If you’re married and reading this, it’s likely you want greater intimacy with your spouse. And for many people that becomes frustrating. The closeness you anticipated and perhaps experienced when your relationship started seems to have waned. How can you get it back? If that’s you, here’s why an invitation is the better door to intimacy.
Chasity and Jamal had married young, and were now nearing the empty nest stage. But they seemed to be miles apart. Their only communication seemed superficial and forced, and they were living completely separate lives. They each wanted to be close but felt the wall between them was too thick and too high to even imagine getting around.
Jamal felt frustrated, even desperate, when Chasity didn’t want sex. He would spend his evenings in the study and seriously considered, and talked about, leaving the marriage. Chasity felt used and abused when Jamal expected sex. How could she give her body to someone who wouldn’t even talk with her, or who might not even be there tomorrow?
And that’s how I came to help Chasity and Jamal learn what it means to invite your spouse to greater intimacy. The particulars vary and every marriage is complicated, but Chasity and Jamal are not unique. If both spouses are people of good will and desire to work on the relationship, closing the gap between you is possible.
Here are some elements in making that invitation to greater intimacy.
Face Your Baggage
Your spouse may need to do a great deal of changing, but you can’t control them. You can only control you. What is it you bring to the relationship that’s damaging or unhelpful? What about your ways of communicating, of doing sex, of handling conflict? Do you have unhealed wounds from the past? How have you addressed your own entitlement, or anger, or fear?
A helpful question to consider is, What’s it like to be married to me? This doesn’t absolve your spouse from what they need to do. But by focusing first on your role in the relationship you will be able to change the things you can change. Taking responsibility to feed yourself will mean you have so much more to bring to the relationship.
What did, and do, you expect when someone says intimacy? Do you expect your spouse to read your mind? Or to fulfill all your needs? Or to never do anything that makes you unhappy? Is your spouse supposed be ready for sex any time you desire? Or spend long evenings (or mornings) in deep conversation around feelings? (I hope you can see that some of those expectations are not reasonable.)
The clearer you are about what you are looking for, the better you will be able to find healthy ways to move closer to that goal. Move beyond “I want to feel more connected.” What would that look like specifically? Write it down; “I want to have two evenings a month when we spend time together.” “I want sex once every week.” “I want us to pray together daily.” You may or may not get it all, but knowing your own expectations will be very helpful.
Study Your Spouse
Your husband or wife is the person you want to be closer to, right? It would be nice to know what makes them tick. This is not about walking on eggshells; it’s about understanding who this person really is that you’re married to. Most important, what means intimacy to your spouse? You married someone different from you; great! Vive La Différence!
What’s your spouse’s love language? How do they respond when you “speak” it? When do they seem most anxious, or relaxed, or joyful, or fully alive? What kind of relationship do they desire? For much of this, it means observing without judgement, simply to learn about them. And then there are times and ways when you can ask. Such conversations can be helpful for both of you.
Intimacy is not about waiting or demanding or pouting until your spouse comes toward you; it’s about you taking a step toward them. Ideally they will also take a step toward you, but remember that’s not something you can control. You moving toward them may just change the dance enough that your spouse will respond in kind. Voluntarily enter each other’s world in some way, over and over again.
As a husband, that might mean having conversations that feel squishy or more feeling-oriented than you find comfortable. Or giving non-sexual touch often enough that she believes you when you say, “This isn’t about sex.” Or learning to seek her heart before seeking her body.
As a wife, that might mean learning to change how you communicate about problems so he doesn’t feel criticized and disrespected. Or taking a mental step toward him when he wants sex, knowing your body can follow. Or making your husband the priority he deserves to be over your kids.
Make the Investment
There’s no important area of life where we expect great results without making regular investments – except marriage. You know that daily, weekly, or monthly investments are necessary for a healthy body, retirement account, or career advancement. The same principle holds for the relationship, the intimacy, between you and your spouse.
That means doing the things that make for intimacy over and over again. And again. Problems will come up; life happens. But greater intimacy means you keep pursuing it regardless of the physical, life stage, financial, or other issues life brings. Intimacy is not a stage you reach that then lasts indefinitely without effort; it takes tending, nurturing, pursuing.
After all, doesn’t God keep pursuing us? That’s the kind of pursuing to continue doing toward your spouse. Not in the sense of trying to control, but in the sense of inviting to be close.
P.S. In response to these kinds of messages I always get asked, “What if my spouse . . .?” There are times your spouse has an evil heart or is abusive. But if not, pursue intimacy.
Your Turn: How can you pursue your spouse in a way that invites them to greater intimacy? How can you make that appealing? Leave a comment below.
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