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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What is the most important thing in marriage?

Let me ask that question a slightly different, less generic way. What is it that is most important to you in your own marriage?

Did you answer those two questions differently? I find that I can tend to. Because, you see, the thing that I know ought to be most important often is not the thing I go after the most in my own marriage.

What I Know

I know in my head that intimacy is the most important thing in marriage. And when I say that I'm not using the word intimacy as a euphemism for sex. Sex is but one (albeit very important) component of intimacy, but in this case I'm talking about intimacy in every dimension of marriage: physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, intellectual, etc.

Intimacy reaches its pinnacle when we are fully known, nakedly transparent, yet fully loved for who we really are. I like to call it being naked without shame. Actually the Bible calls it that too, so it didn't originate with me (See Genesis 2 for this pre-fall definition of marital intimacy). That's how marriage is supposed to be.

How do I know that intimacy is what matters most in marriage?

It's because of the Bridal Paradigm, which is my understanding of myself as the bride of Christ. It is through that lens that God portrays the perfect picture of marriage. It is through that lens that I see Christ as my Bridegroom, looking for an eternal bride. Christ's pursuit of me, a pursuit that cost him his very life, was not so that I would follow all the religious rules. No, Jesus' pursuit of me was so that I could live in intimacy with him forever as his bride, starting right here and now. (Sorry guys, if you want to be a great husband you will just have to get over yourself and get a clear picture of what it means to be a bride.)

Intimacy is the most important thing in marriage because intimacy is what matters most to God. It's that simple.

What I Do

But it isn't quite that simple. I mean, if I really, truly grasped the importance of intimacy in my marriage I would probably do a lot of things differently. You probably would too.

Genuine intimacy in marriage doesn't happen on its own. The natural state of a relationship is not intimacy but coexistence. Left untended, a marriage can easily devolve over time into little more than being excellent roommates.

The funny thing is, though, that we are hardwired with a desire for intimacy. In my New Reader Poll, intimacy is the topic everyone wants to hear more about. Men and women. Newly married couples and couples married 30 years. Couples with kids and without. The topics of sexual and emotional intimacy top the list every way you slice it.  (By the way, please take my New Reader Survey if you haven't yet.)

We all desire more intimacy in our marriage, but we don't always do the things that best build and maintain intimacy. I know I don't.

If Intimacy Really Mattered Most...

If I really put the goal of intimacy with my wife ahead of everything else in our relationship, a lot of things would have to change.
  • I would no longer see having my personal needs met as the most important thing in our relationship. Instead of asking "What can I get from her?" I would ask, "What can I do to keep us close?"
  • I would not depend on my wife to make me happy and to keep me that way. Instead, I would find the greatest happiness when our intimacy is deepest. I would gladly take the lead in our pursuit of every form of intimacy.
  • Demanding my rights and insisting on my "fair share" would be replaced by looking out for what is best for our marriage and our relationship.
  • When I feel offended or disappointed, instead of reacting by keeping emotional distance, I would press closer to her, seek to understand what is really going on, and do my best to eliminate whatever is standing between us.
  • Instead of giving my wife only my leftovers, after my job and ministry and chores have taken everything out of me, I would make sure I have sufficient physical, emotional, sexual, and mental energy to give the best part of me to her.
There are many other things that I would probably do differently if I really lived and loved as if intimacy was the main goal of my marriage. What might you do differently with that understanding?  I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment.

image credit: inspirestock /

More in this "What If..." series:
  1. A Lesson in How to "What If..."
  2. What If... You and Your Spouse Really Are One?


Paul Byerly said...

"...if I really, truly grasped the importance of intimacy in my marriage I would probably do a lot of things differently."

BOOM! Nailed it. Lord help me see clearly!

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