Courtship can be an incredible time of closeness and togetherness. For most courting couples, life is always beautiful. There’s always something to talk about, always a longing to be in each other’s presence. How is it then that many couples, by the time they hit the five-year mark in marriage have become civilised strangers? Worse still, by the silver anniversary when the nest is beginning to empty out, they find themselves living like mere co-tenants; sharing a roof, sharing the bills, sharing a bed but not sharing their lives. Gone are the lovers’ chit-chat, the moments of sweet togetherness and the sharing of private secrets just for two. Why do so many couples drift apart with the passing of years?
The answer is a little thing called intimacy…or the lack of it. Intimacy is the glue that keeps marriages together and keeps partners in love with each other. Intimacy is what makes your partner a trusted friend and not just a lover. It is like a rose, beautiful in all its glory, but it does not occur naturally. It must be cultivated. This is a fact that most starry-eyed newlyweds do not grasp. We think that once close means always close. We assume that intimacy is a natural result of living together but it never happens that way. In reality you can live with a person for five years and still be perfect strangers, if you do not make a deliberate effort to cultivate closeness. Here’s how to cultivate intimacy and become your spouse’s best friend.
Prioritise time with each other
Every day we make choices that either draw us closer as a couple or pull us apart. If we permit the complexities of our lifestyle and the pursuit of daily bread to steal all our private time as a couple, it will not be too long before we begin to feel estranged. Each new day, there are forces which seek to pull us apart. Hectic schedules, mounting responsibilities and societal pressure will only pull you and your spouse apart if you do not make an effort to spend time together. Make a few choices today that can bring the sparkle back into your relationship.
Figure out a way to harmonise your schedules and spend at least thirty minutes talking at the end of your day. Come home straight from work for a change and have your meal together. This will help you share the day’s occurrences and also discuss your dreams and plans. Talk to each other rather than watching television until you drop off to sleep. If you’re addicted to watching several hours of news, you will know everything about the rest of the world and nothing about your spouse! Schedule a Saturday together and do something you both enjoy alone. Get involved in your partner’s interests so that you have more shared experiences. If he likes football then learn about the game. If she likes jogging, join her once in a while. Recover the lost beauty of your relationship.
Keep your spouse’s confidences
An intimate marriage is deep, confidential and secure. Deep in the sense that we are willing to probe beyond the surface of our lives and share our most secret dreams and desires, fears and failures. The degree to which you and your partner feel free to reveal your true selves will determine the degree of intimacy you will enjoy in your marriage. Confidentiality means that we can open up without fear of being exposed to others. It gives a sense of security and permanence to our relationships. This kind of marriage develops over time when we permit our mate to be himself or herself.
Discretion, the ability to choose carefully what you reveal to others in order not to embarrass your spouse, is a key ingredient of an intimate marriage. Your partner will only open up to you to the degree that he or she knows that you will never use what you know about them against them, so avoid the temptation to betray the confidences of your spouse by discussing your private affairs with a third party. No matter how much a person loves you, if they can’t trust you, they will feel unsafe to confide in you. Trust is that intangible quality in a relationship that makes it easy for two people to open up to each other. Intimacy can only be achieved when you know that your confidences are safe with your partner. Your partner also needs to be assured that their deepest secrets will not become a topic of discussion with your friends and relatives.
Be graceful with your spouse’s weaknesses
Some people fear intimacy because they fear rejection. How you react to your partner’s weaknesses will go a long way to determine the quality of your marriage. You cannot afford the luxury of being judgemental when your husband or wife opens up to you. If you make him feel like a failure when he confesses an expensive mistake he made at work, he will undoubtedly hold back from you the next time. If you brush aside her fears when she ventures to be vulnerable with you, be sure that it will be a long time before she tries to do so again.
A graceful, supportive attitude will encourage deep, meaningful conversations with your spouse and make vulnerability less threatening. There is more than enough rejection in the world without you lending your voice to it. Be sensitive to your spouse’s needs and don’t offer unsolicited advice or correction when you should be extending grace and understanding. Focus on being a listening ear not a scolding mouth.
Be your spouse’s image maker
You are an image maker for your partner. See yourself as their chief public relations officer. The way you present your wife or husband will determine the way they are received by others. No one is perfect, but we have a responsibility as married couples to conceal our partner’s weaknesses from the prying eyes of others. Let your spouse know you’ve got his or her back. Present your partner in a good light at all times and speak well of them whether present or absent. Don’t ever use your tongue to downgrade your partner in the eyes of others, no matter how hurt you are. Secrets revealed in a fit of anger can cause long-term damage to the emotional environment of a home.
There are exceptional situations in which it becomes necessary to share your family challenges with a third party. This might happen when you need to seek counsel from a pastor, counsellor or someone who is in a position to help resolve a pressing problem. Be sure that nothing is revealed with an intention to spite your spouse. Anyone you share with must be someone who will be part of the solution and not someone who will create greater problems for you. A word of caution is necessary if you regularly confide in your relatives. Family members can be fiercely protective and even after the situation is resolved, they may not forget in a hurry. Be sure that what you say about your spouse does not cause your family to regard him or her with disrespect. Celebrate your partner with your words and actions.
Which of the above actions do you need to take immediately to deepen your intimacy with your spouse?