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Building Intimacy in Marriage

Fighting our tendency to hide from each other
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What I want to offer you is a simple thought. To the degree you hide and blame, you will ruin the very thing that you most deeply desire. To the degree that you open your heart and give to the other, particularly in the context of some of your hardest moments, you will have the opportunity to develop true and lasting intimacy.

What is intimacy? It is the delectable pleasure that promises, through heart and body, that love conquers death. In most worlds, we're looking at a 52-percent probability of divorce in a first marriage. Seventy percent in a second. Ninety percent in a third. We live in a world of marital death. And given that, what will not only keep the two of you together, but actually bring you pleasure—the pleasure that is, indeed, a promise that death does not win, that love conquers death? That's what our hearts most deeply desire.

To do that kind of work, we've got to walk into the depths of what seems counterintuitive: we must enter the suffering of the other. To stand with that person, share in whatever way we can with them in their suffering, and to have a heart to bless them rather than to flee from them or blame them.

The Curse

I believe that every one of us struggles with what Genesis 3:16-19 points us to. This is reality for every man and every woman. As daughters of Eve, as sons of Adam, we all struggle with what came as a consequence of intimacy being broken with God and one another:

Then [God] said to the woman, "I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you."
And to the man he said, "Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return."

That's not happy news. The reality to be a woman in this world is that you suffer what your mother Eve suffered. And to be a man in this world means you suffere what your father Adam suffered. What did they suffer? Two things for each.

First, for women, you will have pain in childbearing. Does that mean that if you do not have children you have been released from the curse? Absolutely not. This literally means you will have pain in childbearing. But even more, what I believe the passage is inviting us to consider is that a woman's heart is relational. A woman's heart gives birth to relationships. A woman's heart is to expand and to grow and to see fruitfulness in the way that she lives. And what's the byproduct of the fall? Every woman will have pain in relationships. There will be a certain loneliness and agony that will be there in all her relationships.

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Maria

September 14, 2013  5:44pm

Wonderful article! Scott, great words!! May you all be blessed with the will to learn and grow in your marriage and the desire to work for your marriage every single day you are given on earth<3 prayers for my marriage, my husband, and myself, tremendously appreciated<3

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Mary K

March 23, 2012  11:06pm

This is why God sent a pareclete---someone to walk along with us. It's so hard to do, to just BE with someone, to be vulnerable (which is not weakness, by the way). Great article. I've passed this on to others.

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Tim T

March 23, 2012  1:45am

A wife, out of insecurity, may control a man. She isolates her spouse from his family and friends, keeps him from significant events. She so needs his attention that if he is very tired after a week away working long hours, she refuses to let him sleep, pulling the bed covers off him. She nags him incessantly when his behaviour isn't exactly how she thinks it should be and he won't face up to his problem. She says her family was brought up better. She dictates exactly how he prepares food. She criticises him over the weaknesses he once confided in her. She uses them against him, tells him he is dysfunctional, that he behaves like a child. HE EMOTIONALLY WITHDRAWS completely. She accuses him when he walks away. Yet it was all her attempt to DRAW HER SPOUSE CLOSER. In the UK this is 'domestic violence' DV, but she accuses him of the same when he cannot cope with her tirade of verbal abuse. Her plan hasn't worked, so she accuses him of DV over of his desperate responses to her abuse.

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