Last week we talked about how physical nakedness can be difficult. Today we’d like to continue this series and focus on emotional nakedness. Emotions, we believe, are severely misunderstood in today’s culture. Emotions themselves seem to be greatly feared because many believe it impossible to control them. Due to this, when it comes to emotional nakedness in marriage, the subject first appears quite confusing. What does “emotional nakedness” actually mean?
Marriage is about nakedness. Part of the reason we are not supposed to be naked physically with someone before we are married is because we must first learn to be naked emotionally. Physical nakedness is best in the context of emotional and spiritual connectedness. One of the definitions for the word naked is being devoid of concealment or disguise. What better place than the marital relationship for this to occur. When you join your lives and your bodies as one there should be no need for a disguise. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Self-protection is a very human experience, and one which we never need to receive any training. We often self-protect ourselves by concealing and disguising, and we do this just as much emotionally as we do physically. Here are some reasons we wear disguises that make emotional nakedness hard:
Hurt and pain from past experiences. Sometimes this pain occurred in childhood. Sometimes it happened in previous relationships or marriages. It may even show up in your current marital relationship because of intentional or unintentional conflict. Our past experiences affect our current relationships in incredible ways. In all areas of life it is important to face and deal with our past. We will always be trapped and our growth stunted if we are unwilling to look into our past and search for freedom from the hold it has on us.
Inability to trust in or depend on our spouse. Marriage is a partnership. God designed men and women to compliment and complete one another. Whenever self-centeredness or self-reliance enter the marriage it is not as it should be. Husbands and wives have a lot of freedom to make decisions regarding how to best use their abilities and natural inclinations to serve each other and live their lives but if there is a constant fear or being used, overlooked or put down, emotional nakedness is not happening. In order to let go of the disguise we must learn to work as a team. We must put the needs of our spouse ahead of our own. The disguise can only be destroyed when we are willing to see that we need to trust and rely on someone other than our-self.
Fear of coming undone. We live in a culture that values strength, not weakness. Self-reliance, not interdependence. Control, rather than the unknown. For all these reasons and more, learning to be emotionally naked in marriage is counter-cultural. Somewhere the fear that our spouse will reject us because of our “junk” outweighs the risk. We become comfortable with our disguise and it stays in place because the fear of humiliation and shame don’t seem worth the effort. We get by and resign ourselves to thinking this is just the way life is.
The only hope to experience freedom from these masks is humility. To be emotionally naked requires humility. It requires us to humbly admit we don’t have it all together. To admit we don’t even have words to describe what we are feeling. To admit that facing our past scares us so much we don’t want to go on. To admit we have needs we cannot fill. To admit we can’t live life in a pretty little package all tied up with a bow, we need to come undone. None of these thing are possible without the help of God. We can never learn to be emotionally naked with our spouse if we are not aware of our deepest need, the need for a Savior.
So, yeah, emotional nakedness is hard but it is so worth it. The experience we have in our marriages when we become emotionally naked is just a taste of the beauty we can have in our relationship with God.
How do you and your spouse become “emotionally naked” with one another? What kinds of open-ended questions do you regularly ask one another to ensure you keep vulnerable with one another and your marriage stays strong?