How “I feel” Statements Build Intimacy
It’s not every day you turn 40. In fact it’s just one day. And I love celebrating on my actual birthday. Anybody with me on this? The day before or after just won’t do. We were born on this day and it’s time to party!
But I have often just wanted my husband to intuitively know what kinds of things I would like as gifts. I have wanted him to be so in tune with me that I wouldn’t have to say anything. But sometimes, if I am honest, I am not even sure of what I would want, so how would he know?
Turns out talking openly and sharing honestly really is the best policy. For all kinds of communication in your marriage.
But how can we share openly and honestly all while not provoking an argument?
This is where “I feel” statements have become a growing staple in our home. A helpful formula to use can look like:
“I feel (emotion)….
when you (an action)….
because (this circumstance happens)…..
and it would be helpful if (vulnerable request of an action)”
We can use this model when there is conflict or tension, “I feel hurt when you are on your phone because I do not feel important and it would be helpful to feel like I matter to you.” The “I feel” puts the ownership on us and makes us actually think about the need below the need. It takes the blame out and puts the ball in our court.
But it doesn’t make it easy.
A few years ago I chose to be vulnerable. I bravely expressed, “I feel super loved when you surprise me because then I feel like I’m the most important person to you in the world. So, I think I need surprises.” It sounded awkward coming out of my mouth, but it was the most transparent sentence I had said in a while. It also almost felt childish to tell him I love surprises. But it also felt childish if I didn’t.
Why do I expect him to read my mind?
Because of my honesty, to close the night on my birthday, my husband had some friends shoot off fireworks down the street just as I was blowing out 40 obnoxious candles on my cake. I was so surprised! I didn’t tell him how I would like to be surprised, just that I did. And that gave him the freedom to come up with his own surprise, something I definitely did not expect.
When we use “I feel” statements, everyone is vulnerable. The one expressing their feelings and the one listening. The more we practice honesty and listening to one another each day, the more we will build our intimacy and understanding in our marriage.
But let’s be clear. When we are honest, we also run the risk of not getting what we want. We run the risk of disappointment. Of heartache. Of rejection. This is where trusting God to take care of your heart comes in. Can God take care of your feelings? Can you He love you enough when you are disappointed? Can He be the one to fill you up? Yes. Come honestly to the King as often as you come honestly to your husband. And watch God take care of you.
Here’s to quiet walks or loud fireworks or anywhere in between depending on how honest you are. Here’s to real honest communication. Here’s to starting small: “I feel loved when you listen to me, so I need you to hear me or see me or put your phone away or be with me or to light one sparkler for me.”
Wife Step: Pray, “God, I am afraid to be honest and open because I might get rejected or be disappointed. And I don’t want to hurt like that. Help me to trust you, and trust that you will hold my heart in your hand and take care of my hurt if I am open and honest. Help me not to tie my well-being to how my husband responds to me, but to tie my well-being to how You see me. You adore me, love me, accept me and hold me close. Thank you for taking care of my heart and for growing my marriage. Amen.”
Amy graduated from BGSU in 2001 and married her college sweetheart, Rob, one week later. Amy worked in the college ministry of Cru from 2003 to 2015–8 of those years she served as Team Leader. Since 2003 she has regularly blessed the Cru staff, students, and BGSU Greek life with her exceptional speaking, teaching, leading, and mentoring abilities. In June of 2015, Amy brought her experience to the Brookside Staff Team as Director of Outward Movement. In November of 2017, Amy wrote her first book on motherhood titled “Chin Up: Wearing Grace, Strength, and Dignity When Motherhood Unravels Our Souls.” Amy loves anything athletic and competitive, especially tennis and Spikeball, and in her words she “really tries to believe that winning isn’t everything. But, that’s hard.” Amy also enjoys creating things, decorating, and helping others make beautiful spaces. Amy and Rob have three amazing kids ranging from 3 to 10 years old.
Bailey Richardson is the wife of a Paul Bunyan look-a-like, the mama of a growing little family, and a woman on the wild adventure of pursuing Jesus. She lives in a small lake town in Minnesota where her family is highly involved in their local church and Young Life, a global non-profit youth ministry. A self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” Bailey loves writing for and connecting with women who want to more deeply experience the grace, freedom, and abundance that comes from following Jesus. You can find her at baileymrichardson.com or on Instagram @baileymrichardson.