Fireproof Your Marriage – 50 Shades of Pray – Part 4

50 Shades of Pray – Nurturing the 5 Areas of Intimacy in Marriage

Nurturing the 5 Areas of Intimacy in MarriageMarriage is about a lot of things, but mostly it is a decision to share our lives with the one person with whom we have formed a deep connection. In marriage we have one primary task (under which all others fall) and that is meeting the needs of our spouse.

This deep connection that we form with our spouse is called intimacy. Most people mistake intimacy for a purely physical encounter and that idea is completely misguided and unfounded. It is a lie that keeps couples bound by heavy chains that could imprison them throughout their life and marriage. It is that lie that leads many couples down a rocky road that leads straight to divorce court.

We all know that we are to put God first. The next in line is our spouse, then our children and so on. Sometimes we get our priorities so much out of line that the intended hierarchy gets completely lost and forgotten in the confusion. When this happens we have set ourselves up to experience far more difficulty than we would like. It is precisely this shift in priorities that starts the snowball that can eventually kill our marriages. Whether we are putting our spouse before God, our children before our spouse or our job (or hobbies) at the top of the list, we are barking up the wrong tree when we stop using the guide God gave us.

God gives us instructions and guidelines so we can avoid the traps the devil has laid for us. The ONLY way to stay on course and avoid the major pitfalls of this life is to seek God daily so that we can know His will for us. As He gives us guidance and revelation, we can walk in victory.

C.S. Lewis once stated that the reason why we look for fulfillment outside our own marriage is because we have not allowed God to show us the depths of joy and happiness that HE can provide in our marriage.

Most of us do not follow God’s plan for marriage. Sure, we do part of it, but that’s like only doing part of your homework or only writing part of an essay. When we don’t follow God’s complete plan for marriage we will feel unsatisfied, discouraged and incomplete. Those feelings usually lead a spouse to thinking about fulfillment outside of the marriage, and our actions are always preceded by our thoughts. Not all unsatisfied husbands and wives seek that fulfillment elsewhere, but I can promise you with 100% certainty that any lack that is not addressed will result in problems in your relationship. If your plan and your actions are not working, why not try God’s way?

There are 5 different forms of intimacy in marriage that we must cultivate. All of these must be nurtured if one wants to experience a healthy, fulfilling marriage that is satisfying to both spouses.

Spiritual intimacy is the absolute most important. Spiritual intimacy is the foundation on which all the other forms of intimacy should be built. Sharing our “religious” beliefs, praying together, doing bible study together, going to church together and talking about things related to God will help to keep your marriage and your spouse focused on God. God and things about God should be a daily topic. As you grow together spiritually, it is much easier to be mindful and keep the hierarchy that God has established. Forming a deeply intimate spiritual connection is of utmost importance. Don’t skip it.

Mental or intellectual intimacy is about our ability and willingness to communicate about things pertaining to our lives and marriage.  Sharing our ideas with one another. Discussing finances. Creating goals. This area of intimacy is where our dreams for our relationship and marriage are born.

It is important for both spouses to feel completely comfortable with coming to one another regardless of the topic. In marriage, there will be issues. As both spouses cultivate the ability to freely and openly engage in discussion, they will find no topic is off limit.

Social or recreational intimacy is almost completely self-explanatory. Social intimacy involves doing life together. That is not to say you can never do things apart, but it does mean that your life together doesn’t revolve only around what happens at home. Get out and enjoy life…..together. Hobbies, activities, date night, traveling……explore the world together, even if you don’t get much further than your own backyard. The closeness that comes from mutually shared experiences forms a deeper connection and memories that last a lifetime.

Emotional intimacy is different from mental intimacy in that it is about much more than just sharing ideas and sharing goals. It goes deeper and forms a different kind of bond, a bond which evil will find it difficult to sever regardless of what comes its way. It is true and devoted companionship.

How well would you say you know your spouse emotionally? Do you know about things from the past that affect your spouse today? Are you aware of the things you do that cause your spouse emotional discomfort? You should be able to answer all these questions with the same word………YES!

Emotional intimacy is about revealing our innermost thoughts. It’s about sharing the good, the bad and the ugly without fear of ridicule or embarrassment. It’s about allowing our spouse to be part of the most painful times of our lives. It’s about connecting…..soul to soul.

This type of intimacy is very frightening for some. None of us want to feel judged. None of us like to feel vulnerable. The fact remains that some of these issues and topics can be somewhat uncomfortable to talk about, but our ability (and willingness) to talk about any and everything is the key to freedom. When we can talk about it ALL (especially the things that are difficult), there is no limit to how close we can be to our spouse.

Physical intimacy is perhaps one of the most talked about forms of intimacy. Most people misuse the word intimacy all together and they only understand it and use it in the context of sex. Intimacy is not just about sex and physical intimacy is not about sex at all. Physical intimacy is about non-verbal affection. Hugging, kissing, holding hands, cuddling….. Physical intimacy is non-sexual affection. This is important to know, because most women and many men need this outward display of affection.

You have probably heard before that hugging releases endorphins and serotonin. There is much more to hugging and other forms of physical intimacy than meets the eye. While most guys aren’t as big on cuddling, etc. they should make time for it and learn to embrace it. God made men and women different and part of marriage is providing for all our spouse’s needs….even the ones that we aren’t particularly in the mood for. Putting our spouse FIRST, above our own needs, is a trait that sometimes must be cultivated. If physical intimacy is not high up on your priority list, you should re-evaluate. It is a basic human need and denying that fact won’t change anything. It will only cause friction between your and your spouse.

The last sentence is also true for sexual intimacy.  Far too often, this area of intimacy is neglected. The effects of that neglect are far reaching and can have lasting effects on your marriage. The devil uses our sexual needs against us. When one spouse refuses to recognize their responsibility in this area, communication diminishes. The spouse experiencing lack deals with physical and emotional frustration. The devil attacks during these times of weakness offering ways to relieve this tension. He suggests everything from masturbation to extramarital affairs as a way to deal with this non-existent reality.

In the bible, we are told our bodies are not our own. They are our spouse’s (1 Corinthians 7:4).  We have an obligation to fulfill our spouse’s needs. The devil will try to convince you otherwise. This is a sore subject for many couples and it should be just the opposite. Sexual intimacy is our opportunity to mingle our mind, body and soul with that of our spouse. We like to call this spiritual sex, because it is about much more than a physical union. When expressed as God intended, this form of intimacy truly does merge mind, body and soul (Mark 10:8).

Dismissing any issue regarding any of the forms of intimacy will not yield a desired result, instead it will only hinder your relationship. To be married is to serve our spouse, and to serve our spouse means to put ourselves aside. Complete selflessness is perhaps the ultimate display of love in its truest and most sincere form…. If we look at Jesus’ life and death, it is easy to see the correlation.

We are to follow Jesus’ example and in our marriages we have the opportunity to reveal Him in all 5 areas of intimacy. We should strive to have a supernatural love with our spouse and when we use Jesus’ example as we focus on nurturing all the areas of intimacy, we will experience a fulfilling, everlasting love that goes beyond anything we ever imagined.

We want you to have the best of your life…….and start today!

Jason and Rexanne

Jason and Rexanne Collins

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