....hearts, even wounded and broken ones, were created to be loved. We long for acceptance, companionship and connection, because God designed us that way. But when battered hearts come together, they can remain partially closed, tentative about loving fully, afraid to expose themselves to the possibility of that intense pain again.
No matter what overall condition your heart is in, divorce or death has changed your life. It has changed you. It rocked your world and uprooted your security. To have a successful remarriage, you have to heal your heart.
Benefits that remarried couples can experience:
1. Second marriages can be more fulfilling than first ones because individuals have the ability to learn from their past mistakes, are older, more experienced and better prepared. They don't want to fail again, so they try harder; and they are not as idealistic and unrealistic about what to expect.
2. Partners in remarriage often appreciate each other more, because they know what it has been like to be betrayed or bereft. They know how hard it is to go it alone after being married and are grateful for the new, committed relationship they've created.
3. Remarriage provides the couple with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual intimacy and outlet. If the first marriage was riddled with conflict, then a healthy remarriage can help build new bridges of trust.
We feel emotionally safe with someone only when we believe that he or she will handle our heart - our deepest feelings and desires - with genuine interest, curiosity and care.
Partners can probably count on one hand the relationships they've had where they felt genuinely safe to open up and share who they really are. Most of us have very few people to whom we have entrusted our deepest dreams and thoughts. God designed us to hunger for intimacy and deep connection, to connect with others and experience relational intimacy, especially in the key human relationship with a spouse. Yet many of us struggle with various aspects of intimacy because it requires openness - and openness makes us instantly vulnerable. We know from experience that when we lay ourselves open, we can get hurt. Over time, especially if trust has been broken frequently, hearts close and disconnect from others. We're not quite sure what people will say or do, or how they'll use what they learn about us. But it's a false sense of security or emotional safety, because we were created to connect.
In spite of the risks, an intimate relationship offers enormous benefits. Intimacy creates the ideal opportunity to love deeply and be loved. It gives us a significant sense of belonging, a clear sense of purpose in life, the ability to make a major difference in another's life and a way to fully express the best of who we are.
When a husband and wife love each other, they literally give their hearts to each other for safekeeping. This is such a delicate, trusting act that any violation or injury of this trust can cause the most painful of reactions. Imagine taking the very essence of your being - your heart - and placing it in the hands of your spouse. Your heart becomes your mate's to care for, safeguard, cherish and love. This necessitates a willingness to be vulnerable and take a bold, risky step. If your partner reciprocates, you both have chosen to risk being hurt, rejected and abandoned. Placing your heart in the hands of another is a giant step of faith. Afterward, you can only wait to see what your spouse will do with your heart. Your desire, of course, is that your spouse will be a safe haven for your heart. And that is your spouse's longing as well.
When you give your spouse access to your heart, there's no guarantee how your mate will behave, what he or she will say or how your spouse will use what he or she learns about you. If trust has been broken before, allowing yourself to engage in that level of intimacy again takes a tremendous amount of heart work. But the benefits of a truly open and intimate remarriage are numerous. Intimacy creates the ideal opportunity to love deeply and be loved, to experience a significant sense of belonging, to make a major positive difference in another's life and to express fully the best of who we are. Isn't that what every couple wants to experience in marriage?
Intimacy occurs effortlessly and naturally when two hearts are open to one another. In its most basic sense, intimacy is the experience of being close to another person and openly sharing something with that person. This may or may not include words. It doesn't necessarily require work or effort. The best approach to fostering intimacy in remarriage is to focus on creating a safe environment for yourself and your spouse. When both of you feel safe, you will naturally be inclined to relax and to be open. Then, intimacy simply happens. It does not require effort or conscious attention.
Emotional safety is the bedrock of a close, open, intimate marital relationship. In this kind of secure environment, the couple wants to stay in love and harmony and feel very protected, rather than vulnerable, with each other. Emotional safety will help you create a climate in which you can build an open relationship that will grow and flourish. It will help you and your spouse feel cherished, honored and fully alive.
More than 1,000 couples who attended a marriage seminar were asked to define "emotional safety." Here are some of their responses.
- Feeling completely secure
- Knowing that you are loved
- Being accepted for who you are
- Feeling relaxed and less tense
- Being cared for above anyone else
- Feeling free to express who you really are
- Being loved unconditionally
- Feeling confident and less insecure
- Feeling respected
- Being with someone who is trustworthy
- Feeling comfortable around that person
- Being there for me
- Being fully understood
- Feeling valued and honored
- Loving reassurance
- Feeling a deep sense that the relationship is solid
- Allowing ourselves to open fully to give and receive love
- Not being judged
- Seeing me for who I am
- Accepting my flaws as part of the whole package
- Maintaining an atmosphere of open communication
You feel emotionally safe with someone when you believe that person will handle your heart - your deepest feelings and desires - with genuine interest, curiosity and tender, loving care. In other words, you hold your heart out to the person and say, "Here is who I am - emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and mentally. I want you to know my heart and soul, I want you to get to know who I am and appreciate who I am and value who I am. I am a very fascinating person who will take you more than one lifetime to understand."
But you will never offer your heart or reveal who you really are if you don't feel that it is safe to do so.
The best way to stabilize a remarriage is for the couple to ensure that they develop a warm and satisfying relationship. We repeat: No other human relationship takes precedence over your marriage relationship! It is the couple relationship that helps the home run smoothly. There is no way around this truth. When remarried couples place the health of their marriage first, the research is overwhelmingly positive about marriage the second time around.
- Evidence exists that those who remarry have a better balance between self-interest and other-interest than they had in their first marriages. The husbands have learned to focus more on the interests of their wives, while the wives have learned something about the importance of caring for her own interests as well as those of her husband and family.
- Research shows that husbands in remarried families contribute significantly more than husbands in first marriages to the household tasks of cooking, meal cleanup, shopping, laundry and housecleaning.
- Because couples in second marriages tend to be older, have greater experience, have learned from past mistakes and are often better prepared, their relationship can be even more fulfilling than many first marriages.
- Failure in a first marriage has no necessary bearing on the quality of a second marriage.
It is vitally important for the marriage relaitonship to come first.
The primary attitude that will help your spouse feel emotionally safe is your assurance that you understand how incredibly valuable and vulnerable your mate is. This is the essence of honor. By honor, we mean the decision to place high value, worth and importance on your spouse by viewing your mate as a priceless gift and granting him or her a position in your life worthy of great respect. Honor is a gift we give to our spouse. It isn't earned by their actions or contingent on our emotions. We give them distinction whether or not they like it, want it or deserve it. We honor them whether we want or feel like it. We just do it; it's a daily decision we make.
If you want to make your heart and home feel like the safest place on earth, you must be able to convey through your words, actions and deeds how much you honor your spouse. This means that you learn how to handle your mate's heart - his or her deepest feelings, thoughts and desires - with genuine interest, curiosity and care. That's honor in action.
Remember the definition of emotional safety: feeling free to open up and reveal who you really are and know that the other person will still love, understand, accept and value you - no matter what. This is the essence of unconditional love. This is safety in action. We are safe when our spouses share their deepest feelings, thoughts, opinions, hopes, dreams, fears, hurts, and memories. Your spouse is safe, and you have created emotional safety, when you handle that delicate information in an extremely careful way.
We are gentle with each other's hearts when we are patient and kind, when we are understanding and empathic. Another important aspect of safely handling someone's heart is when a spouse acts interested, uses good listening skills and asks pertinent questions. Curiosity is the lost art of wanting to find out more in order to better understand someone. Make it your goal to be curious about your spouse, and see how much more you'll begin to understand.
Here are some ways that spouses say their mates take action to make them feel valued and emotionally safe:
- Prays for me
- Helps challenge lies written on my heart
- Keeps track of my positive behavior - tries to notice what I do that pleases
- Does not judge my feelings, innermost thoughts, needs and desires
- Loves and accepts me unconditionally
- Accepts my influence (be teachable)
- Expresses love and appreciation with words
- Practices healthy communication
- Has the best interests of our relationship foremost in mind
- Is not self-centered of selfish
- Doesn't intentionally hurt me
- Gives me full intention and looks at me when I talk
- Allows me to enter his/her world - shares feelings, thoughts, fears, insecurities, flaws and weaknesses
- Shows genuine interest in what I share by listening
- Validates my feelings
- Is approachable
- Reassures me of his/her love
- Considers my point of view
- Is trustworthy
- Acts curious about me - asks lots of questions
- Provides physical affection, and not just before sex
- Spends time with me
- Constructively resolves our conflicts and arguments
- Serves me in ways that are meaningful to me
- Is honest and tells the truth
- Provides positive affirmation
- Has fun and laughs with me
- Honors my boundaries
- Never uses anything against me that I share in confidence
- Initiates alone time with me
- Works out financial matters with me
- Practices good communication skills with me
- Nurtures our friendship
- Never closes me out
- Regards me as important
- Tries hard to understand my feelings
- Is interested in my friends
- Asks for my opinion frequently
- Values what I say
- Protects me on a daily basis
- Is gentle and tender with me
- Develops a sense of humor
- Is interested in what I feel is important in life
- Is creative when expressing love, either in words or actions
- Shows me he/she needs me
- Accepts me the way I am; discovers my uniqueness
- Defends me to others
- Goes on romantic outings
- Rubs my feet or neck after a hard day
- Tells me how much he/she appreciates me
- Gives advice in a loving way when I ask for it
- Prefers me to others
- Brags about me to other people behind my back
- Tells me about his/her job
- Notices how I spend my day, at work or at home
- Learns to enjoy what I enjoy
- Helps me finish my goals, hobbies or education
- Is gentle and thoughtful to my relatives
- Thanks me for things I have done without expecting anything in return
- Does little things for me - an unexpected kiss, coffee in bed
- Treats me as an intellectual equal
- Plans our future together
- Holds my hand in public
- Puts his/her arms around me in front of friends
- Tells me often that he/she loves me
- Remembers birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions
- Gives me a special gift from time to time
- Shares the responsibilities around the house
- Is sympathetic when I'm sick
- Calls me when he/she is going to be late
- Gives me special time alone with my friends
As you can see from this extensive list, love really is an action verb. Safe people with open hearts can focus on how loving they can be rather than on how much love they need to receive.
Put the above list into action, as well as your own ideas, in order to create a blanket of emotional security and safety that will envelop your marriage. When you put each other first and carefully construct a haven for your hearts, you'll be swinging on the front porch of that old farmhouse before you know it.
Here's a good snapshot of what it looks like to fully love and engage in your marriage:
- A remarried husband loves well when he fully embraces the love his wife has for him
- He lets down his guard and allows his heart to be vulnerable so that it can be open to her
- He takes off any masks and reveals his true self to her
- He shares his goals and dreams and opens up about his past hurts and sorrows
- He admits his fears and anxieties, because he trusts that his wife will protect his heart
- He is always honest with her
- He receives her compliments and notices the things she does to please him
- He accepts the gifts she gives him and brings her gifts
- He enjoys spending time with her and desires her company over anyone else's
- He likes to touch her and be touched and revels in her lovemaking
- He gives his body and his sexual desires only to his wife
- He confides in her as a best friend
- He prays with her and reads the Bible with her
- He works to provide for her
- He stands up for her
- He plans for the future with her