Closer to your spouse

Knowing about God’s design for intimacy in marriage is great. But that goal can seem so impossible to approach. What about if you’re not there? (And who is?) How can you pursue intimacy with your spouse and experience more of the intimacy God designed you to have?

It’s been said that before marriage the enemy does everything he can to get you too involved too quickly, sexually and emotionally. And after marriage the enemy does everything he can to keep you apart. That’s not far from the truth.

Intimacy doesn’t happen the moment you say “I do.” Yes, there’s a notable increase in intimacy when a husband and wife make that commitment before God and others, and then engage in “one-flesh” sexual intercourse in a covenant marriage. But perhaps you didn’t start out your marriage doing things in that order, and now you are seeking God’s help to improve the broken intimacy between you. Or perhaps real problems have developed that are keeping you apart physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.

Regardless of how you started out, intimacy takes time to develop. It grows best when you and your spouse nurture, water, and intentionally care for the bond that’s growing between you. Imagine your marriage 10, 20, or 40 years from now; what do you want your intimacy to be like? Keep that picture in mind as you move closer to your spouse.

Here are three important parts to doing just that.

  1. Deal with the Problems

Barriers to intimacy are real. Sweeping problems under the rug only lets them grow, and making your spouse the problem almost guarantees he/she will become even more defensive. That only creates more walls between you.

The best way to address problems is to imagine them as a “third thing” interfering with your marriage relationship; that allows you and your spouse to “fight” for a solution from the same side.

If you or your spouse has physical issues affecting intimacy, get medical help. If you are carrying unhealed wounds around sex and sexuality or other issues, actively seek healing. If your husband or wife is behaving badly (pornography, addiction, etc.), learn to confront and set boundaries in a way that makes restoration possible. Learn to communicate in a way that invites your spouse to connect with you.

You cannot control how your spouse will respond, but you can decide your own actions. Remember, you are not attacking your spouse; you are attacking the problem. You are not telling your spouse what to do. Instead, you are doing everything possible to deal with your own “stuff” and inviting your spouse to join you on the journey to deeper intimacy.

  1. Seek Understanding

Intimacy comes through knowing and being known. It’s risky. Letting down the walls around your heart means you could be hurt. And trying to get your spouse to fix you or meet your needs will always lead to disappointment.

The best place to focus when you need to improve intimacy with your spouse is to seek understanding. Study your spouse. Look at the world through their eyes. Seek to understand what makes them “tick”. You may not always agree with their perception of things, but you’ll never improve intimacy by focusing on getting them to see things your way. Imagine what it’s like to be married to you, and what might make your spouse want to come closer.

This does not absolve your spouse of their sins. But seeking to understand will open the door to communication, to physical closeness, and much more.

In the process you will need to open parts of your own heart so your spouse can understand you as well. Don’t do so in order to get your spouse to change, but to help them understand. If this seems difficult, think your communication through in advance and frame your words in the way your spouse can best hear you.

  1. Choose to Move Closer

Paul’s admonition applies equally well in marriage: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) When it comes to intimacy in your marriage, don’t wait for your spouse; “as much as depends on you,” you choose to move closer. 

If you and your spouse are both people of good will, you make the choice to take the clothes of your mind and heart as well as your body. That may look like staying engaged in a challenging conversation when it would seem easier to check out and walk away. It may be catching your spouse’s gaze, and holding onto them with your eyes just a little longer. It may mean showing honest interest in something in their world, and authentically joining them in that activity or interest. Or it may look like inviting your spouse to pray with you in a way they would feel safe doing so.

If your spouse is truly behaving badly, choosing to move closer may be saying something like, “Honey, I’m grateful for our marriage. I’m committed to working to make our marriage better, and I want you to join me in that. Will you do so?” It may mean setting some boundaries, and getting some help.

Intimacy can grow if it is intentionally nurtured. Make it about your spouse, not yourself. And stay on your knees; God wants this for you too.

Your Turn: How has the intimacy been between you and your spouse? What will you do to move closer? Leave a comment below.

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