Thursday, December 15, 2011

Levels of Intimacy In Marriage

Well I have not posted in quite a while.  But that does not mean that I have given up on blogging.  Maybe I can get back into the swing of things.  A lot has happened in my life, but that will have to wait for another post perhaps.  I wanted to talk about levels of intimacy in marriage.
In my counseling experience I have learned that there can be different types of intimacy (Emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual; See Here).  With each of these there can be levels or depth of intimacy as well.  I have attempted to sort out how to communicate this to the couples that I work with in building a loving and caring marriage.  I have come up with a very complex way of looking at it that would take a book to explain.  Most people lose interest if it cannot be explained simply.  The other day I was attempting to explain levels of intimacy and I came up with three words that help clarify this in a very simple way.  These words are Thoughtfulness, Sensitivity, and Understanding.  Each of these represents different actions.  Each of them also can represent greater intimacy.

Thoughtful:  Having or showing heed for the well-being or happiness of others and a propensity for anticipating their needs or wishes (American Heritage Dictionary).  
Intimacy must be borne in a practice of thoughtfulness.  Without thoughtfulness the intimacy is replaced with self-gratification which would be in this case a type of false intimacy.  Thoughtfulness guards against this and lays the foundation for intimacy to occur.  Thoughtfulness is the intentional thinking of the other in the relationship.  In practical terms in means thinking of the person through the day whether with your spouse or not with your spouse.  It helps to communicate that you are thinking of your spouse as they are not likely to read your mind.  Thoughtfulness also is putting your spouse's thoughts, feelings, opinions ahead of you own.  That does not mean that you do not consider your own thoughts, feelings, or opinions just that you think of the other first.
Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (HCSB)
This thoughtfulness will keep you from forging forward with your own bias, desires, wishes, resentments at the expense of intimacy with your spouse.  We all have been guilty of this type of self-centeredness.  Thoughtfulness will take a different path.  
Thoughtfulness also anticipates others needs and wishes.  To be sure you can miss the mark in this type of anticipating, but consider this; it is greater error to miss the mark while being thoughtless than to miss it by being thoughtful.  Being thoughtless is the opposite of intimacy.  It is word or deed without regard or awareness for the other.  Thoughtless words are the rubbish pile of broken marriages.  Thoughtless deeds are the unhealing scars of the same.  The amazing thing is that you can be thoughtless while not holding any ill will toward your spouse.  However, intent seldom eases the blow of thoughtlessness.
To cultivate thoughtfulness requires sustained intentional thinking.  It is far easier to be lazy or neglectful than it is to be thoughtful.  So what will it be for you?  How often do your thoughts wander to your spouse?  When do you consider the well-being and happiness of your spouse?  Can you remember the last time you anticipated the need or wishes of your spouse?  The great thing is that while it is easier to be lazy or neglectful it is no chore to be thoughtful.  Also a little dose of thoughtfulness has huge impact on the intimacy of your marriage.
Thoughtfulness is a change of the mind, sensitivity is a change of the eyes.  It occurs when you open your eyes to the feelings and desires of your spouse.  It answers the question, "What is going on in my husband's/Wife's life?" and then takes action based on that awareness.  It is this capacity to observe and respond to what is going on that builds a bond of intimacy.  Sensitivity requires awareness, gentleness, and responsiveness.  Open your eyes to what could be going on in your spouse's life.  You live with them you are in a better position to read them than any other person in the world.  Notice what they are doing, how they do it, read their feelings (affect).  Pay attention to what is important to them either when they tell you with words or tone.  Adopt an attitude of it is important to you so it is important to me.
Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.
1 Peter 3:4 (HCSB)
 This passage is addressed to wives, but I believe both husbands a wives can learn the imperishable quality of gentleness.  Consider:
All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.
Matthew 11:29 (HCSB)
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.
James 3:17-18 (HCSB)
This imperishable quality of gentleness will magnify intimacy of the relationship.   Finally sensitivity means action.  If you sow the seed of awareness in the soil of gentleness it will not bear fruit until you water it with responsiveness.  Action brings life to sensitivity.  It blesses the object of your affection and opens your heart to the blessedness of intimacy.  Consider:
A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
Proverbs 15:1 (HCSB)

The tongue that heals is a tree of life, but a devious tongue breaks the spirit.
Proverbs 15:4 (HCSB)
There is great power in sensitivity (awareness, gentleness, responsiveness).
Thoughtfulness is a turning of the mind, sensitivity is a turning of the eyes, understanding is a turning of the heart.  When I consider:
A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.
Proverbs 18:2 (HCSB)
In light of:
Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
1 Peter 3:7 (HCSB)
I realize how I have been a foolish husband whose prayers go unanswered.  Again even though this is directed at husbands I believe that wives can learn as well husbands to live with their spouse in an understanding manner.
Counsel in a man’s heart is deep water; but a man of understanding draws it out.
Proverbs 20:5 (HCSB)
Understanding occurs when you are able to draw out what is in the heart of your spouse.  For this to happen you have to be thoughtful and sensitive to him or her as a person.  Thoughtfulness and sensitivity lay the ground work for understanding.  Consider the opposite.  Opening up to a person who is thoughtless and/or insensitive is not only dangerous, but it is foolish.  However opening up to a spouse that is thoughtful and sensitive creates a bond in which mutual understanding can occur.
Do you often think, "He (she) does not make sense."  "You're not thinking rationally." "I just don't get you."  "Your opinion is confusing."  These and more lead us to believe that our spouse is wrong.  When in fact the only thing you can legitimately conclude is that you do not understand.   We have avoid the conclusion that our spouse is wrong and strive for understanding.  It is possible (often likely) that your husband or wife is different in thought, feeling, or opinion.  That a couple would disagree on something is not terribly earth moving.  Rather it would be expected.  However, in the context of mutual understanding differences become like a puzzle piece which fits together to create a beautiful picture.  Without mutual understand differences become wedges driving the couple apart. 
Do you want greater intimacy in your marriage?  Then strive to be thoughtful, sensitive, and understanding.  See what depths of love and intimacy can be reached.  Find what deep waters you can draw out from your spouse.  Then you will experience the blessings of greater intimacy in your marriage. 

God Bless You