Aug 12, 2013

Intimacy in Marriage part 6 - What does "becoming one" really mean?


Welcome to the final installment, it feels like I started this series so long ago!  I am writing this whole series from a place of brokenness in my own marriage, and I hope it is an encouragement to you and your marriage!  I am going to really quick run through of the series, so if you just want to get on with it, skip to the image below of Genesis 2:24-25.

In the first part I discussed what I mean when I say "intimacy", which is different from the way the world sees intimacy.

In the second part I compared the fallacy that intimacy means you do everything together and have everything in common {you are co-dependent} from the view that true intimacy is interdependence.

In part three I discussed the idea of "love at first sight" and challenged the view that it has anything to do with intimacy, but rather that intimacy is slow and steady.

In the fourth part I took a look at the belief that "romance" equals intimacy, and challenged the "just date your spouse" approach to intimacy, instead, true intimacy is based on a solid foundation of trust and commitment. 

In part five, I challenged the view that sex is intimacy.  Not that we don't NEED sex, but that true intimacy is much deeper, and the act of sex alone isn't intimate unless you are creating a safe place which honors one another with your bodies.

If you just want to read the whole thing, just click here, and all of the previous posts will show up together.  Today, I'm wrapping up with a look at Genesis and a discussion on what "becoming one" really means.

 
When I got married and the pastor read the scripture about "leaving and cleaving", I really had no idea what he was talking about.  I really THOUGHT I knew.  I thought it was a thinly veiled reference to sex and how that act binds you to your spouse.  I had an idea it had to do with forming a life together, sharing a house, a room, a bed, and protecting the boundaries of that life from outside forces.

While that is all true, it's not true enough.  It never prepared me for marriage, and everything that marriage could be, and has become, and {I am sure} will become down the road.  

See, I missed the depth where the scripture said "He marries a woman, and the two of them become like one person.  Although they were both naked, they were not ashamed."

I can be a deep thinker, but for some unknown reason I thought marriage was like having a boyfriend for life.  I didn't realize that when you do it right {and even if you don't}, being married is deeper than living with someone or having a boyfriend.   

Marriage is holy and "mystical" and mysterious.

When I walked into that sanctuary, dressed in white, I was me.  I had my own last name and my own identity, but something mysterious happened as I walked down that aisle to the nervous boy  dressed in a suit at the other end {he was he}, and my father gave me to him, and I looked into his eyes and said those magic words and BAM, we were married, and suddenly, we were we.


While I believed we were doing something amazing that day, I didn't know what GOD was doing {I guess I thought he was just watching}.

I now understand that when we said those vows in front of God and our friends and family, God began to knit our hearts together.  

The challenge is in understanding that just because God has knit you together, and has made you "one", it doesn't mean you don't automatically cease to live as though you are two. You don't realize that you have to intentionally choose to live as one every day.  That oneness is where intimacy lives.

God didn't create marriage to just provide financial security or legal documentation for child support, and I am sure it wasn't created to allow us to have legal rights to one another in the case of an emergency. He created marriage at the beginning, when there were only two people, so it's clearly not created to establish "ownership" or a "piece of paper" to legally bind you to another person.

So what is it about?

Genesis 2:25 holds part of the answer: "Although the man and his wife were both naked, they were not ashamed."

Marriage is about intimacy.   The mystery of the wedding vows and the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and you and your spouse, creates a perfect environment for "perfect" intimacy. Perfect intimacy means you have no shame, no secrets, nothing that keeps you apart from your spouse.  In a sense you are both naked, laid bare, nothing is unknown, nothing needs to protect you from the other person.

Because we are human, our pride often gets in the way of intimacy.  In my own marriage, I have seen the truth of this statement.  Even though the first 5-6 years of our marriage was a time of "doing life" together, making babies, partnering in ministry, buying and fixing up our house, caring for kids, etc., and I thought we were doing okay, the reality was that we were still acting like two individuals as opposed to a single unit.

It's the same story I have heard from married friend after married friend.  Soon, it began to feel like we were two roommates {with benefits}, sharing the same space, but very little else.  Internally we were both by turns miserable and frustrated and angry that it wasn't meshing, and we began to wonder what we were missing.

Intimacy requires 7 "ingredients" to be complete.

1. Time 
This is time together everyday where you talk and listen to each other's hearts. For some, it could be while taking a walk, or playing a card game, or snuggling in bed last thing at night or first thing in the morning.  It is best done one-on-one, and should be protected.  This is often the first thing to go, because life is busy and everything else takes priority.

2. Full transparency
There is no intimacy when you are hiding part of yourself from your spouse.  This could be previous relationships, areas of shame from your past and present (abuse, sin, addiction), or even not being honest about your feelings.  When you begin withholding parts of yourself back from your spouse, you have started on a path that will kill your intimacy.

3. Total trust
Even if your spouse hasn't done something to break your trust, sometimes you withhold trust from your spouse because of being hurt in the past from other relationships.  Sometimes we have deep inner hurts and needs and doubt our spouse would really love us if they knew what was inside us.  In order to truly walk as "one" with your spouse, you have to fully lean upon them and believe that they won't let you fall.

4. True acceptance
If you enter your marriage with the hopes of changing your spouse to be "more acceptable" or "better", then you will never communicate that you accept them just as they are.  Even if you are just being helpful, constant nagging or constructive criticism creates an environment that will kill intimacy.

5. Healthy communication
As a part of transparency, trust and acceptance, the way you speak to {and listen to} your spouse will impact how often {and how deeply} you really talk.  If you are unable to communicate your thoughts and emotions in a healthy way {i.e. without yelling, name-calling, negativity and blaming}, it will be difficult for your spouse to hear and understand you without becoming defensive or angry.  Additionally, if you are unwilling or unable {for any reason} to share your inner-most thoughts and feelings with your spouse, you cannot build true intimacy.

6. More "we", less "me"
Intimacy requires selflessness.  If you are obsessed with making sure you are taken care of, your needs are being met and your feelings are known without taking your spouses' feelings, needs and cares into consideration, you are killing intimacy.  True intimacy in marriage is a wife being responsible for her husband's needs and a husband being responsible for his wife's needs.  I am not saying that we are not responsible for our own needs, but if both are working together to take care of each other, then intimacy will flourish.   This includes making joint decisions so they benefit everyone, not just one partner.

7. Intentional Love
Finally, and most importantly, without love there is no intimacy.  I am not talking about the "twitter-pated" feelings of love that I discussed in part 3 and part 4, but rather love as a verb; intentional actions that help the other person experience and understand how God loves them.  If this means my husband best experiences love from me through thoughtful acts of service, then that is what I will strive to do.  If I best experience love from him through affectionate touches and quality time, then that is what my husband will strive to do.   

As a wife, I am God's instrument to communicate, through my words and actions how God loves my husband (and by doing that, I am loving my husband).  If love comes from God, then when I love my husband, I am showing him God's love.  This means that it has NOTHING to do with how I feel at that moment.  

Earlier this year, I made some mistakes, which required my husband to forgive me.  In those moments where his hurt and anger were overwhelming to him, I watched with wonder as he moved himself out of the way and loved me with the love of God, and offered me grace and mercy and forgiveness, where none was deserved.  Through those acts of sacrificial love, I began to understand more fully what God's love really is, and see how much my husband truly loves me.  

This is the love that you should be showing your spouse.  This is not action that comes from feelings, this is moving yourself out of the way and allowing God to love your spouse through your words and actions.  Human "love" will eventually fail, feelings will fade, fuzzy warm feelings cool, but God's love NEVER fails.

This is what it means to become one.  When you say those "magic words" the day you get married, your hearts are knit together.  It's not a simple stitch, the threads of your life become woven together, and what God has knit together... 

Final words: If you are down in the trenches of marriage and are struggling to keep afloat, do not be discouraged, do not lose hope.  I believe that God can redeem any marriage and any situation.  It is easier if both spouses are equally interested in saving the marriage, and if both spouses are mentally healthy enough to attempt it.   In cases of abuse and addiction, the safety of yourself and your children are the first priority.

If you have fought the fight and are losing the battle and divorce is on the horizon, know that God can heal even the deepest wounds and He is not finished with you yet.

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2 comments:

  1. Your 7 points are so true - the transparency, the trust - the intentional (and unconditional) love - the trust part, well, God and I had to work on that together. I did a post called the "Power of One" - and there's more than just leaving and cleaving. I didn't realize it until I studied it: “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?” (Malachi 2:15). The Holy Spirit makes all the difference - Husband + Wife + Holy Spirit = One:) I couldn't trust without that - or love intentionally or unconditionally.

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  2. :) Thanks for the extra scripture! The Holy Spirit does make the difference! Even if the couple doesn't know God... He still pours himself out... they just don't hold fast to him. :) Love this comment! Thank you for the visit!

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