You want intimacy with your spouse and it’s not happening. You’re living as roommates, as if passing as ships in the night. Sex may or may not be happening, but your marriage is not life-giving. Is this what you signed up for? And if only one of you feels intimacy is lacking, it’s lacking. What can you do when your marriage lacks intimacy?
Men more often spell intimacy S-E-X. Women often spell intimacy T-A-L-K. True intimacy, oneness in marriage, must include physical, emotional, and spiritual. So where do you start if it’s not there?
Trying to harass or manipulate something out of your spouse doesn’t work, and it only drives you further apart. This applies if you desperately want sex but your husband or wife has withdrawn completely. It applies if you keep trying to communicate but only get angry defensiveness or stonewalled silence in response. It also applies if things are sort-of OK, but you feel there’s still something is missing.
Think of this as the diagnosis phase of medical treatment. Looking at your marriage this way doesn’t by itself solve all your problems, but it will shine the light on what you need to address and often make the next step clearer.
Where is Your Heart?
The first step is to look at you. This does not mean your spouse doesn’t need to change, and it’s not portioning out blame in either self-contempt or contempt of your spouse. It’s simply focusing first on the only thing you have control over – you.
Getting honest with yourself is often difficult. When your spouse isn’t responding as you wish it can be painful to consider your own part in the relationship breakdown. Here are some questions to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider;
- Are you waiting for your spouse to change before you take positive action?
- Are you trying to manipulate or control your spouse into behaving as you wish?
- What’s it like to be married to you?
- What addiction may be altering your perception (such as pornography)?
- Where are you holding on to bitterness, entitlement, or anger?
- What wounds have you experienced that still need healing?
- Is your heart open to moving closer to your spouse?
- What walls have you put up around your own heart that keep you isolated from your spouse?
- Have you equated sex with intimacy? Have you equated communication with intimacy?
- How safe do you feel with your spouse? How safe does your spouse feel with you?
- Are you expecting your spouse to meet all your needs?
That’s quite a list. But knowing that you can only change you, it’s the necessary place to begin. You need God’s perspective to see this rightly, and perhaps also that of a non-involved godly friend or professional, to help you get an accurate perception of your own heart.
Having heart issues of your own does not excuse your spouse’s bad behavior. But in working with many married people, I have yet to talk with a husband or wife who does not have significant heart issues of their own to deal with, regardless of how troubled their spouse may be. If you work on changing the dance steps you are taking, it’s possible your spouse will be intrigued enough to start learning the new dance.
Where is Your Spouse’s Heart?
Honestly seeing your spouse’s heart as best as you can makes a great difference in how you proceed. You again will need God’s perspective here, and perhaps that of a third party. Here are a few questions to thoughtfully consider:
- Does your spouse have an evil heart? In one sense we all do. We are all sinners. But does your spouse get pleasure out of causing you pain? Are they truly toxic? If so, sometimes separation may be the only viable alternative.
- Where has your spouse been wounded? Seeing their wounds can help you see your spouse with more compassion.
- Does your spouse feel heard? Understood? Loved? How does your marriage look from their perspective?
- At home, does your spouse feel like a success or like a failure? Can your spouse win with you?
- What would your spouse say about the state of your marriage? What’s their emotional state when it comes to the relationship? Hopelessness? Entitlement? Desire? Hurt? Bitterness?
- How open or closed is your spouse’s heart in the marriage currently?
- How open is your spouse to growth and change?
- Where do you see God at work in your spouse’s life?
You’re seeking to understand your spouse, not to control. Their behavior has an effect on you, and that effect is real. But looking at things from your spouse’s viewpoint will give you a lot of insight on how to proceed.
Desperately grasping at your spouse for something they are unwilling or unable to give doesn’t help. Neither does withdrawing and feeling sorry for yourself. Intimacy is something that grows only with consistent positive investment.
By considering your heart and your spouse’s heart, you may have a sense of where the journey to intimacy has broken down. Remember, the “higher” levels of intimacy cannot happen without the foundation of honesty and safety first, then trust, and finally nurtured connection.
Or you may need to go back to the foundation and become painfully honest, setting healthy boundaries, and addressing your individual wounds so you have the capability of growing further.
Real intimacy takes work. Real intimacy means seeing and being seen. Knowing and being known. Sensing that your spouse “gets” you, and your spouse sensing that you “get” them. Living out the one-flesh marriage God intended that includes physical intimacy (sex and more), deep emotional connection, and spiritual unity and purpose.
That kind of intimacy is worth the effort to build and nurture. BE the invitation for your spouse to come closer to you.
Your Turn: What grade would you give the intimacy between you and your spouse? What’s your initial diagnosis of the state of the intimacy in your marriage? Leave a comment below.
Tweetables: why not share this post?
- When your marriage lacks intimacy the place to start is not trying to wring something from your spouse or pretending it’s all OK. The place to start is with a diagnosis. Tweet that.
How’s the Communication in Your Marriage?
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