In the present state of world affairs, cleaning up the mess of COVID-19, non-essential travel seems like a distant memory. Even so, I find that the experiences and lessons learned from past vacations continue to hold value. One trip in particular was a turning point for my husband and I, as it forced us to grapple with insecurities and their effect on our intimacy.
It was a kid free trip to Chicago, full of promise for new adventures, new memories, and deeper connection. The days leading up to the trip were spent packing the usual suitcase fillers… but little by little my baggage got heavier because I also added in fears, worries, and insecurities.
At that time, my husband was enjoying a wave of success both professionally and personally. By comparison, my life felt stagnant. In particular, his recent weight loss stood in contrast to my own unmoving measure on the scale. I fixated on this difference, the blemishes in the mirror, and wondered, does he still find me attractive?
I know that physical appearance is just one aspect of attraction. Still, the more I focused on my perceived external ‘flaws,’ the more blind I was to internal beauty. My negative thoughts fostered a narrative that ignored his behaviour, unless it confirmed my insecurities. Compliments given were ignored and compliments not given proved my theory.
Throughout the trip, I spoke less and less and held myself more tightly. I would try to be intimate, but my efforts were crippled by constant worry. My husband could tell that something was wrong. He asked more than once if I was okay… if we were okay. But fear and shame silenced me. I told him, “We’re fine.”
That was a lie. I knew the problem wasn’t with his behaviour or even with my body. It was about my insecurity. When the issue is a “me” thing instead of a “we” thing, it can seem unnecessary to share. My insecurities cannot be fixed by my husband, but doing the work of personal growth does not mean going at it alone. I thought I was being strong as I kept my problems to myself. In truth, refusing to let him in showed that I wasn’t strong… I was scared.
My fears and insecurities became a gulf between us. It took something scarier than my insecurities to break their hold and bridge that gap. I began to see my own tension-filled body language mirrored in my husband, as his pain and worry grew. Feeling pushed away and helpless, he worried that our marriage was in jeopardy. I hadn’t realized until then how big I had let this become. I finally summoned the courage to let him in to the stories I had been telling myself and the fears they had caused.
We started that conversation separated by pain, fear, and worry, but the more we shared, the easier it was to release those burdens. When I opened up, he responded with reassurance and made connections to his own vulnerabilities. He validated my feelings, so I never felt diminished. Connecting with him was healing.
Then, with a solid foundation of emotional intimacy, my heart was open to hearing the truth of his words regarding the fears which had been dominating my mind. My insecurities were not erased, but they were put back in their place. As a result, I can now walk with greater confidence knowing my husband is beside me to combat future insecurities. Though it was not easy getting to this healthier place, this experience taught us that the love we share is so much more valuable than the costs of personal inadequacies we may imagine and stress over.
Our time in Chicago may not have been full of deep connection, but that trip certainly led to deepened emotional intimacy. We learned that vulnerability is imperative to intimacy. New insecurities will rear their heads throughout our lives. Certainly, COVID-19 is providing us all with potential for insecurities and threats to intimacy. Still, we can look to our past trials for resolve. For my husband and I, remembering the pain of our Chicago trip — but also the relief which came when we were open and vulnerable with each other — encourages us to open up again… before our insecurities get too big.