(NOTE – This post is not for wives experiencing severe issues in their marriages – like infidelity, a very controlling husband, an abusive husband, a husband who is not in his right mind due to mental illness/drug abuse/alcohol abuse, etc… If you are in such a situation, please don’t read my blog but seek appropriate one-on-one help and godly counsel.)
I used to try to use the frequency of intimacy, date nights, deep discussions/emotional connection, or the frequency of loving emails from my husband to measure the quality of our marriage and to attempt to measure Greg’s love for me. When I saw that we had a day with one or more of these things, I would mentally check things off on my list and conclude – “Check, check, check. Yes! Our marriage is awesome! We are close and everything is good. Greg obviously loves me today!”
I thought I was “more secure” in his love if he did these things on my list.
I didn’t count the things that I didn’t think of as being loving – things like Greg taking my car to get new tires, renovating the house, helping with the children, taking care of the yard, taking out the trash, sitting beside me and cuddling quietly while he watched TV, eating supper with me, coming home right away to be with me, etc…
The next day or the next week, if there was nothing to check off (in the specific way that I counted things), then I was upset. My emotions were at the mercy of what Greg did or did not do for me on my narrow checklist.
The problem is – real intimacy isn’t about checklists.
It isn’t about a formula. It isn’t about me sitting back and expecting to be catered to and holding a checklist over my husband every moment to make sure he is doing the things I want him to do. It isn’t about me being entitled. It isn’t about something that is necessarily measurable or something that could be charted on a graph each week or each month. I am not a boss doing a job performance review. I am not a kindergarten teacher monitoring and judging his behavior – giving him a smiley face when he did a good job that day or a frowny face when I was disappointed.
I mean, there can be SOME value in realizing, “We are not talking, not having physical intimacy, and not doing anything together at all for weeks on end.” That means there is a problem – unless you are in a major crisis at the time or under very severe stress. So – yes – it can be good to be aware if things suddenly plummet and seek to address any issues.
Real intimacy is about a relationship with a person who is unique and who has his own feelings, issues, problems, triumphs, challenges, and baggage. It is about seeking to understand my husband better and to discover his perspective and his masculinity. It is about us getting to know each other and being a safe place for each other. It is about creating a harbor of peace and a sanctuary where authenticity and vulnerability are cherished and protected. It is about allowing him to be himself. It is about enjoying each other.
In real intimacy:
- There is freedom. We both have free will to make our own decisions. Neither tries to control or dominate the other.
- There is joy in being together and getting to know each other’s worlds and explore each other’s minds, hearts, perspectives, and bodies.
- I understand that my husband always feels connected to me and bonded with me unless I say that I don’t feel connected. So I am free to rest in his love for me – even when it is unspoken. (Perhaps your husband feels the same way?)
- I enjoy and appreciate what he gives me.
- I learn to understand and marvel at the ways he shows love to me.
- I approach my husband and his masculine world with wide-eyed wonder at the opportunity to get a glimpse into his world.
- I share my feelings, needs, perspective, desires, and concerns respectfully and lovingly in a way that honors Christ and my husband.
- If I think he acted or spoke in an unloving way – I do not take offense immediately – but rather seek to understand his perspective in order to avoid making wrong assumptions.
- I am not afraid to be with my husband or to be away from my husband.
- I am stable when he is there and when he is gone – because my emotional/spiritual well-being depends on Christ every moment of every day, not on my husband.
- There is some healthy emotional/spiritual space between myself and my husband.
- I share my feelings simply and let them go. I ask for what I would like simply, briefly, without pressure or coercion. I don’t have to use guilt/manipulation/playing the martyr. I know my husband can hear me when I speak my concerns and emotions simply and briefly. I trust he will think about what I said and seek to do what is best.
- I know how to confront my husband if necessary about sin in his life in a godly, productive, Spirit-filled way.
Now I realize that if I am more focused on being able to chart or check off things to prove to myself that my husband loves me – I have some motive checking to do in my own heart with God.
- Am I trying to find my fulfillment or security in what Greg does for me?
- Am I expected Greg to fulfill the deepest needs of my heart that only God can really fulfill?
- How do I respond when he doesn’t do what I want him to and I can’t check off my list? Do I respond with resentment or bitterness?
- Am I content in Christ alone?
- Am I finding all of my fulfillment, acceptance, love, peace, strength, purpose, power, and identity in Christ Jesus alone?
When I stop idolizing my husband and put Christ alone on the throne of my heart – I am free! I am free to engage in intimacy on every level and to enjoy it with my husband. But I am also free to be content and stable emotionally/spiritually if my husband is not available to do things with me that I would enjoy or if he slips up and has a moment (or even a season) of being imperfect and human. I can be content when my husband does loving things for me or when he doesn’t. I have received God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and unspeakable love so I have these things to give in abundance to my husband, who is my teammate and fellow traveler.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11b-13