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Saturday, May 14, 2011
As I wrote last time, sometimes, in order to foster intimacy in your marriage, you will need to step outside of your comfort zone.

If you consider my recent marital needs poll results, which showed dramatic differences between the primary needs of husbands and wives, it is certain that in order to go about meeting needs that are probably very different from your own, you'll need to modify your mindset and think a bit outside the box.

When such actions go against your own natural inclinations and preferences, it may require you to sometimes act “as if” for the sake of loving your spouse and improving your marriage.

Now, lest what I am suggesting be misconstrued, I want to follow up with a few clarifying points.

This is Not Just Faking It

I’m NOT suggesting you simply try to fake your way through it. For one, most of us aren’t that good at hiding our feelings, and your spouse will pretty quickly figure out that you aren’t being sincere. That’s likely to make things worse than if you didn’t do it at all. Though there may be times to suck it up and pretend, that should not be the goal.

The goal is to be authentic – to act with genuine love. To do that you will likely need to change your mindset so you can do it “as if” it were something you would really like to do. The wanting to do it comes from a place of sacrificial love rather than a place of personal enjoyment or personal preference.

My wife loves old movies. She’s practically a walking iMDb of all things black and white. Personally, I don’t care that much for most of the old movies that seem to so hold her interest and give her such delight. But I will sometimes happily watch with her, simply because I want to be with her and know this is something she really enjoys. When she asks me if I enjoyed a movie that I did not particularly care for, I will say “I enjoyed you enjoying it.” That’s the truth. In some ways, knowing that I do this for her blesses her more than if I was to doing it because I actually like those old movies. It shows that I care about the things she cares about.

I love the mountains. My wife loves the beach. So every year we try to get a healthy dose of both. And over the years I have come to rather enjoy the beach, and she now truly likes spending time in the mountains. I’ve come to appreciate the things she likes so much about the beach, and I also see how it feeds her soul. Same goes for her and the mountains.

This is Not Compromise

I would caution you not to go about doing these kinds of sacrificial “as if” acts of love in order to get something in return or as a compromise that requires concessions from your spouse. I didn’t just go along with the idea of a beach vacation in order to get my wife to agree to a mountain trip. No, we both saw and genuinely wanted to satisfy the desires of the other’s heart. It wasn’t a 50-50 proposition, it was 100-100. That’s the way it should be.

I’m suggesting that if it is going yield any lasting fruit in your marriage, you should do such things without expecting something in return. Give it as a gift rather than as a favor. Again that’s not to say you should never say, “I’ll do X if you’ll do Y.” I just don’t think that is necessarily the bridal paradigm way. Jesus gave everything of himself for us for love's sake and for love's sake alone. Love and intimacy with us was his only goal.

Sameness is Not the Goal

As I said in my previous post, the idea of acting “as if” is not about changing your personality or nature- you probably couldn’t do that if you tried. The goal is not to become more like your spouse. I’m not suggesting that men be more like their wives or vice-versa. But you shouldn't use your nature as and excuse to neglect the needs of your spouse.  You can change your behavior without changing who you are. You can increase awareness of your spouse’s needs, even those that are a bit foreign to you, and act in a way that meets those needs, without becoming more like them.

Allow Your Emotions to Follow Your Actions

Setting aside your own preferences and stepping outside your own comfort zone can be uncomfortable and challenging. But when you act “as if” for the sake of love and intimacy with your spouse and in order to honor his or her nature and desires you will begin to see positive fruit in your marriage.

And as you learn to take delight in delighting your spouse, you will gradually see your heart begin to change. You might even find yourself beginning to not just tolerate but embrace and enjoy things that you never thought you could. When you see how happy you can make your spouse, how positively he or she responds to your loving attention, and how intimacy grows between you, you will want to do it more. That’s only natural. See the above mountain/beach example from my marriage.

You aren’t responsible for solely fulfilling all your spouse’s needs

This is my final caveat about acting “as if.” While I strongly believe we all need to learn to delight in delighting our spouses, you cannot be everything to your spouse (nor should you be). You cannot ever hope to meet 100% of your spouse’s emotional needs, and his or her world should not revolve around you. That’s a formula for emotional gridlock and a certain set-up for failure.

The center of your spouse’s world should be God, and He alone should sit upon the throne of their life. Second, your spouse will need a life outside of your marriage (as will you). It is healthy and necessary for him or her to have friends and interests outside of your marriage relationship, and you should view these not as competition for his or her affections and attentions as long as these things don’t hinder the level of intimacy between you.

What do you think of these caveats and cautions to acting “as if?” Do you have any cautions of your own that our readers should be aware of?


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