Close

The other day my father-in-law (never-before-used term) and I shared a little secret regarding how private my husband is. We were neither menacing or overly critical at the moment we were just candid as we casually arrived at the same conclusion about my husband’s inability to open up with us. I have to admit, I am frustrated by the reality that I do not have a truly intimate relationship with Jaron, my partner. At the same time that I relish the ability we have to unite around common interests, the ease at which we “flow” around our household, and how we manage both a new co-professional and familial relationship, I wish that there were ways in which we could communicate better, more deeply and more often.

It’s quite crazy to me how with children this bond is generally taken for granted. I do not have to massage, manufacture or labor over my relationship with my children. They are “natural” fits. Or at the very least, a mother and child are socialized (in many cases) into a bond that is predicated upon the former nurturing the latter. In return, we get an unconditional love that is (in many cases) “easy,” and genuinely fulfilling.

Unlike with my children, I feel like there are times in which my husband and I are not “family,” a word that was lovingly thrown around at my in-laws as a way of making me feel welcome and at home, in a space where of course we only infrequently visit, or else they would not have to remind me that we’re “family.”

All I mean by this is that I have to work much harder to create a sense of intimacy with Jaron than I do with most others.

I am a teacher and I truly believe that there is a solution to every problem. I also subscribe to the good-old-fashion-inner-city-public-school teacher ethos of “rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty” with a problem. What do all the Cocoa Mamas out there do to get “close” to a partner, particularly black male partners who are arguably the most “guarded” men there are?

8 thoughts on “Close

  1. I’m not sure what you mean by “intimate.” By example, let me explain. Since I went into the hospital, both my husband and I see a therapist. The other day, he said he wondered why I didn’t ask how his latest appointment had gone. I said that I thought that was between him and her, his therapist; I wasn’t going to ask about it because it was private. He was a little offended; I think he wanted to be open about his deepest feelings, whereas I wasn’t comfortable with that.

    Having a mental illness, I have thoughts/feelings/moods that I don’t share with anybody outside of my therapist, because I don’t want to scare anyone or make anyone concerned. Many times they are fleeting, not fully worked out, and not for a lay person to deal with. And they are private musings. We are married, but I’m still a private person who guards my innermost feelings because they are still kind of scary to me.

    Yet, even though I share these with her and not with my husband, I still think we have a pretty intimate relationship. In that I can be myself around him – I can do things and say things that wouldn’t say around others. I can gossip or be ignorant and know I’ll get a laugh instead of judgment. I can say stupid things and be a complete idiot without thinking that he will think I’m stupid for real. But do I tell him my deepest, darkest thoughts? No, not really. But I think that’s okay. I have someone else to do that with, and I think my marriage is healthier for it.

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    1. This is an interesting approach. I do feel like I can perform all the same agency around my husband that you share in your last paragraph, but I rarely get all the same “goods” back. Also, I think I would be like your husband when it comes to the desire to share (and have shared back) secrets. We are not in therapy, so without that, where do his secrets go? J is enormously private with a lot of people, not just me.

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  2. I agree with LaToya that it’s important to have a support system that extends past your partner. They can’t be everything, nor should we want them to be. I also agree that intimacy with our partners is not mutually exclusive with having other people to talk to.

    I, too, am curious by what you mean when you say “more intimacy.” I suppose that means different things to different people. What is your partner’s reaction such requests?

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    1. I do not think he disagrees with me, but he also does not open up. I know that intimacy is different for many women, in fact it’s a research question of mine for the 50 black women I’m interviewing in my latest project. For me, intimacy is a close communicative practice. Laughing, sharing, dreaming, etc., out loud with another person. I feel like I have this with my best friend, and a few others, but I don’t think it should be left out of a marriage just because I can get it from somewhere else.

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  3. “Laughing, sharing, dreaming, etc., out loud with another person.” Ok, well, you are right, I don’t think this is an okay sacrifice, and I do have this with my husband. I wasn’t sure what YOU meant my intimacy. I don’t always share my most private thoughts, but I share a whole lot of them with him – I do consider him to be my best friend, the one I can let my guard down with, the one who will love me unconditionally and not judge, no matter what.

    We did, however, go to counseling for a time to work on communicating, and I think that helped a lot. We were talking past one another, and I was often left feeling misunderstood. It made me clam up, and him too; counseling helped us see how we could communicate in a more empathetic manner.

    I think marriage is work, and being fulfilled in that marriage is important. If this is something you want, then perhaps counseling is what the marriage needs. Like I said above, we each go to counseling individually as well, which I think is great for both of us AND for our marriage. That can be an option too. I love feeling “close” to my husband, and being completely “free” in my home to be slightly crazy me is of the utmost importance. Without intimacy, that would be impossible.

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  4. Laughing, sharing, and dreaming out loud is definitely included in my idea of intimacy, although I imagine intimacy means different things to different people.

    Sometimes activities, rather than face-to-face talking, helps create intimacy. My husband and I have read several books together over the years. The one we’re doing now, “101 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married,” is great because each lesson is only 1 or 2 pages–crucial for working parents who are short on time. Reading the lessons just gets us naturally talking and chatting, which creates intimacy. For fun, we also do a quiz book a friend sent us–“How Well Do You Know Your Husband/Wife.” It’s like one of those ad-lib books, but the pages are filled with random, and sometimes silly, questions about your partner. We do a couple of questions at a time, and then keep score to see who “knew” the other person better. It’s great because it’s a little competitive (you know the mens love competition!), and sometimes the questions lead to “huh, really, I didn’t know that about you,” which leads to more talking.

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