This year, through Mission: Intimacy, we have touched on several types of relationships so far (community, friendship, family) and have had contributors share with us from their expertise about the obstacles and opportunities we have to grow in intimacy. Today we move on to a very important facet of intimacy, intimacy in marriage.
I want to introduce you to David and Tonnya Blaylock of Chase Oaks Church, Plano, Texas. They have written the below article to share with you insights that can be helpful when desiring deeper intimacy with your spouse.
Obstacles to Intimacy In Marriage
by David and Tonnya Blaylock
When asked to talk about what inhibits intimacy in a marriage, I first have to ask myself “What do you mean by intimacy?” That word can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but for now, I would define intimacy in marriage as a deep connection with your spouse. Feeling connected is going to vary. That’s just the way it is when two humans choose to commit themselves to each other and go about daily life together. Things get in the way. I think of those as inhibitors to intimacy, or road blocks, along the way. The hope or the goal is to try to recognize those road blocks and move them away as quickly as possible so that they do the least amount of damage to the relationship. One of the wonderful things about a marriage relationship is its resilience. As things go wrong, which is normal, they can be repaired and the relationship can be as strong as and many times stronger than it was before. The list of things that can inhibit intimacy and make us feel less connected with our spouse is long, but there are a few common denominators in them.
Pride. This may seem strange to have at the top of the list, but pride can take many shapes and be really subtle, but it can be a huge block to an intimate connection with your spouse. Examples of this are when we are in an argument and its’ difficult to admit fault. We are so caught up in getting our point across and making sure we are heard, that we don’t take the time or effort to truly listen to the other person. That is a form of pride.
Pride may also cause us not to admit when we may have been wrong and need to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Even when that’s done, sometimes pride can get in the way of the other person granting forgiveness and so the walls stay up and healing doesn’t take place. We have to set aside our pride and let ourselves be vulnerable, then arguments can lead to forgiveness and communication can bring you to a deeper understanding and connection with your spouse.
Another way pride shows itself is when a couple is feeling distant, but neither one is willing to make the first move to sit down and talk about it. We prefer to have the spouse figure out that something is the matter on their own. Not only is this unfair, but it almost never works and we end up feeling distant and alone.
Lack of Communication. This is an easy one to see why it would block intimacy in a marriage and yet it is by far the thing that happens most often. We can be so caught up in the busyness of life that we don’t make time for the person who matters most. This may happen because of job demands, caring for aging parents, raising children, or many other things. If we don’t make our spouse a priority and set up a regular time to talk, we are in danger of losing intimacy as a couple.
Another problem that can come up with communication is when one person is assuming how the other is thinking or feeling about a situation. We have seen this happen over and over with couples and we have certainly experienced it ourselves! When we choose to assume what our spouse is feeling, we rob them of the process of communicating them to us which grows intimacy. And many times, we are wrong about what we assumed! This behavior changes the way we treat each other. We can avoid many hurts if we regularly question our spouse and truly listen to what they say. Ask clarifying questions and repeat what they say to make sure you heard them correctly. That will also help them have a strong sense of feeling “heard” which is so important to intimacy and connection with each other.
Setting up a time to talk on a regular basis is super important because it takes you out of your circumstances and forces you to focus on each other. It seems simple, but it’s hard to make happen on a regular basis unless both husband and wife are very intentional about it. Consider deciding together on a time and place each week that you will make a priority to meet and talk. Not just about all the daily activities, but really question each other about how you are feeling inside. What is bothering you and how do you feel your relationship is going. What’s going right and what do you appreciate about the other person. Start with something good, sandwich it with where you are hurting or would like to see growth in the relationship, and end it with confirmations of your love and commitment to each other. This helps you remind one another that you are each part of a team together and you are both “for” this relationship. That keeps your foundation solid and intimacy growing.
Lack of physical intimacy. Many times our schedules, children and even pets in the bed can inhibit a couple’s sex life. However, it’s important to make physical intimacy a priority in a marriage. If the men are still reading, I’m sure they are happy to read on for a bit now! God created sex as a part of marriage for some key reasons. Not only is it physically enjoyable, but it creates a connection that is deep and personal and private for a couple. Unlike sex outside of marriage, which can create a false sense of intimacy, sex inside of marriage is the one thing that a couple shares with each other that is a gift specifically and only for each other. It can serve as a “balm” or “ointment” that can smooth off the edges of the difficulties of life.
Don’t wait for the other to be the initiator! If you desire sex, go for it! Even the process of initiating sex can serve as a block to intimacy. If that’s the case, talk together and set an “appointment” for sex so that you are both ready. This is a good way to get started until things come more naturally. Our bodies belong to our spouse, so unless there is a really good reason to say no (and that should be done with tenderness and love, possibly even setting up a time in the future to make it happen and then sticking to that), I encourage you to try to say “yes” as much as possible.
Physical intimacy can and should consist of more than just sex. Physical affection creates an unspoken bond that can be carried on throughout the day. Kissing goodbye and hello, kissing goodnight, holding hands, or even just placing your hand on your spouse’s back as you walk or stand in church, etc. All these things say that you are proud of this person you are with. You care about them and you desire to be with them. They express love and affection and sometimes even a sense of protection for the other.
Lack of kindness. This is another block to intimacy that we have seen as a pattern in some of the couples we have worked with. Sometimes this happens without even realizing it, but when we are unkind or rude with our words, it can put a barrier between us and our spouse. It is important to treat your spouse with kind words and patience. It almost seems silly to say, and yet we tend to be come lazy when it comes to how we treat those closest to us. We feel safe, so we don’t take the time to think about how to express ourselves in a way that will be uplifting to the other instead of tearing them down. Or maybe it’s as simple as not using common courtesy, even if there is nothing specifically pointed at the other person. One thing we have noticed through working with couples is that the ones who talk to each other with respect and kindness consistently do better when they need to communicate something difficult.
One of the wonderful things about intimacy in a marriage is that as you grow it, the roots stay and grow deeper and stronger. Even if you do some damage and you feel distant from your spouse, it’s possible to grow closer again if you set aside your pride take the proper steps of communication with kindness and patience. Intimacy in a marriage gives a foundation of safety that cushions times when one of you makes a mistake. It enables you to give each other grace and not take things personally. Marital intimacy creates confidence in the relationship and the ability to know each other’s heart making it easier to give one another space to work through difficulties without taking things personally
In closing, I would say the fast track to getting this intimacy is by inviting God to be a part of it all on a regular basis. Holding hands and praying out loud together breaks down the barriers to intimacy. It creates a physical closeness, while making yourself vulnerable and expressing yourself not only to your spouse but to your creator, who can work miracles of growth and healing. There is nothing more rewarding than the feeling of intimacy between you, your spouse, and your Savior, just as God created it to be!