When I was first married, I strived for sterility. I wanted a clean house with washed laundry—and as much ordered chaos as possible in a family busy with three boys. This sterility seeped into my sexual relationship with my husband. My motto was, "We can make love—if the kids are asleep, the house is clean, and we're both freshly showered and in bed in a tidy room, with the lights down low and candles lit. Oh, and did you get your hair cut recently?" The problem was that the chance was slim to none that all these conditions existed at the same time!
Even if we were able to accomplish everything on my "must do before sex" list, we were much more likely to drop wearily on the couch instead of passionately into each other's arms.
Something had to give. I couldn't keep up with all my requirements and have the energy for intimacy. I needed to simplify.
Then a thought occurred to me: What would Chuck think if I suddenly let go and pursued lovemaking when things weren't perfect, when the dishes were left on the table?
This wasn't going to be easy. I needed a role model. I chose Eve.
I know, Eve ate the apple. But before that unfortunate moment, she stood in the garden, God's choice for Adam's partner. More than any other creature, she was pleasing to him in every way. I wondered what she had that I didn't. Then realized it was the other way around.
Eve didn't have a house to keep squeaky clean. Or a shopping list or one too many tasks to perform.
She lived with Adam in beauty among the animals, with pungent odors and earthy surroundings that offered trees for shelter and a bed of grass for comfort. There they found the beauty they needed in each other, setting the stage for them to enjoy God's gift of intimacy.
Was it possible I could expect less and get more? Less housework, more physical touch? Less tasking, more romance? What woman in her right mind would choose otherwise? But as an exhausted mother with young children, I wasn't in my right mind, so I needed to practice.
I started small. My initial thought, What if I let the dishes go until morning so we could get to bed earlier? was quickly followed by, But having a clean kitchen always makes me feel so much better.
Finally, my "right mind" kicked in. Really? A clean kitchen would make me feel better than if I spent the next hour with my husband, connecting in a God-given way designed to draw us together? Sorry, Jan, no kitchen can ever be clean enough to surpass that!
Then I took it a step further. I placed toys strategically on the floor, directly in my normal walking path. I left them there, walking over or around them until having a messy floor didn't bother me—or at least not as much. This really confused Chuck when he reached down to help clean and heard me say, "Oh no, honey. Leave the toys on the floor."
The best part came when I read in Song of Songs about the Lover and the Beloved stealing away to a beautiful garden. The Lover describes his Beloved as precious myrrh, and she portrays him as a delightful spice. Not once does he say, "Your kitchen sparkles like the stars of heaven and is scented with the aroma of a thousand pines." It was all about the beauty and desire they found in each other.
Reading that book made me realize that I rarely expressed my attraction for Chuck's body. One day, quoting Song of Songs 5:15, I blurted: "Your legs are like pillars of marble, baby!" He was pleasantly shocked and a little red from blushing.
To this day I often tell Chuck how attractive he is, specifically admiring the bright color of his eyes, the strength of his legs, or the handsome turn of his smile. Now, when I start a sentence with "Honey," he gives me his full attention. There's a much better chance that a compliment will follow—instead of just one more "honey-do" for the list.
We've been married 23 years, and I've continued pursuing moments in the garden. Sometimes it's a simple, "I'm naked under these clothes," which is always true, but feels intriguing when said out loud. Other times it's something special on his pillow (even if the bed is unmade) or clothing that's slightly more feminine than what I usually wear.
It's important that I take him as he is, without requirements. No shower, cologne, flowers, or candles. Just him and his "out of Africa" manliness. His brute, organic, and earthy being—just as God created him: "radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand" (Song of Songs 5:10).
There will always be pressures that sap my energy and time limits. But I've learned to embrace what is earthy and put housework on hold for a while.
Like right now. I've got a kitchen to ignore.
Jan Fallon is an author and marriage mentor with her counselor husband, Chuck Fallon, LPC. http://www.janfallon.com.
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.