Jun 17, 2013

Intimacy in Marriage Part 2: Co-dependency vs. Interdependence

Co-dependency vs. Interdependence

Do you like the Twilight series? I confess that I really do.  I can get absolutely lost in the story. I read all of the books and went to see all of the movies.  I have always been a bit of a hopeless romantic, and so I suppose that could be why this series tickles my fancy.  If I really start to think about it, though, it's movies like this that caused all sorts of problems in my marriage.

It's your classic girl meets vampire, then meets werewolf {who is actually a shape-shifter} story.  If you aren't familiar with the story, I don't think I want to tell you the whole thing, just know that their love was obsessive to the extreme, to the point where she was literally willing to give up everything and everyone in her life {and to actually die for him} to become just like him, so they could be together, FOREVER.

When I was a young married person, I
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remember looking at other young married couples and feeling envious of their relationship.  Where my hubby and I started off pretty independent of each other, both having our own lives, interests and busyness apart from each other, so many other young couples were so intertwined they were like wisteria.  They would say things like "when he goes to work, I miss him so much" or "I don't like to go places at night, I just like to spend time with my hubby".

I would roll my eyes at the attached-at-the-hip couples I would watch from afar.  You know what couples I am talking about, they can't even go grocery shopping without turning it into a romantic outing.  {Holding hands on the grocery cart, phhfff}.  Internally however, I would be wondering if I was missing something in my own marriage. {I was, but it had very little to do with grocery shopping together}.

While I simultaneously judged disgustingly attached couples and tried to justify my husband and my independent relationship, I struggled as I read romance novels and watched romantic movies. I tried to figure out where the balance is.  Do you cease to be YOU when you get married?  Just because I changed my name, does that mean I am no longer a person, am I now only half of a couple? What does love have to do with it?  How do I have a close, intimate relationship without losing myself in the process?

While too much independence in a marriage can be damaging, an environment where you don't have your own identity is dangerous as well.   Having too much dependence on your spouse to fill your every need can put a strain on even a healthy relationship. 


In part one of this series I talked about the idea that you have to like yourself to have intimacy, and this is part of that.  If you don't know who you are, you can't be intimate with someone else.  Instead your love for the person may start to look like obsession and you may decide that you love the other person so much, it would be better to be them.

True intimacy isn't obsessive, but rather it reveals your true identity.  

Young couples often make the mistake of thinking that intimacy equals having everything in common, doing everything together, and being willing to sacrifice your own wants, needs, identity and more for your spouse.  While the Bible {in Ephesians 5:21} calls us to "submit to one another", often we wrongly equate that with giving up our identity for another person.  In reality, submission is giving up your "rights" for your spouse and putting their needs ahead of your own, but it doesn't mean that you no longer, say, eat Chinese food, just because your spouse doesn't like it, or give up listening to your favorite type of music because your spouse prefers a different type. 

True submission looks like selflessly sacrificing your time and energy to show love and appreciation to your spouse.  It's not a boundary-less marriage {sharing EVERYTHING, down to boxers and toothbrushes}, it's maintaining your uniqueness within the context of a committed interdependent relationship.  
In an interdependent marriage, you are both striving to help the other person become the best possible version of him or herself.  This doesn't mean becoming exactly alike in every preference and opinion, it means recognizing that God created each of you uniquely, with your own gifts, talents, passions, and dreams, and He intended for those things to work together with your spouse's gifts, talents, passions and dreams and create something beautiful.

At the beginning of every love-match there is a period of time that is a little obsessive, you see only the amazing, perfect and fantastic traits of your lover, and you are blind {as in love is blind} to their glaring imperfections.  This is normal and can last up to two years {the honeymoon ain't over}, but eventually every marriage gets past this "I'd rather die than stay away from you" stage and into the meat of a marriage.  
True intimacy can occur in this honeymoon stage, but it takes intentional {sometimes hard} work to keep the intimacy growing once you are no longer enamored by the smell of your husband’s farts. 

In a Christian marriage, where both partners are seeking the will of God, a truly intimate marriage will reveal the true identity of the other person.  Intimacy recognizes the fingerprints of God in your spouse's life.  Intimacy celebrates the ways the God made you different as well as the ways you are the same.  When you have intimacy with your spouse, they can see you with all of your God-given potential and want to help you reach that full potential.

This looks like encouraging your spouse to explore their passions and dreams.  This feels like a supportive, nurturing environment.  

It is not abandoning your dreams and passions {though at times, it may mean postponing them}.  It is not a "winner takes all" environment, where the quieter or less assertive/ stubborn of the two makes all of the sacrifices when the louder/ more dominant of the two does whatever he or she wants. 

It is mutual sacrifice, mutual support, mutual care and mutual encouragement.  It is a celebration of each spouse's identity in Christ, and their unique gifts, dreams and passions.

This is not easy, in fact in my marriage it has been one of the hardest things, but I know that it is possible because I have seen it played out in marriages around me.  I don't believe any marriage is perfect, but some are certainly better.  

So what do you think? What is one way you maintain your own identity while staying connected to your spouse?
 
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This is a part of my Understanding Intimacy in Marriage series, to see the rest, click below or the series button on the sidebar.

 

4 comments:

  1. One way we both maintain our identities while nurturing the intimacy in our marriage is unconditional acceptance. I never want him to be anyone other than he is and vice versa. I once heard someone say, "Don't try to make someone else like you, because if there are two of you, one of you is unnecessary."

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    1. Great quote! I think that is the biggest mistake many married people make, thinking that their spouse will change after they get married, or trying to change them. It never works. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. I think what has helped my husband and I is simply realizing that both people can't always get what they want every time. Sometimes I sacrifice so he can pursue a dream, and sometimes he sacrifices so I can. Sometimes this is easy because its simply that he needs to be home late and I have nothing planned and pick up the slack in parenting and home chores. It is more difficult when our needs clash and we can't find a solution that affords both of us the ability to do what we want. But knowing that its ok to not always get your way helps us work through these challenges.

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    1. THis is EXACTLY what a couple I was talking to who are celebrating 67 years of marriage told me. That you have to realize that you don't get what you want everytime. There is a give and take. Great comment!!

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