What does it mean to be intimate with your mate? I’m not talking about the physical expression of your relationship; I’m talking about knowing one another on a profound emotional and spiritual level. You might have a decent marriage even if you don’t have much intimacy, but I have come to realize that we will never truly be fulfilled in life until we have depth in our closest relationships. Depth gives birth to purpose and meaning, security is fostered here and love is nourished.
I see three broad bands of people as it relates to intimacy:
- Those who really do have intimacy and want more. Their marital relationship is rich with sharing and experiencing. There is an indescribable connection at this level. This isn’t something typically achieved in the first few years of marriage. Nope, these folks are veterans and need to be teaching the rest of us how they got to where they are. I’m not referencing an ooey gooey love here- this is a patient, kind and reverent devotion that is beyond the euphoric first stages of love.
- Those who think they have intimacy, but don’t. Oh they pay lots of lip service to it, but what they really have is a shallow relationship at best. There is no depth or significant meaning in the marriage. They are roommates. They guard their feelings and finances and avoid sharing secrets and dreams. Priority is placed on relationships with children and friends over their spouse.
- Those who don’t have intimacy and don’t want it because it requires being vulnerable and they don’t want any of that! Why? Because it’s uncomfortable and risky. Their chief thought about intimacy would sound something like this: “The last time I was vulnerable, I got hurt!” They are most concerned with protecting their own heart instead of guarding their partner’s.
When people don’t want to be vulnerable they will do almost anything they can to clothe themselves with modern day fig leaves. They construct emotional walls, cross all sorts of boundaries, participate in affairs, self-medicate with all their vices and forms of escape- some socially acceptable and others…not so much. They bury their emotions and never speak of them again, but anger, grief and sadness always find a way out of our human made cellars.
People pull away in their closest relationships when it leaves them feeling weak, exposed, helpless, ashamed, naked, or afraid. It’s easier to hide behind the fig leaf than it is to reveal one’s inner most thoughts and feelings. In the end this form of self-reliance leaves us feeling more afraid, alone and desperate than if we had just removed the covering in the first place. Vulnerability is crucial, without it you will never experience genuine emotional and spiritual intimacy with anyone.
These five strategies will facilitate greater intimacy in your marriage:
- Want it- You have to have a desire for intimacy with your wife or husband. Wanting it is the starting point. If you don’t “want” intimacy with your mate, the other points will be meaningless to you.
- Create it– This means you create essential time for each other. Your spouse is a priority over hobbies and other people. Use non-sexual touch to convey your feelings. Reveal your emotional needs to each other; your partner can’t meet needs they are unaware of.
- Protect it– Creating an environment of safety will serve as a protective barrier. Use effective boundaries to guard against affairs. Be sure you cut apron strings with your parents; your marriage is not “family business.” Placing a priority on your marriage partner above the children actually makes the little ones feel more secure. Your children’s whole world is wrapped up in the security of your marriage- so guard it like a watchdog!
- Communicate it– Use assertive communication skills rather than raising your voice and using disparaging comments. Tell the truth, articulate your fears and dreams and refuse to keep secrets. Share your faith with your partner, make time to pray and worship together. Discuss the finances and major spending.
- Practice it– By confessing your faults to one another and inviting your spouse into your mess. Allow your husband/wife to see you cry and accept their comfort. Assume good will, you’re a team and there is no “I” in team! Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help. Finally, remember this is a lifestyle not an event and practice makes better!