examining my body language. Are you trying to understand what I am saying to the point that you want to figure out what I am not saying? If you want to convince me that you are not hearing me, just interrupt me and tell me how to fix the problem before I done talking (Guys, I am not trying to pick on us here but we are terrible at this business). There is something cathartic and healing in being heard.
The second question we seek to have answered is Am I valued? Not just for what I do but for who I am. Is there intrinsic worth to you in me. Do you find time to be with me? Am I high on your priority list? Am I more important than Sunday afternoon football? Am I more important that shopping with the girls? Where do I fit in your priority list? Am I more important to you than the feeling you get when you angry with me so you avoid saying hurtful things? If you want to convince me that I am not valued, just ignore me. Don’t find time to talk to me. Of course, don’t find time to hear me and you can give me two no’s at one time. How much of our various youth culture movements are an attempt to be heard and to be valued? When a young man pulls up next to you and his stereo system is loud that it reverberates through your car, I cannot help but wonder if he actually just asking to be heard—I wonder if he is asking if you and I if we will value him. When someone covers his or her body in various tattoos or piercings, I wonder if he or she isn’t simply trying to be heard and valued. How much of our attempts to stand out (usually by fitting in) are simply attempts at being valued?
The last question we ask is perhaps the most important. We all want to know if I can be safe to share with you emotionally. If you hear me and you even seem to place some value in me but I cannot trust you to keep what I share with you, I will not be emotionally secure with you. If you trust me and I judge you or use what you share with me in moments of anger (think of couples fighting), you are not going to be emotionally secure with our relationship. And like a tree that needs space, sunshine and water to grow, our relationship needs all three of these to grow. Take one away and the tree may grow a little bit but it will not grow to full capacity. Many times, it will whither and die. Emotional safety is the glue that keeps being heard and valued together.