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Paul J. Bucknell
Let's look a bit close at the 3 aspects of marital intimacy.
People are relational. A relationship grows as both parties share of themselves. With further understanding, there is deeper understanding. This deeper understanding demands a deeper commitment.
This cycle grows more and more. We should be aware that the cycle continues to grow only as much as the individuals take time to foster this relationship. It can only significantly grow by God's love.
God's goal of intimacy in marriage is also interweaved in a life of intimacy with Him. The husband and wife both grow in their spiritual relationship with God. The deepest growth comes through sharing about each aspect of our lives. If a part of our lives is excluded, then there is no harmony developed there in that area. This spiritual area is crucial to a healthy marriage. There are two reasons this is so.
Physical intimacy is the pleasurable uniting of the husband and wife. Physical intimacy properly sits like a gem in a bracelet or on a crown enabling a fuller expression of heart and spirit intimacy. The deeper the heart and spiritual intimacy, the more the splendor of the physical relationship.
The goal of a rightly aligned or focused marriage must incorporate all three aspects. This kind of marriage is strong and can withstand hardships.
If physical intimacy is unavailable, the spouse does not look elsewhere for fulfillment (actually that would be an emptying!) He or she focuses on their commitment which is sealed at a much deeper level. The spirit and heart aspects of sharing enable the couples to focus on the needs of each other rather than their own individual needs. Selfpleasure does not rule them but the physical drive is rightly subjected to love and patience.
We find four common mistakes in understanding these three aspects of marital intimacy.
1) Heart Versus Physical Intimacy Problem
The most common problem is that marriage is only thought in a fleshly sense. Although wives greatly desire the sharing of their souls, the husband is often oblivious to this need. He would rather sit down and watch a football game than talk to his wife. God seems to have made the wife so desirous of sharing that physical intimacy is hard to obtain without the husband paying more attention to heart to heart intimacy. Simple advice. "Guys, don't rush it!" Enjoy our wife's company.
2) Forbidding Physical Intimacy Problem
Some groups believe physical intimacy is only for childbearing purposes and is not for pleasure. These groups have some antiChristian concepts of the body. They unfortunately wrongly target the body rather than the self nature as the flesh or the part that fights against God. In fact, the body is good and wonderful. Sufficient proof of this is in God's physical design of man and woman with each of their parts which are highly filled with pleasure during this time of intimacy.
"You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7).
4) Problem with Physical Intimacy
Many have tragically made physical attraction and its associated intimacy as their only great expectation for marriage. In most cases, the wife is used to gain this goal, and she feels as if there is something missing. There is. Physical intimacies become dissatisfying really quick when not supported by a deeper sharing of life.
If the physical relationship is what keeps a marriage together, then what will happen in the course of life when this pleasure in unavailable. A wife might get sick. A husband is called out of town. Pregnancy and post-birth complications arise. What will keep them faithful? A couple needs a goal higher than themselves to stand the difficulties of life.
Sexual intercourse should stem from a giving love rather than a romantic love. Anyone who uses this physical expression or parts of it outside of wedlock definitely are abusing one another. This love can only be found in a marriage.
We hate to spoil the warm feelings romance gives, but in most cases romantic love is manipulative. It is self-seeking. It doesn't have to be, but it often is. A marriage will not be good if this is the foundation for it. True physical intimacy must come from a giving love. This is where each partner is focusing on the needs of his or her partner rather than ones own desires.
God has designed marriage to flourish as people draw close to Him. They learn of a kind of intimacy and faithfulness from Himself. Our spouses might disappoint us, but our Lord never will. Where else should we go to find this love than God Himself from which true love flows forever?!
Visit other parts of this series or marriage articles.