If you are willing to do what it takes, the level of intimacy you enjoy is boundless.
This is the fifth in my series on choices that lead to The Path of Intimacy. Go here to see where this started and to get a complete list of the related posts in this series.
Would it offend you if I told you that you can have as much intimacy in your marriage as you want? I know it’s a bold statement. And I know there will always be exceptions, such as a spouse who is ill-willed, abusive and/or unwilling to put anything into the marriage.
But in general, I believe two things about intimacy
- You can have as much or as little intimacy in your marriage as you want.
- There’s always more.
How Much Do You Want? How Much Do You Want It?
There’s an important companion question to the question of how much intimacy do you want. How much do you want it?
Intimacy is organic, a living thing. So if you want it to grow then you have to feed it. A lot.
Left untended, the natural track of intimacy is decline. The Path of Separation, as I call it, is an easy one, and to some extent it is the path of human nature. It is easy and natural for you each choose to focus on your selves, your own needs, your own fulfillment and satisfaction. If you choose to live self-focused and self-protected, intimacy will eventually wither and die.
The Path of Intimacy, on the other hand, takes deliberate choice, or should I say deliberate choices. Lots of them.
I believe that optimally there’s a progression of sorts on The Path of Intimacy. Marriage begins with spiritual intimacy. This is the great mystery of two becoming one. Appreciating that you are already one enables and deepens intimacy in the realm of the soul (emotional and intellectual intimacy,etc.). The ultimate act of intimacy is found in your sexual union, which is a unique kind of intimacy that is reserved for your and your spouse alone.
There can be breakdowns or issues in any of these areas. If it is more sexual intimacy you are after, look back to spiritual and emotional intimacy for issues that need to be addressed. Are spiritually connected? Do you pray together and talk about your spiritual lives regularly? How are you doing with emotionally intimacy? Are you willing to be “naked without shame” in the realm of the soul? Are you transparent with your spouse and intellectually honest? Do you express love in the way your spouse wants it to be expressed? Husbands, do you cherish, protect and nurture your wife? Wives, do you show your husband the kind of respect and admiration he seeks?
How much are you willing to invest to get the kind of intimacy you want?
There’s Always More
Regardless of where you are on the Path of Intimacy, there is always further to go. Just like in your journey with God, you can always be closer to your spouse. I purposefully use the word “journey” to describe the lifelong pursuit of deeper marital intimacy. It never stops. Or at least it shouldn’t.
If you are feeling stalled or even if you are feeling like you have maximized the intimacy you enjoy with your spouse, ask yourself whether you have stopped investing in it. There is always more you can do to stretch yourself and your marriage in ways that enhance intimacy.
Again, I encourage you to look broadly up and down the path for opportunities to grow intimacy. In your sex life, how often do you try out new things in the bedroom or seek new adventures in physical intimacy? Are you vulnerable in the bedroom? As for intellectual and recreational intimacy, have you considered learning a new hobby together, taking dancing lessons, researching and visiting a new country, or jointly getting involved in a worthy cause? Is the emotional intimacy between you still growing, or have you decided you already know everything about each other there is to know? In your spiritual life, think about reading a good book that would spur you to spiritual growth, joining a small group or getting involved in a ministry.
Each area of intimacy feeds the other, so as the two of you continue to grow in understanding what it means to be “one flesh,” make sure that intimacy is thriving and growing in your whole beings: spirits, souls and bodies.
Focus on Your Part
There’s a strong temptation when dealing with the area of intimacy to play the blame game. It’s easy to blame our spouse for the lack we feel in the intimacy department. While the truth is that maximum intimacy is only achieved when you are both work at it diligently, it is also true that you can only change you.
Of course I encourage honest, open, and non-defensive expression of needs and desires. After all, you partner can’t possibly satisfy and delight you (which should be their primary focus) if he or she doesn’t know what you want and need. But truthfully, most of your effort should be focused on what you can do in your own role as husband or wife to enhance intimacy. What are you doing to satisfy and delight your wife or husband? Where are his or her needs going unfulfilled?
If at all possible, and this is where it gets really hard, do the things you know you should do to enhance intimacy without the expectation of getting something in return. You want to avoid the mentality of “giving to get” and instead think in terms of “giving to bless.” This is the way of selfless and unconditional love.
Where are you on the Path of Intimacy? How much more do you want? And what are you willing to do to get it?