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Building Emotional Intimacy Helped Us Navigate Life’s Ups and Downs
by Ashley Thues
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March 17, 2020

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Building Emotional Intimacy Helped Us Navigate Life’s Ups and Downs

Credit: Ashley Thues

This year, my husband James and I will celebrate nine years of marriage. When I reflect on our relationship and what was required for us to get to this point, I revert to a central theme revolving around vulnerability. We evolved significantly from when we first began dating in our early twenties until now. But the emotional evolution that had to take place laid the framework for who we would become as a couple, and eventually, a family unit.

Although we attended high school together, we didn’t run in the same circle. We reconnected shortly after I graduated from Howard University when I returned home to Detroit one weekend, and we both happened to be at the same party. He approached me, we exchanged information, but honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to go anywhere. I was leaving in a couple of days, and in a few weeks, he would be going to play basketball overseas. 

The emotional evolution that had to take place laid the framework for who we would become as a couple, and eventually, a family unit.

Credit: Ashley Thues

We talked on the phone that evening, and what stood out to me was the sense of ease throughout our conversation. It was clear very early on; there was something magnetic about our connection. Deep down, in my core, I knew my feelings were far more intense than I admitted or could even comprehend. What is one to do in a situation like this? You can either lean into your emotions or exercise caution. 

As great as everything seemed to be going, fear definitely crept in. There were aspects of our relationship that I was uncomfortable with; for example, James had a young child from a previous relationship. No one I’d ever dated had children. My initial thoughts were, does this automatically come with drama? After all, I was entirely too young to become a stepmother. Also, we were living on different continents, and separate time zones, so the ability to stay synced as a couple was extremely challenging. How would this work?

Related: The “V” Word: Vulnerability

I had an amazing job at my dream company, so professionally, things couldn’t have been better. Was I supposed to give all of that up to become someone’s wife and move across the globe? Only to be solely dependent on him and his situation? In retrospect, there was a bit of self-sabotage taking place. Unfortunately, I abruptly ended the relationship and decided to take the safe route. 

This decision would prove to have a bearing on our relationship in the years to come. James was hurt, blindsided, and taken aback, which resulted in resentment and anger on both of our parts. The two of us moved on with our lives, dated other people, and adjusted to new cities; it seemed to be the end of our story.

Time does heal a lot, but the real healing happens when you are honest with yourself and others about your feelings.

My internal compass is usually guided by what feels right, so emotional and spiritual alignment is essential to me. I believe in fate and the saying “what is meant to be, will be.” So, when James and I moved to the same city, it was only a matter of time before that gravitational force guided us back toward each other. Time does heal a lot, but the real healing happens when you are honest with yourself and others about your feelings. 

To that end, what transpired next was a series of events that occur when there is a violation of trust and the refusal to be vulnerable. It was at this moment that I learned how dangerous unaddressed issues could profoundly affect a relationship. Again, instead of continuing the same cycle of trying or wanting to hurt the other person by inflicting the same pain experienced, we decided to end things and distance ourselves from each other for good. Or so we thought. 

Related: Making Our Love Last Beyond ‘I Do’

Credit: Ashley Thues

A few years passed, and our friend fate would once more, pull us back together. One night we ran into each other and ended up having a genuine, open, and honest conversation. It was one of those really uncomfortable discussions! But this time, we were done playing games. We needed to decide whether or not we continued the cycle or if we were ready to evolve, not just individually but as a couple. 

The truth is you can only run from your feelings for so long. It’s a must to step out of fear and have those intense conversations that propel you forward. I’m proud to say, James and I did exactly that. We chose to go all in! It was James who made it very clear and left me with the ultimatum either We Are,” or We Aren’t,” and if We Are,” then we have to be one hundred percent vulnerable with one another. 

I learned how dangerous unaddressed issues could profoundly affect a relationship.

Once those walls were down, we were able to soar. The safe space we created, anchored us, and continues to do so while navigating everything that life has thrown our way. From adjusting to married life, becoming a blended family, career ups and downs, expanding our family, and relocations, you name it; we’ve experienced it all. Deep love can only be accomplished with vulnerability because, without it, there is no chance for your relationship to thrive. James is my safe haven through life’s trials and tribulations, and I am forever grateful we were able to arrive at this point. 

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