THE MARRIAGE ABCS
Copyright © Ufuomaee
“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).
When most people think of intimacy, they generally think about sexual intimacy, but intimacy is about much more than sex. There are several ways to be intimate with your spouse, and physical intimacy (which includes sexual intercourse), is just one. A healthy and strong marriage is one in which you are intimate in EVERY way, with your spouse. Then you really are as ONE, and no longer two, which is God’s intention for every marriage (Gen 2:24).
So intimacy is not another word for sex, nor is it another word for love. You can love someone without being intimate with them, and you can have sex with someone without intimacy! But can you be intimate with someone you do not love? What is intimacy?
If I may give it a try, I would say “intimacy is having a deep knowledge, understanding and affection for someone with whom you have a close relationship and are also known, understood and loved deeply“. Intimacy is mutual, it is not a one-sided affair. It requires a commitment to the other person, based on a recognition of your love and need for each other.
In my post, Intimacy with God, I wrote about how God loves the whole world, but is intimate with a chosen few. They are the ones who have also made a commitment to love Him and enter into a close relationship with Him. The deepest form of intimacy between two people is seen in the marriage relationship, which is consummated through the act of sexual intercourse. When two people are intimate in every other way, and come together sexually, they are vulnerable and submitted to each other, and their sexual activity is more than sex, it is intimacy expressed physically.
However, some marriages rely on sex alone, without developing true intimacy, by seeking to know and be known. And where there is a lack of intimacy in other areas, by refusal to communicate, or to communicate honestly, or to make time for each other or other forms of negligence, even their sexual activity declines, because of their lack of emotional connection. Having an active sex life does not guaranty an intimately healthy marriage. However, if you are intimate in other ways, you will also grow in physical intimacy, and your sexual activity will receive a boost.
So what are these other ways to nurture and express intimacy in marriage? Drawing from an article by Tony & Alisa, on “6 Forms of Intimacy to Build A Strong Marriage“, we have:
- Emotional Intimacy. This is paramount for a healthy, loving relationship. We are emotional beings, and have emotional needs as powerful as our physical needs for food and water. We long to belong, to be understood and to be cherished. If we are not able to meet this need for an emotional connection with our spouse, we become vulnerable to infidelity, as we seek to meet the need elsewhere, or respond in desperation to someone else who takes the time to connect with us emotionally. That is why the Bible says, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it come the issues of life…” (Prov 4:23). We need to make time to talk about our feelings, fears and desires with our spouse, so that we can be emotionally vulnerable to them, understood in the deepest way.
- Intellectual Intimacy. You will be surprised the amount of affairs that begin on this level of connection. In addition to our emotional needs, we have mental and intellectual needs. We are attracted to people we admire intellectually, who challenge our thinking or who inspire us intellectually. We respect such people, and feel proud to be associated with them. But, even though we may have intellectual connections with our colleagues or associates at work, we need to maintain a deep intellectual intimacy with our spouse, which means that we are able to talk to them about any and everything…and we actually enjoy such discussions!
- Spiritual Intimacy. As spiritual beings, we need to be in agreement with our spouse spiritually. If we are not, we will not be able to grow in intimacy with them. We will have conflicting interests, desires, beliefs and attitudes that will challenge our ability to respect, appreciate and understand each other. And when there is a disconnect here, our emotional and intellectual connections are weakened. But if we are able to connect with our spouse on this level, the road to deeper intimacy is clear, because we will have inner peace with ourselves and each other. Make sure you spend time to nurture your spiritual connection, and build each other up spiritually. And if you are Christian and not yet married, remember that you should not seek to be joined with an unbeliever (2 Cor 6:14).
- Recreational Intimacy. We are also social beings, and our lives are about more than our work, but also our play. What activities makes us happy? What makes us laugh? We need to know and share our interests with our spouse, so that we can enjoy these activities together, and grow to better know, understand and appreciate each other. What you give your time to shows what you love, and who you spend your time with shows who you love. There will be some activities that you prefer to do alone, that you may be more efficient tackling alone, but be weary of doing too much on your own! You are a team now. Make time for and get used to doing things together, and you will soon find that you share the same favourite things and you are inseparable!
- Financial Intimacy. Money matters greatly in a relationship, and how you spend your money also matters. Do you both have the same values when it comes to money? Is one a big spender, and the other a miser? Is one an investor, while the other thinks only of today? Are you open about your financial needs, spending habits, and ambitions? Or do you live independently of each other financially, not knowing or caring about each other’s financial needs, habits and goals? You might think it is a mute point, but there is a reason Jesus said “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). If you are being secretive about your finances, or think it is personal and private, and not any of your spouse’s business, you are keeping your heart from them, and keeping yourself from being vulnerable to them. You have to lay it all down, and know that what you have is theirs; your loss is their loss, your gain in their gain and vice versa. You are a team, so make sure you are transparent in this regard too, and have agreement for the sake of your relationship and your dependents.
Now, if you are connected on all these levels, there really is nothing standing in the way of your physical intimacy. Physical intimacy is, however, more than sex. It includes all forms of touches, caresses, kissing, playing, cuddling and love making. It also requires faithfulness to one another! Can you imagine being sexually intimate with someone who you know is unfaithful to you? Or who you suspect is or has been unfaithful to you? You may be able to have sex, but this breakdown of trust will greatly limit your physical intimacy.
If you are looking to grow intimacy in your marriage, these are the five steps to achieving a deeper connection with your spouse:
- Agreement and Acceptance. I’ve quoted this many times, but it is essentially important to this topic. The Bible asks, “can two walk together unless they agree?” (Amos 3:3). The first barrier to intimacy with your spouse is disagreement. If your home is filled with conflict, tensions and misunderstanding, how can you grow in appreciation of one another? It is best to think about and settle on this before you marry, and make sure that the person you choose agrees with you in the five areas of intimacy above – as much as is reasonably possible! If there is a disconnect, you may find yourself being secretive, or avoiding discussions, so that you won’t argue, or living independently for lack of mutual interest or, even worse, respect! However, as we saw under C for Communicate Effectively, we may never have 100% agreement. That is where it is important for us to know, appreciate and accept our differences as a couple, as male and female. Culturally, socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually and financially, we need to know what we are willing to accept, and make an informed decision to marry them. If after marriage, we realise that we didn’t cover all our bases, and things are not as we thought, we must still accept our spouse as our choice, and work towards agreement, by humbling ourselves and walking in love.
- Transparency and Vulnerability. As we learnt from H for Honesty is the Best Policy, secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Where there is secrecy, there is no trust, and there will be no understanding and peace. Rather, there will be fear, anxiety, suspicion, resentment and everything that will stifle love. It is important for intimacy for you to be transparent with each other, open and honest with all things, so that you will fully be known and understood, and appreciated for all that you are. When you open yourself to your spouse in this way, you allow yourself to be vulnerable, allowing them to see your weakness and flaws…and when you are loved flaws and all, it is the deepest connection you can have with another human being. It is the truest form of acceptance, which is what we all crave…to be loved just as we are. But if you pretend, and you are loved, you won’t enjoy intimacy, because you won’t believe that you are truly loved…and you would be right, because the person they think they love is not you! So you will be insecure and afraid of being found out for who you really are, and being rejected…and this fear is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, it keeps you from knowing and being loved! But we know that “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
- Service and Submission. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). It is a farce to talk of love and not to show it in the way we serve one another, in the way we submit to one another. Such love is as vain as faith without works (Jam 2:14-26). Anyone who truly loves is compelled to show it by their actions, and not only compelled, they desire to show it! If this instinct has not arisen in us, we can stir it up and stimulate it by intentionally doing good to our spouse, looking for opportunities to serve them in love, and submitting to them, through smashing our pride, going the extra mile, and the other ways we learnt in D for Die Daily to Self. We can and should develop a habit of serving, as we seek to bless each other, and thus nurture our marriage to bear fruit, as we learnt in B for Blessed to Bless.
- Friendship and Fellowship. Friendship is the bedrock of every marriage. It is built on agreement, acceptance, respect and mutual affection. Before two can be one, before they can be lovers, they must be friends! We looked into this in F for Friends Forever. Nurturing your friendship is important for keeping your marriage on a strong foundation. Even when the romantic feelings fade, you can stand on your friendship as a platform to rediscover your feelings of love again. It has been said that “a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person” (Mignon McLaughlin). Be ready to fight for your love. Friendship is best nurtured in marriage by fellowship. You need to MAKE time for and spend time with each other, do things together and share everything equally, working together to achieve your hopes and dreams.
- Appreciation and Adoration. Complacency can set in if we do not watch out for it and resist it. If that happens, one or both partners will begin to feel unappreciated and unloved. You need to counter that by intentionally appreciating your spouse for who they are, their partnership and contribution to your life. This was the first topic we looked at in A for Appreciation. Those who are appreciated are motivated to respond with affection, and so by appreciating your spouse, you are actually increasing their capacity to love. And don’t stop at appreciation…move on to adoration! Yes, shower your spouse with love. Be affectionate. Be romantic. Be attentive. Be present. You want to love with wild abandon, and they want to be loved with wild abandon, so let go and do it! They too want to love with wild abandon, and you want to be loved with wild abandon, so let them… Learn from the five love languages we looked at in C for Communicate Effectively, and discover which language your spouse speaks and understands best. Speak their love language. Do nice and thoughtful things for your spouse to let them know they are loved. Enjoy your marriage as God intended.
If you follow these five steps, you are sure to fall in love and keep falling in love with your spouse, and enjoy the deepest intimacy possible between two people. It takes sincerity and work to keep intimacy in your marriage. You have to be honest with yourself about the level of intimacy in your marriage, and where there is a lack, so that you can do the needed work to make it up! Don’t settle for an okay marriage, when you can have a wonderful marriage, with a little more effort and consideration. Intimacy is its own reward. Trust me, you will be glad you made the effort!