Through our actions every day, we are either working to build the closeness and intimacy we share with our spouses or we are building a wall between it. Don’t be fooled—intimacy has enemies! Here are some of the biggest barriers to achieving intimacy and what we can do to begin to tear down those walls standing between us and the ones we love.
Threat #1: You’re Being Dishonest
As a kid, you probably played a game of hide-n-seek a time or two. You quietly crept to a far-away tree or a secret closet and hid there until you could escape, all with the goal of keeping your “seeker” from getting too close.
These days, many of us are still playing those childhood games of hide-n-seek in our marriages. We use deception and hide our true thoughts, feelings, and actions from our spouses. Unknowingly, you are achieving the same ultimate goal: keeping the other person far away and building a barrier to intimacy between you and your spouse.
We have a greater understanding of how we build that distance when we are dishonest about the big things. Most of us know that lying about things like infidelity is a surefire way to ruin the intimate relationship with a spouse. But we have less of an understanding of how those little deceptions get in the way of the intimacy that we are trying to achieve.
How many times has your spouse asked you “What’s wrong?” and you answered“Nothing” when you knew that your blood was boiling with anger just under the surface? With dishonesty, you are placing both members of the relationship in a bad position – your spouse, because he or she now doesn’t know how to meet your need; and you, because you are now guaranteeing that you won’t be able to get what you need from your marriage. How do you facilitate closeness with someone when you have a wall of dishonesty between the two of you?
Managing the Threat
To achieve true intimacy, we must be fearless about being honest. Your spouse should have the gift of an open window into your soul. Through honesty, we are saying, “I trust you enough to open myself up to you.” There are probably few people in this life that you can feel free enough to be that open with.
When we can give one another the gift of honesty, we invite intimacy in our marriages. Begin by being (tactfully!) truthful with your spouse. If he or she asks you what’s wrong, give a true response. Understand that dishonesty is usually borne out of selfishness. You may justify it to yourself by saying, “I’m trying to protect him or her from the truth” when it’s more likely that you’re trying to protect yourself from the consequences. At the end of the day, through dishonesty, you are protecting no one and instead are welcoming a threat to intimacy into your marriage.
Threat #2: You Refuse to Explore
At my bridal shower, I got a card from my great aunt that said something like “Marriage makes all the things you want to do in the bedroom legal.” I laughed because cards about sex from my senior auntie are just funny…and also I was kind of excited for that to be true. While I didn’t take it to mean that everything was fair game, I also felt like sexual intimacy within marriage was one place that we should feel safe and free to explore.
Many of us are dealing with hang-ups, whether from past relationships, or upbringings, or current “knowledge” or body image that makes it hard for us to feel comfortable expanding those boundaries we already have built in. Because we may already have a mental list of what’s right and wrong when it comes to sex, we’ve started off with a block in our intimacy from the very beginning.
Managing the Threat
The very first step is to get the rest of the world out of your marriage bed. Begin by defining what works for you and your spouse only when it comes to your sexual relationship. Communicate your needs and wants and respect one another’s boundaries. Don’t always swear off trying something new just because you haven’t been open to it before. Instead of putting your sex life in the context of right and wrong, put it in the context of communication and respect—communicating your needs and desires and respecting one another’s boundaries.
Threat # 3: You’re Sacrificing Intimacy for the Kids
Yes, you love your babies with all your heart, but as happy as they may be that you gave up your date night for The Lorax, they’ll be even happier to grow up in an intact family with happy parents, whether or not they know it right now. Not only does your marriage provide a foundation for your family, it will prayerfully be there for the both of you when your kids are grown and off building their own lives.
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Getting alone time together is a lot easier said than done when you’re attending to little ones from the crack of dawn through the dead of night. The moments when you can close your door and just be man and woman instead of mommy and daddy are few and far between. Still, it doesn’t mean that parenting gives you an excuse to make those moments non-existent. Your marriage and your family can’t afford that.
Managing the Threat
Don’t forget that there is a “husband” and “wife” within the “dad” and “mom” whose spousal relationship needs nurturing just as much as the parent-child relationship. Remember that your relationship is a priority. Set aside time to be with one another. Remember that the “little” moments you have can be just as important as the big ones.
The bottom line is, if you want to be an intimate couple, you need to do intimate things. You aren’t going to feel that closeness if you aren’t doing things on a regular basis to create it.
BMWK, is your intimacy being threatened and, if so, what are you going to do about it?