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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When you truly understand this, your marriage will be transformed!

My last two posts were actually an intentional prelude to this one. You may not get the leap, so it's worth explaining.

In my post "Why God Should Not Be #1 On Your Priority List"  I challenged our traditional Christian teaching that has us set God as our first priority. There are two main problems with this priority paradigm. First, it causes us to separate our lives into spiritual and secular buckets - a clearly non-biblical principle. Second, it can cause us to see the things we do "for God" as holier than the other things in our lives, which comes with the additional baggage of being self-righteous and trying to earn bonus points with God through our own striving. Also non-biblical.

I then wrote a follow up post, "What Matters Most?" to clarify the first one. In that post I explained that our real highest goal, and what matters most to God in our walk with him, is intimacy with him at all times. True intimacy with him requires that we know him deeply. The "God stuff" we do, like quiet times, worship and reading scripture, can help us to know him more, but we can actually find him in everything we do. Being "good" and doing "God stuff" don't earn us favor, but they do help us know him. In the end, though, God cares about your relationship more than how well you follow the rules. This is far from the common understanding of what it means to be a "good Christian."

All this has direct bearing on your marriage. Still not making the marriage connection? Read on!

Most Important to Marriage

Bottom line? Intimacy is the most important thing in your marriage.

You see, God hardwired us to desire intimacy.

He put that desire in us first of all so that we would seek a relationship with Him. Then he designed marriage to be a direct reflection of his desire for intimacy with us.

I've had hundreds of responses to my One Minute New Reader Poll (you've taken it right? If not, go do it now!). One thing that has been consistent over the years, regardless of how you slice the demographics, intimacy is always the number one topic readers are interested in. Like I said. We're wired for it.

So if we're wired for it and we want it so badly, why do so many couples live without it and/or long for more of it?

My theory is that it's the same reason we don't have the intimacy with God that we want. We choose rules over relationship.

The Rules of Marriage

Now by saying we pick rules, I'm not talking about the same kind of rules we attribute to God (most of which we put on ourselves  anyway). No the rules of marriage are different, but the result is the same.

So what are these "rules" we often chose to focus on instead of relationship? We focus on all the ways our spouse isn't measuring up, and we hold these shortcoming against them (analogous to how we view our sins against God). Here are some examples.
  • A wife expects her husband to help out more around the house
  • A couple tries to divide everything 50-50, and both of them are thinking it's 70-30 in their spouse's favor
  • A husband expects his wife to want sex as much as he does.
  • A wife who is critical of her husband's lack of handyman skills, and compares him unfavorably to her father.
  • A husband who doesn't think his wife keeps things tidy enough for his liking
  • A wife thinks her husband should learn to be more romantic
  • A husband gets offended every time his wife criticizes his driving
I could go on, but you get the point. These and many more are the kinds of "sins" we hold against each other.

Here's a sure sign that rules are ruling your marriage: you catch yourself saying "If my husband/wife would just ______ , our marriage would be so much better."

Intimacy is Organic

The intimacy in your marriage is a living organism. As such it's either growing or dying. You are either growing closer together or you are growing apart. I describe these two options as The Path of Separation  and The Path of Intimacy. (Read more about these two paths in the kick-off post to my series on intimacy, Choosing The Path of Intimacy.)

You get on the Path of Separation when you start focusing on all the ways in which your needs are not getting met. It's the path of self. It leads to disappointment, resentment and disenchantment.

The Path of Intimacy is the path you want to be on, and you get there by focusing more in the needs of your spouse than on your own. Rather than looking at their shortcomings and missteps, focus on what they need from you. Believe that their love for you is genuine, even when it doesn't seem that way.

Serve each other.

Love unconditionally.

Seek intimacy over perfection.

Trust in your spouse's heart.

These are the ways God pursues intimacy with us. These are the ways we should pursue intimacy with each other.

If you think about it, it's really a matter of grace, isn't it? Grace is an invitation to intimacy!


Whenever  you are tempted to take offense, step back, take a breath and ask yourself this question:
What can I do to keep us connected right now?

What have been the "rules" in your marriage? Where do you need to start putting your relationship ahead of these rules? Where have you been able to let go of your expectations?


photo credit: iqoncept / 123rf.com


6 comments:

upwithmarriage said...

You pretty much nailed some of the "rules" that have applied to our marriage in the past. It wasn't until I started to pursue love the way that God pursues me, according to 1 Cor 13, that grace and intimacy flourished.

Scott said...

Thanks, Robyn! Loving like Jesus is a high bar indeed but a worthy goal. Even making an effort in that direction pays huge dividends in my marriage.

Paul Byerly said...

Scott,

Love this!

Rules seem so easy, so clear. We can score how well we do, or how poorly our spouse does. Problem is, it does not bring life or intimacy. (Check out Galatians - Paul is all over the idea that keeping rules is the road to failure!) If it does not work with God, why would it work for our marriages?

Scott said...

Paul - Read Galatians and instead of "you foolish Galations" read "you foolish married folk!" The law is so easy to go to, but you are so right about it is a real intimacy killer!

Paul Byerly said...

Dude, now you be meddling! ;-)

Jerry Stumpf said...

Many great points in this article ad in the connected ones as well. Thank you for your insights!

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