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Building a Great Marriage

Building a Great Marriage

Cultivating Intimacy in Marriage

Session #8

Great Marriage

Paul and Linda J. Bucknell

Building a Great Marriage Index:
Faith: #1 Hope | #2 Love | #3 Submission | #4 Oneness
Forgiveness: #5 Conflict | #6 Crises | #7 Forgiveness
Friendship: #8 Intimacy | #9 Trust | #10 Love works!

Understanding Intimacy | Growing in Intimacy | Sexual Intimacy
Purpose of Intimacy

Resolving Marital Crises & Avoiding Conflict

Purpose: Cultivating Intimacy in Marriage includes discussion on: Understanding intimacy, growing in intimacy, sexual intimacy and the purpose of intimacy. This is part #8 of the larger series 'Building a Great Marriage!'

Every wedding is the fulfillment of many hopes and dreams. Maybe you can remember back to when you were readying yourself for your marriage. I remember writing love poems. Linda on the other hand would make matching outfits. We were probably like most couples, which have their heads far above the clouds.

Each couple is convinced that their own marriage ‘will be different’ from those that face problems. God has so wired each couple to wish and dream for the best. Why?

A. Understanding Intimacy
B. Growing in Intimacy
C. Sexual intimacy
D. The Purpose of Intimacy

We are not sure of all the reasons for this, but it does seem that the Lord reveals two significant things to the couple through the brief period of engagement:

(1)      The true longings of the heart: True honest, endearing and faithful relationship that brings a greater joy, love and sense of fulfillment.

(2)      The depth of commitment: An unselfishness and devotion to love only one another.

God in His grace grants each couple a foretaste of how great their marriage really could be. He gives them something to aspire to. Married couples typically are caught off guard shortly after the wedding. The reality of their selfishness sets in. Bitterness often seals the couple there until the grave. Couples can’t go much further than over the honeymoon threshold without God’s plan and power built in their lives through Jesus Christ.

buy marriage bookGod pronounces each couple ‘one’ on their wedding day. Are they one? Yes. But there is still the need to grow into it every day of their married lives. Married life serves as a constant opportunity for each couple to live out what deep down they know they should be doing.

As a married couple lives together, they will have many opportunities to eliminate those seams and become one. Married life in summary, then, is an opportunity to grow in intimacy. In this session we will show you how to cultivate deeper intimacy in your marriage.

A. Understanding Intimacy

Through this series, we have seen two main ways to obtain a great marriage. First, we have come to understand what biblical marriage looks like. We have acquired God’s view of marriage. As long as we look at marriage from man’s point of view, our distorted perspectives will kill all valiant attempts to have a great marriage. Marriage isn’t a man made arrangement. It is God’s design. We need to keep His design clearly in focus.

Secondly, we have seen how to recover from major setbacks in our marriages. As sinners we have, to different degrees, messed up our marriage relationship. Fortunately, through Christ we can identify and resolve these problems. No matter how bad the past, by rightly approaching the problems, we can change for the better. Crises are opportunities designed by God to deepen our intimacy with our spouse and Him. Learning how to solve the conflicts brings us closer to one another.

Today we turn to the third part, the most delightful discussion on how to gain a great marriage. If we needed to summarize the purpose of marriage in one word, it would be ‘intimacy.’ Lots of people are searching for greater intimacy in marriage.

What is Intimacy?

The concept of marital intimacy is derived from the Biblical principle of oneness. Although the word ‘intimacy’ is not used in the Bible, the concept is found there

 Oneness and Intimacy(1) First, the phrase ‘the two shall become one’ is used to define the marriage relationship. Intimacy is living in full view of the other so that the two function as one. God designed and appointed the husband to be head and for the wife to submit to the husband. If they are to function as one rather than two, then they need a way to relate to one another that does not cause conflict but encourages harmony.

(2) The meaning of ‘oneness’ can be further understood by the words used to describe physical intimacy or the sexual union. Our culture now is trying to teach us that the sexual experiences of animals and humans are the same. They are totally mistaken. Much more is at stake. Hebrew yadah 'to know' includes the sexual idea in this context.The couple deep down knows that there is more to intimacy than sex but don’t know how to reach it.

Why else would a couple get married? The Hebrew word used to describe the sexual relationship gives us a clue to what is missing. That word is ‘to know.’ The Hebrew word yadah has many usages including: to know, learn to know; perceive; find out and discern; discriminate, distinguish; know by experience; recognize, admit, acknowledge, confess; consider and sexual union.

"Now the man had relations (literally ‘knew’) with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD" (Genesis 4:1)

buy marriage bookWhen it says, for example, that Adam knew Eve, the scriptures are saying that they came together in sexual union. There is much more happening than the fulfillment of the individual’s sexual drive. There is the intimate sharing of soul and person. Animals don’t have souls or self-awareness. People do.

The married couple, then, is not just revealing their bodies to each other but their hearts as well. If a couple wants true intimacy, they need to deepen their relationship with the other. They need to ‘know’ each other in their different spheres of life.

Although this might sound antiquated, just think, isn’t this what the time before marriage is like? I remember riding my bicycle three miles across town in the dead of winter, in the snow and rain, to have a chance to talk to and spend time with my wonderful Linda. I would still do it. I still want to ‘know’ her more.

(3) Thirdly, we can also see how ‘intimacy’ is portrayed throughout the Bible. Many theologians have argued over the true meaning of The Song of Solomon. If you haven’t read this book, you should. The book describes how a couple is romantically involved in each other’s life. You will also find some very interesting romantic poetry.

“How beautiful you are, my darling, How beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves behind your veil; Your hair is like a flock of goats That have descended from Mount Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes Which have come up from their washing, All of which bear twins, And not one among them has lost her young. Your lips are like a scarlet thread, And your mouth is lovely. Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate Behind your veil. (Song of Solomon 4:1-3)

The Song of Solomon continues recording their wedding, their honeymoon and life after marriage. Some theologians couldn’t accept such vivid sensual language.

Physical love parallels spiritual loveInstead of a willingness to allow scripture to shape their views on marital relationships, they sought to veil the sensual, intimate language with a “spiritual only” interpretation. We do not need to shun this vivid picture of marital intimacy for it is given to help us understand the intimacy God desires with His people as well as affirm a healthy picture of an intimate marriage. Again, we see we must go beyond just sexual expression. Intimacy is all about having and growing deep relationships.

Jesus shares more about the spiritual relationship that He desires with His people. He is not talking about sex. He is, however, speaking of intimate relationship.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).

As we get lost in the identity and purpose of the Savior, He will blend with us and that relationship will produce much fruit. The fruit or works that are produced is a beautiful testimony of Christ living in a Christian. Can we see how the two parallel? Both are important and true. This is the mystery that the apostle speaks about.

"For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31-32).


You can order the Building a Great Marriage printed seminar materials including handouts at the BFF Resource Center or just get the BFF Marriage Training DVD which includes all our marriage articles including powerpoints .

(4) And lastly, let us note some clear commands in Bible regarding intimacy between a husband and his wife. We will point out four perspectives that we should have toward our spouses. Watch out. You might be surprised!

Four Practical Perspectives of Marriage

1) Possession

But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)

 

 

2) Obligation

Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:3)

 

 

3) Control over

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. (1 Corinthians 7:4)

 

4) Devoted

But one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, …but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:33-34)

The husband has his wife, and the wife has her husband. They belong to each other. They possess each other.

Each is owned by the other.

(This is the simple meaning of the Greek word to have or own.)

Husband and wife have certain obligations to fulfill to each other. In this case he is speaking of sexual relations. Neither of them have a right to refuse their spouse. Their wills are constrained by their marriage covenant relationship. They have given up their rights to doing what they feel like.

The husband and wife are surrendered to the wishes of their mates.

Their wills and selves are yielded to the preference of each other. One’s own will is lost in serving the other.

The husband and wife both positively seek the other’s best. Life decisions will always keep in mind what ‘pleases’ the other spouse whether it be sex, relocation, purchases, etc. Marriage brought the male and female together so that they no longer live according to their own preferences but for the other.

 

Bad marriages wrestle with control issues. Each spouse is focused on their own “rights,” and having their own demands or desires fulfilled. In great marriages, however, Each has willingly given up their own preferences in order to pursue a greater good, that is, what is best for the other. It is clear to see that being a growing Christian fully supports a great marriage. For example, a Christian has died to serving himself and is committed to serving Christ. He serves Christ by serving others and in particular his or her partner.

A good example is the action between two magnets. Opposite poles attract. Similar poles repel. Line the poles up in the same direction, and they will stick to each other. But if you turn them north against north, then the magnets will repel each other. You can force them together, but they will still fight each other’s presence.

In the same way, intimacy takes advantage of the attraction. It works by the power of surrender. Intimacy helps you “stick” to one another. In order to judge your intimacy, ask yourself, “Do my decisions and attitudes bring a blessing to my spouse?”

Last night the family came home late. The children had just finished climbing into bed. My wife said she was tired. She looked tired. But I saw more than this. I saw that she was so tired that she just wanted to forget about cleaning up the kitchen. She usually musters up the extra energy to clean up. I told her I would clean up the pans. We had rushed out of the house after supper. These pans were the most difficult pans to clean.

Some were filled with fat (broiler pan) and others had burnt food caked on the edges. This was not my duty, but I knew I could help her in a significant way by voluntarily taking on the job. She went off to sleep. I took joy in cleaning pans for her and cleaning the kitchen counter. I respect her value of coming down to a clean kitchen in the morning. I helped her to accomplish that goal without further exhausting herself.

True intimacy has a lot to do with how much we share our hearts with our spouse. This sharing is contingent upon the depth of the spouse’s commitment to each other. Conversations and experiences must bring the couple together in such a way that they think and live as one. Let’s explore this in a more fun way. Let’s end this section by taking a seven-question intimacy quiz. See how intimate you are with your spouse. Answer ‘Y’ for yes and ‘N’ for no.

An Intimacy Quiz

Y  N 1. You have spent more than 15 minutes at any one time in the last three days nicely talking to your spouse.

Y  N 2. Name the two most important things on the mind of your husband or wife?

Y  N 3. Do you feel fulfilled and at peace ten minutes after sexual intercourse?

Y  N 4. Has the husband shared and discussed his future dreams in the last three months?

Y  N 5. Do you like being alone with your spouse walking and talking?

Y  N 6. Do you sense that there are no barriers between you?

Y  N 7. In the last week have you consciously restrained your words in order to speak nicely to your spouse?

How did you do? If your marriage is intimate, your answers in a typical week should be yes. If your hearts are one, then your wills are one. You are soul mates. Much sharing takes place between you. It isn’t supposed to stop after the honeymoon! Intimate couples strategically set aside some time to be together. Growing their relationship is a priority.

B. Growing in Intimacy

Many couples wistfully remember those sweet, innocent times before marriage that they were so interested in each other. They would go out of their way just to see each other. Heart intimacy takes personal sharing, mutual understanding and deepening of commitment.How does a couple get back to that state? In one sense you can’t because your motivation is not the same. In another sense, however, you can.

As the intimacy quiz revealed, you need to prioritize time to grow together. You actually need carve out time in your schedule to be together. It is a simple act of obedience for the husband to cleave to or cherish his wife. He will spend time with her to ‘know’ her more. The time will need to be cut out of other segments of life such as entertainment and work. Parents may need to reduce some of the time used carting the children to their many activities. Your relationship is important.

I believe there are three components to a growing marriage: Personal sharing, mutual understanding and deepening commitment. It is a cycle that goes round and round, growing deeper each time. Let’s look at these three important aspects of growing an intimate marriage.

Remember when?• Personal sharing

If a couple would just talk more to each other, they would grow in their intimacy. Clearly, a major challenge to intimacy in our modern world is busyness. As long as man and woman allow their times together to be leftovers from the busy world, they may as well assume that there will not be much growth.

Linda and I got hooked on spending an hour every evening talking and praying together before we were married. It has become the best of habits. This evening appointment has been the best thing for us.

In the beginning it was the only time I could see her. I would visit her at her parents’ house. We spent our time together in Bible study, prayer and sharing. After we got married, it just continued on. Our marriage keeps getting better every year. Our marriage is so wonderful that it is hard to imagine that it could actually get even better. Well, the next year proves that can.

Conversation between spouses must be honest, other-focused and true. Let us explain.

An honest conversation eliminates pretense. We don’t need to pretend all is well when it is not. In fact, we are dishonest if we allow our spouse to think one way when it is not that way. Our job is to help the other know who we really are. We might share our personal struggles with jealousy, pornography, or anger. When we take that honest step forward, the secrecy veil falls away, and we can grow in intimacy. Most conversations are shallow because they are not honest. It is fine to talk about buildings, races and school, but in the end, we need to share about our real person. This is where and when growth begins to take place.

Conversation must be other-focused.

Just as conversation can be superficial, it also can be selfish. If you always talk about yourself rather than inquiring into the life and concerns of your spouse, you don’t need to wonder why your friendship with your spouse doesn’t grow. No one likes those who like to talk only about themselves.

This is true in a marriage too. The ‘me’ person focuses on himself because he is content with knowing himself. If there is a need, it is only as listening post. We are not speaking of how much a person speaks but whether he actually employs his words to find out more about the other person.

This is simple love. Intimacy by necessity demands an ongoing investigation into the life of our spouse. We want to explore their life because we are interested in them. Just the other night I asked my wife to tell me something I didn’t know about her. She had to think long but in the end came up with something.

Our conversation must be true. Honesty and truth are admittedly rather closely related. We want to separate them a bit to help us identify a problem many marriages have. Usually when a person thinks of honesty, he is only thinking whether or not his words are honest. Truth, though, speaks at a deeper level. It gets deeper than just the words down to what he feels and thinks.

There are many things that a spouse might like or dislike, but not mention. Think about the things that you could do together. Out of politeness, you might not mention your dislike. We just put up with it. We might think that our quietness is more loving. But because of the closeness of relationship, we need a better approach, a more true approach.

For example, men and women are very different. We differ in how we experience and perceive life. My wife likes her back scratched. What good would it do if I scratched around the itchy place but never really scratched it. I don’t want her quiet politeness, but a bit of guidance such as, “Could you move down to the left a little?” I love to hear, “Oh, yes!” Then I know that the itchy spot has been scratched.

Quiet politeness is not true enough. Sometimes we don’t want to offend the other. It is good to think about the other; timing is important. But if something he or she does to pleasure you doesn’t really please you, speak up. If this was a momentary thing, then we could forget it, but marriage is for life. Allow the relationship to grow in truth. “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Summary: Conversing with our spouse is the most basic step that enables us to know how he or she thinks about or perceives different issues. We are beginning to know how our spouse is motivated. We gain insight into his or her struggles and temptations. As we gain more knowledge about them, then we can better serve and care for them, and gain support from them. Personal sharing leads us to mutual understanding.

• Mutual Understanding

Mutual UnderstandingDepth of personal conversation allows us to dive deeper into the lives and experiences of our spouse. Sometimes when my wife feels she can’t tell me the whole story, she will write it down in a page or two and hand it to me. This way I can’t interrupt her thought process. She also has a chance to clarify her own thoughts.

As a husband and wife begin to share more about their lives, they are able to better perceive who their spouse really is. The husband cannot love well if he does not know how she really thinks about a certain matter. The wife cannot be a good helpmate if she does not know well what God is doing in her husband’s life. It is here that we learn as a couple that we are one and can make ourselves vulnerable to each other without destabilizing the relationship.

I believe it is here that the wife’s “spots and wrinkles”, as the apostle Paul says, are eliminated. Through the husband’s unconditional love, she is able to open up more and more like a beautiful rose.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Mutual understanding has one great side benefit that we are often oblivious to. It cripples the evil one’s tactic of using misunderstanding and assumption to stir up trouble. The better the husband and wife know each other, the less they will misunderstand the other’s motives. When the past is fully revealed to one another, then they know they are fully accepted, just as they are by the Lord. The threat of blackmail is removed. Nothing is hidden any more. This is much like relaxing the muscles.

Relaxation cannot take place when the muscles are all tense. In order to reach relaxation, one has to mentally command the muscles to relax. (Try it. Tell yourself to relax your shoulder muscles. You will feel your shoulders slump a bit.) In a similar manner, a couple cannot fully take on the new form of oneness until they have dropped all of their reserves.

Some of these concerns and doubts have lingered in their minds for many years. The wife for example might be able to submit to her husband in all areas but one. But she hesitates in that one area because she cannot quite trust him. The husband likewise might love his wife in all areas but holds back with one matter because he feels that she may misuse that love. More than likely there are yet other areas, but until they progress past that block, they cannot rightly perceive all of their needs.

Holding back full trust shows that there are still ‘tense’ parts in our personal life. These are fears and worries. Fears cripple mutual understanding through misunderstanding and ignorance. Faith on the other hand freely encourages the couple to open up their lives to each other.

Intimate marriages are formed by the unconscious deepening of trust in each other. Intimacy is normal and good. As trust deepens, the Lord enables you to grow into the oneness that He declared on your wedding day. The word “know” is significant. Communication speaks about revelation. Understanding addresses the issue of trust or accepting the knowledge into oneself and adjusting one’s life.

As one better understands the other, they can begin to more closely work, share and love together. They like being ‘one’ and sharing their hearts and lives.

Summary: Shared knowledge enables the couple to increase their trust in one another, there by growing in mutual understanding. Mutual understanding also protects you from many schemes of the devil. He uses misunderstanding to cause conflict between you. With mutual understanding a couple is able to take deeper steps of commitment.

• Deepening Commitment

Deepening CommitmentJust as a child cannot grow into an adult overnight, so the couple cannot mature in their intimacy through one or two special experiences like a wedding. It is a life-long process.

A couple must engage in tens of thousands of special conversations and shared experiences for mutual trust to grow. Fears are overcome and replaced with an invigorating confidence in each other. As a result of this deepening mutual understanding, a firmer commitment evolves. The commitment is a bit different than most commitments. It is more subtle and unconscious but real.

This commitment shows itself in being one-hearted, willingness to sacrifice and a fond cherishing of each other.

One-hearted.

A couple must increasingly come to the point where they have only one love. They are committed to each other and no other. This will show itself by putting aside fascinations and fantasies. Even if the spouse has a disgusting habit, they still resolve to be committed to loving them. Jesus says that any desire for another is adultery. One-heartedness removes those uncommitted areas so that the husband can fully cherish his wife.

Willing to sacrifice.

Once committed, the spouse is further willing to sacrifice him or herself to care for the other. This is the spouse’s life. Their faithfulness to bettering their spouse is more important than their own self. The husband’s love will be broader and penetrate deeper. The wife’s submission will be more genuine and propelled by a spirit of volunteerism.

More fond.

With commitment, we gain a deeper sense of being cherished. The more we resolve to love our spouse, the more excitement and joy comes from the relationship. We are excited to see our spouse grow and be helped in some area. Their life becomes most important to you.

Summary

This deeper commitment is in essence love. Love is the expression of unconditional, genuine concern for the other. Love is not merely a theory but is practical, kind and forgiving. Love is the underlying devotion toward each other that generates a host of kind words, generous actions and special favors.

These commitments are not often spoken of or even noticed by the individual spouse but they occur. It allows the marriage to swing over into another cycle of growth. The husband and wife are more true and honest in their conversation. The whole cycle repeats itself.

Conclusion

An intimate marriage is characterized by the understanding that my spouse is vitally important to me. We are not just meeting each other’s basic needs. We have come to believe, on the authority of God’s Word, that our union is more blessed than our separateness. As we become convinced of our spouse’s value to our lives, we are willing to bridge the big gender gaps so that we can really ‘know’ our spouses.

The more I believe my wife is important to my welfare, the more I will try to understand who she is and how she can help me in my life. The wife, in a similar way, will be able to further commit herself to her husband in a trusting manner. Confidence in God’s design shapes our attitudes and actions.

Marital intimacy is sharing at the heart level. Each spouse believes in the other’s is commitment. Each realizes that God has especially gifted their mate to work with them. It is only this confidence that compels them to change habits in order to take those steps toward deeper intimacy. Every step of commitment brings a deeper appreciation of the spouse. This brings forth further changes in how they share their life.

Questions for Developing Intimacy

• Have you carved out regular time in your schedule to devote to growing an intimate relationship with your spouse? Explain.

• Would you say your conversations with your spouse are superficial or about matters of the heart?

• Do you wonder whether or not you married the right person or have you dedicated yourself to serving your spouse? If so, how have you shown this?

Troubled about Intimacy?

There are no doubt many questions that come to mind as we speak of making ourselves vulnerable to our spouses. One wife can’t trust her husband for anything let alone to share her heart. Another wife has an adulterous husband. Is she to pretend he is faithful? Another couple is filled with bitterness. They are all asking if intimacy is possible. And like before, we will answer no, but there is an option.

You can choose be welcome your spouse or push him away. Words, attitudes and actions display the desire for a warm and beautiful marriage. A spouse cannot be forced to respond but you can create an atmosphere that would cause them to want to respond. On the other hand, you can chase your spouse away through a cold, sour, or condemning attitude.

A million housewives can complain about their husband’s defects. You can join them and treat your husband as an enemy rather than as a friend. If he is treated like an enemy, he will act like the enemy. Much of the time we just do not recognize how much our own bad attitudes have poisoned our relationship. What a difference it will make, if you swallow your complaints, forgive him and start treating him as the Lord told you to with a gentle and quiet spirit.

Only then will your husband realize that he likes to be home! Only when you are convinced that you both are on the same side, will you put away your critical remarks and thoughts and renew your commitment to oneness. It is only then that you can begin to undress your soul before your spouse and genuinely ‘know’ him or her.

And I know that there are just as many husbands who would wish they were married to someone else. And as long as you wish this, you wish evil. You will remain in the wild frustration of never being fulfilled.

Instead of settling down and working hard to love this one woman for the rest of your life, you are looking at all the reasons she doesn’t deserve your love. You can stay like that or you can begin to increase the level of trust. Then she will begin to be “disarmed”. She senses that she is not desired so she doesn’t make herself desirable. Desire her, not only for her body but also for who she is, and she will begin to respond.

Many marriages, as indicated above, are crippled and continue on at superficial levels. They are happy just sharing a house in peace. God wants so much more. God wants us to go deeper and deeper in the levels of intimacy. There we have more freedom to reveal our deepest selves to our spouse.

C) Sexual intimacy

Love DovesCouples are willing to use sex to satisfy their immediate physical needs. The husband has strong physical urges; the wife has a deep need to feel wanted.

The physical relationship gives them a little of what they want but more often than not it only reminds them of what they really don’t have. If the physical relationship isn’t built on a good social relationship and marriage commitment, then the old feelings of bitterness and guilt will return after sex. Even sex can bring its own guilt because it is used in a selfish way to fulfill your own needs.

What should the sexual relationship be like? Physical intimacy must be built on the foundation of a good marriage relationship where the couple reveals their soul to one another. We are not just speaking of consent or willingness, but a heart united in the ‘knowing’ of each other. Sex then is not a goal to reach. It is a deeper and more beautiful expression of the union they already have. The extremely pleasant feelings and fulfilled urges blend together in a masterpiece of oneness.

Many couples never get beyond serving their own needs. Sex for them is about getting what they need rather than giving to the other. There is a world of difference between being used and being loved. There is a great difference between a marriage where the husband is fascinated with and completely taken with his wife and one in which the husband fantasizes of other women. Does the husband really love his wife? Is he really focused on her?

Some of the greatest tests will come in bed with her. Let’s look at a few examples. He has his plans for the evening, but she is not feeling well is tired or perhaps her period (time of the month) just started. Will he be patient or irritated? Or in another situation, what if she simply turns her back on him because she is resentful over something he said to her in the morning? How will the husband respond? Will his focus be more on fulfilling his own sexual longings or on deepening his relationship with her?

The wife has her own tests too. The command to be submissive is not easy when your husband insensitive! If she is resentful, she will convey her unwillingness to be intimate with him. Sometimes the bed is a battlefield. Each side is struggling.

The wife needs to find forgiveness for her bitterness and welcome her husband rather than shun him even in his selfishness moments. Non-Christian husbands are not thinking of Christ when they go to the bedroom (see 1 Peter 3:1). She needs to be gentle and of a quiet demeanor even in bed. If even there he finds a most gracious and kind woman his heart will slowly be changed.

Only by being faithful to our calling, will we be able to take the marriage forward. Bed habits are not excluded. Even if our spouses are stubborn, foolish or lazy, we need to love that one to whom we have committed ourselves. Some might say it is impossible. It would be more correct to say it is impossible without Christ, but it is possible to love like Christ through His Holy Spirit. We can forgive others and decidedly give to them the good they don’t deserve.

It is unfortunate that not everyone has a truly intimate relationship based on a deep commitment to each other. The only way to start going that way is for you who are responsive to God to begin being fully faithful to your spouse. Make no excuses. Pray and fast if needed.

Be determined that, even if your spouse never rightly responds, you will be his or her faithful partner. I believe the spouse in most situations will respond. That is why you got married. A person’s faithfulness brings hope back into the marriage for it acts as a channel of God’s mighty love.

Some people believe that the sexual act is for self-fulfillment. We disagree. The sexual act is designed to fulfill your mate. We are to focus on the other’s needs rather than on our own. And as in all of life, as we love others, God will take care of us.

Genuine love is greatly needed in bed. Patience, kindness, and forgiveness will create wonderful times together. Only with God’s love, can the husband be willing to go without sex if necessary. Only God’s graciousness will allow the wife to open her body to her husband even if he has recently treated her unkindly.

The husband is not to rush for his pleasure and ignore her needs. Women respond more slowly. So husbands need to take things slower so that he can focus on her needs. The wife must also be aggressive in pleasing her husband. They need honest and true conversation combined with cushions of love to reach the maximum feelings of delight.

Questions on Developing Sexual Intimacy


•Would you say that you focus on fulfilling your spouse’s needs during sex or your own?

•How do you respond as a husband to your wife when she puts you off for reasons of sickness, inconvenience, tiredness or from being upset?

•Why should a Christian spouse still dedicate him or herself to her mate?

D) The Purpose of Intimacy

The 'Rut'A marriage can run into a rut if care is not taken. Intimacy, after all, is not a final goal. It is the means to accomplishing God’s purpose for your life.

Marriage has a purpose beyond itself. An individual exists for more than to eating and living. He has a purpose in life. A factory’s purpose is more than just a place for people to come and work. They are manufacturing some item. God has designed marriage in a similar way. The purpose of marriage always goes beyond serving its own self. Let us discuss three ways to extend our intimacy by serving others.

1) Serve your spouse

Marriage, as has been mentioned already, is an endless opportunity for the husband and wife to serve God as they serve each other. Since the relationship is so closely bound, they are tested and proven in ways that do not normally occur outside of the marriage.

Mutual purpose.

The husband must realize his golden opportunity to serve his wife. He must specialize in pleasing her by devotedly living for her. Don’t worry; she won’t object! Not only does he do things for her but he also treasures her in his heart. He is quite willing to focus his undivided heart fully on her. He is content. This becomes his great privilege, joy and reward on earth.

"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body" (Ephesians 5:28-30).

The wife also must realize that her golden opportunity to show her love to God will be in catching the vision of being a helpmate. She was designed for that key position. The many individual situations that arise go far beyond her feelings. They go right to the issue of obedience. From her faithful service, a beautiful glow from God will emanate from her life.

"For indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake" (1 Corinthians 11:9).

"An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones" (Proverbs 12:4).

God does not want us to stop here in our service to ourselves. He demands that we go beyond this.

2) Serve your children

The most obvious fruit of the marriage relationship is children. Each child is a perfect fruit of the parents’ ‘oneness.’ God wants His people to have lots of children. He commands us, as married couples, to have many children. The blessed home has many children. Even Joseph and Mary had at least five other children after having Jesus.

Intimate marriages naturally bear children. We should warmly welcome God’s hand in creating children. He alone opens and closes the womb. This life-giving intimacy includes not only the husband and the wife but also God.

Birth control has at least five obvious problems.

1) Man wants the privileges of marriage (sex) without its responsibilities (children).

2) Man thinks that a marriage without children is better than one with children. Fewer are better.

3) Man disobeys God by not bringing forth many children into the world.

4) Man often kills children in order to avoid having them.

5) Man thinks his family planning plans are better than God’s.

Many couples want more money and time to themselves. They don’t want children. You can see that marriage for them has become a selfish institution.

Parents spend much of their lives caring for their children. Caring for their children requires an investment of many years. We must have a sacrificial endurance to give of our time, energy, body, money, and possessions in order to raise them for God. In a true sense, what we have becomes theirs. We love this song of praise given to a faithful wife and mother.

"She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised" (Proverbs 31:26-30).

Birth control is another one of the many ways that we hold on to our own way and not totally trust our lives into God’s hands. Preventing conception means that we lock God out of this area of our life. When we say “no” to God in this area, we are in essence limiting our ability to be intimate with our spouse. My wife and I have been on both sides of this fence, so to speak. We have a gap of seven years between our second and third children. This is partly due to using birth control methods. We can testify that once we were able, by God’s grace, to throw out our birth control paraphernalia that God brought our marriage to a deeper and more intimate level. We learned to trust God together. We had more freedom to fully open our lives before Him.

3) Serve your world

In a real way marriage is for channeling God’s love to the world. God-designed marriage is the place that the world sees true love in action.. Marriage is all about serving not being served. The joys of marriage will only reach the husband and wife that are committed to serving those around them. As a family they will extend God’s goodness and love into the world by service to others.

This can take many forms, but it starts by loving your neighbors and the people you meet. Sometimes husband and wife are too busy making money or taking the children to their activities to let home be a home. Families need to slow way down to enable them to make room for serving events in their home schedule. Are there not many people that need a home away from home? Maybe God would want to use your family to minister to these people.

We also suggest praying together about how God wants to use you in this world. We will often miss God’s best because we haven’t asked Him. Think about each of your gifts and burdens (concerns). How does God want to use these to bring a greater blessing to the world? But maybe you have unidentified gifts that He is still unwrapping. Keep praying and seeking Him. He often opens doors that we never even knew were there!

Questions about Serving Others

•Have you ever thought about yourselves as a couple in light of serving others?

•Have you sought out God’s fruit through children for your marriage?

•Have you given in to birth control (family planning)? Why? What might be able to change it?

• Do you serve your children with joy? This has a lot to do with understanding God’s purposes for your lives.

A Question about Intimacy

A natural question arises when talking about service. Should we have any time left for ourselves as a couple? With caring for young children, and dad busy at church and work, there are times when it seems impossible for a couple to get together.

Emergencies do arise and require separation but they are times of emergency not the norm. A wife working far away in another city is not an emergency. The wife is made for the husband. She should be at his side. Careers for women have fouled up God’s plans for marital intimacy.

It is important and vital to make some time together on a regular and frequent basis. We do our best to go out once a week without the children. Linda likes me to plan these times, or at least state that it is important to me by saying when we will go out that week. I now understand why (it has taken many years to finally understand this). She doesn’t just want to be with me, but she wants to know that I desire to be with her. My planning initiative adds the needed special touch.

Lately, she has been concerned about going out at Friday noon. She knows I teach Friday nights and might be distracted or busy preparing materials. I arrange things in such a way that I am not distracted. Otherwise, our time together will not serve to build the relationship.

Do we need to spend a lot of money? No. In fact money often gets in the way of relationship. At times we have had picnics together followed by a walk. These have been some of the sweetest times (if no active allergies).

Summary

Heart IntimacyAny marriage that looks at itself in the mirror too long will begin to age and decay. We are here to serve others: our spouse, our children and others.

I might be off teaching somewhere while she stays home to care for the children. We must not think one type of service is less important than the other.

The reward we will receive is based on the heart attitude and on the acts of service in the context in which God has put us. We are serving together. We are to use our intimate marriage to be a lighthouse of truth, a fire of glowing love and a place to build trust. We will need to live by faith to reach that great marriage. We need to rigorously live by God’s standards rather than our feelings. But step by step, as our hearts unfold, the beauty of marriage blossoms.

Study Questions

 

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