The One Thing Your Marriage Needs Most This Year

Here’s to a happy, intimate 2018!

I regularly run surveys among my readers to keep my finger on the collective pulse of the couples who follow my blog. The survey I am currently running  asks the question, “What do you want more of in your marriage right now?” (You can take it now if you’d like to have your answers included in the results.)

I’ve asked a similar question in a number of surveys over the years, and the answer always comes back the same: couples want more intimacy most of all.

What Couples Want

In the latest survey results, when asked to give the top 3 things they want more of in their marriage, 9 out of 10 respondents indicated a desire for more emotional, physical or spiritual intimacy. Over half placed one of these as their number one need, and almost half picked more than one form of intimacy as a top three need. I’m probably safe in guessing that intimacy comes in high on your list of marital desires as well.

A surprising finding from the survey is that men and women don’t differ in their desires as much as you might think. In fact, the top three needs of men and women were exactly the same and in the same order. Men and women both picked sexual intimacy as the number one need in their marriage (though not in the same percentages), and both picked spiritual and emotional intimacy as their number 2 and 3 needs, respectively. Chances are you and your spouse are longing for the same things.

So if seemingly everyone desires more intimacy, why are so many couples struggling to find it?

In Search of True Intimacy

People define intimacy in many different ways. Some say it’s a feeling of closeness and connection. Others say it’s about sex or romance or both. The Bible has a slightly different take on intimacy:

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:24-25

Here, at the very creation of marriage, God defines what it means to be one flesh. It means living naked and unashamed. That’s what I describe as being fully known and being totally loved. This is intimacy at its core.

In my post, Keeping Your Marriage Strong for the Long Haul, I summarized the quest for intimacy this way:

Intimacy is the antidote for the roommate syndrome that wrecks so many marriages. Intimacy reaches its zenith when we are fully known (weaknesses, warts and all) and completely, unconditionally loved. Intimacy is the main goal of every marriage (in all forms: emotional, spiritual, sexual, financial, etc.), and God built us with an innate desire for intimacy; intimacy with Him and intimacy with our spouse. I also believe God designed us with a huge capacity for intimacy and that we can continue to grow closer together regardless of how long we’ve been married.

Not One Thing But Many Things

Make it a goal to journey more deeply into intimacy with your spouse in the year ahead. As you do, keep in mind that true intimacy involves the entirety of your being. It isn’t just about improving your sex life, or getting more regular about going on dates, or spending more one-on-one time talking and really listening, or learning to pray together.

It’s about all of it. Everything.

Don’t be overwhelmed by that thought. What it really means is that there are lots of ways to build intimacy. Pick an area and start making small changes toward more fully knowing each other by being more transparent and showing your heart to your spouse. As you both open up to each other more, respond with unconditional love and grace.

You are probably thinking, “Easier said than done.” True. But as you start with small steps, you’ll begin to see the fruit of every effort you make in the direction of a deeper, more intimate connection.

Praying that you and your spouse have a happy, intimate 2018!

 

What Are You Hoping for Your Marriage in 2018?

Dare to dream big things for your marriage in the coming year!

The threshold of a new year is the time when many of us reflect on the previous year and set our plans and hopes for the next year.

Ideally, some of your hopes for 2018 concern your marriage. In truth, every year is an opportunity for more in your marriage. More intimacy. More passion. More freedom. More love. More generosity. More kindness. More grace. The “more” available to your marriage is limitless.

Dare to Dream Big

I want to encourage you to dream big things for your marriage in 2018. Whether 2017 was a year of disappointment and struggle or of flourishing for your relationship, look to the year ahead with the expectation that God will do good things in you and in your marriage. I honestly believe that God’s heart is that next year be the best year yet for your marriage. 

In the coming days, I am looking forward to dreaming with my wife for our year ahead. I encourage you to find a time in the last few days of this year or the first few of next year where you and your spouse can spend some time thinking and dreaming together. Seek the Lord in prayer and tap into His dreams for you. Imagine writing your marriage story for 2018 a year from now. What story would you want to write?

Have a Conversation

If you aren’t in the habit of dreaming together with your spouse, this would be a good time to start. Talk about your wishes. Talk about your needs. Talk about your hopes. Any time you talk about improving your marriage, it is important to do so without accusation or defensiveness. As I wrote in a post on expectations in marriage:

It’s essential for each of you to take the responsibility to express your needs without demanding or demeaning. When you talk about your needs, it’s really important to explain to your spouse what that would look like to you. That kind of “what would it look like” conversation is great for identifying and exposing your expectations.

Dare to ask, “How can I best meet your expectations in this area?” Voice your needs and desires clearly in a way that best helps your spouse to love you well, but then have plenty of grace for when they get it wrong, because one of your expectations should be that they will, in fact, get it wrong sometimes.

Patience = Joyful Anticipation

We often think of patience in a negative light. But for us, as people of faith, it should not be so. Patience is not merely a reluctant acquiescence to our circumstances.

For us, faith means that as we wait for the longings of our hearts to come true, we can look ahead with joyful anticipation of God doing great things on our behalf. That includes God doing great things in your marriage. If you find that you have given up hope for attaining the marriage you dream of, it’s time to renew your hope.

As we turn the calendar page and face a new year, let me suggest a few thoughts to keep in mind.

  1. Realize that God is FOR your marriage. Not just marriage in general, but your marriage. His desire is to see it be all it can be in the realms of intimacy, passion, and fulfillment. And He is more than able to do it.
  2. Be thankful for all you do have. Whatever you focus on will grow. Concentrate on the good, downplay the bad. Deliberately shift your focus.
  3. Be open to change. It might be that even though you are waiting for your husband or wife to change, God may want to work a change in you too (or maybe instead).
  4. Give yourself generously. Our tendency during times of lack from our spouse is to withdraw and withhold until we get what we want. This tactic never works. In fact, it puts your marriage in a downward spiral that I call the Path of Separation. Instead, give yourself unselfishly in the way your spouse desires, without expectation of getting in return.
  5. Pray and worship. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus instead of the problem at hand. It’s amazing how small difficulties can become in the light of who God is. Enjoy him, enjoy his presence, and hear his heart for you and your marriage. Ask him what he wants of you in this season of waiting. Hearing his voice changes everything.

I’ll leave you with my prayer for you and your marriage as you dream big dreams for the year ahead:

Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope!

Romans 15:13 (TPT)