This is a guest post by Christi for our Love in the Real World Series. Learn more about Christi at resurrectingmarriage.com.
Sometimes, you just need an intimacy challenge.
As a former marriage therapist, I have seen so many clients over the years that show up in my office due to a lack of physical and emotional intimacy in their marriage. They usually wouldn’t write that on their intake paperwork, but that is what is revealed as we begin discussing lack of communication, lack of effort, a history of infidelity, conflict, resentfulness, and a general feeling of indifference towards one another.
As someone who has been married over 25 years myself, I realize that somewhere along the way, life happens, we just get busy and stop being intentional with intimacy.
Why? Because we take our focus off of God first, and then we take it off of each other. My spouse stops being a priority in my life. I displace the priority onto kids, work, life, friends, family, fun, and … me. Yep. Me.
When I make things all about me and what I’m not getting. That’s called selfishness.
Selfishness in marriage is when I stop thinking about what I can do for my spouse and I start thinking about what I’m not getting, or how my needs are not being met. This really opens the door for me to begin meeting some of those needs in other places. Yep. It’s a slippery slope and one that opens the door to cross over the boundary lines.
As a result, our intimacy suffers, and we become emotionally disconnected in our relationship, which often times leads to physical disconnection.
I’m going to be real with you. Hang with me and hear me out. This might not be fun to hear.
The reality is that I can’t control what my spouse does or doesn’t do. I can’t control if he loves me or how much he loves me. I really can’t control how he shows love to me or if he doesn’t show it at all. Another thing I can’t control is what he does or doesn’t do to meet any of my needs.
I can control me, my thoughts, my actions, and my reactions. Not only can I, but it’s my responsibility. I’m responsible for me, even when it comes to intimacy.
The word says that we are to LOVE God and LOVE others. His command is that we choose love above all else. If that’s the case, then what does “choosing to love” look like?
Love in marriage is sacrificial… Often.
Do you hear me? Often.
Marriage is HARD.
It’s not only when I feel like it, when it’s convenient, or when he or she deserves it, but the point is that it’s my responsibility to love sacrificially and intentionally, in my marriage. When I get to Heaven one day, I know I will be held responsible for my part in my marriage, not his. The reality is that if you know what to do that’s right, and you choose not to, it’s sin.
Ouch. I know. Honestly, it hurt me too.
Well… Are you ready for a transformation in your marriage? Are you ready to get connected to the one you chose to be with forever? Are you ready for an intimacy challenge? Maybe? Yes? Well, keep reading!
How do I start to repair the connection in my marriage (with or without my spouse’s help), when we feel so disconnected?
I’m going to give you 5 Steps you can start taking every day to rekindle the spark of emotional and physical intimacy in your marriage, and the steps may not be what you think they are.
Step 1. Time For a Mind-shift.
Yes. That’s right. You need a mind-shift. Sometimes we all need a reset button. Things have been said that can’t be unsaid. Things have been done that can’t be undone. You can’t do anything about it. There are no take-backs. You just have to decide you are putting down the bad and keeping the good because it’s valuable to you.
Sometimes we have a lack of intimacy in our marriage because of my thoughts.
Shift your focus from what could have been to what could be.
Shift your focus from what I’m not getting to what can I give.
Shift your focus from why can’t I trust him to what can I trust him with.
Shift your focus from I’m ready to live my life at the status quo to I’m not giving up because I deserve to live my life to the fullest.
Shift your focus from I’m not good enough to the Father in Heaven chose me so the He says I’m good.
Shift your focus from whatever is hindering you from moving forward to choosing to do it anyway.
Shift your focus from the fear of what-ifs to the vulnerability that’s required for growth.
It’s all a choice.
I know that I make it sound easy. I realize it’s not. Just know that it’s a process of continually seeking God and shifting your focus from the one who takes life to the one who gives life. I never said it was easy, but it’s doable. Keep it in the front of your mind that Satan wants nothing more than failure and disappointment in your marriage, and that includes intimacy. Remember, he came to kill, steal, and destroy. God loves marriage. Remember, a chord of three strands is not easily broken.
Step 2: Choose Forgiveness.
Once again, it’s a choice. Yes, I understand it’s also a process too. It takes preparation, choosing to forgive, and then remembering you forgave when it comes up again for you.
Why forgiveness? Well, Mathew 6:14 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
I’m no Bible scholar but that sounds like an expectation to me (and quite possibly, a requirement).
I’m not going to turn this post into an article about forgiveness, but, I want to make one last point that really resonated in me when I heard it. I heard it said that in the Word of God, it says that our sin was forgiven by the blood of Jesus and when we hold unforgiveness, it’s like saying the blood of Jesus was NOT GOOD ENOUGH to cover THEIR sin in the same way it covered MINE.
Let that sink in for a second.
Who am I to hold unforgiveness when the Creator of the Universe gave up His only son so that we ALL could live a life of eternity with Him if we accept His free gift of salvation? Forgiveness is essential in our relationships (and for intimacy).
**I’m not saying to stay in an abusive relationship or to continue to accept abuse of any kind. If you are in an abusive relationship, your safety is the most important. If that is your situation, you should seek help.
Forgiveness is vital in all of our relationships. On a side note, even when we carry unforgiveness for other people (for instance, a past relationship), it can spill over into our current relationship and impact intimacy, simply by carrying the resentment.
Okay, I’ll write more on forgiveness in the near future… back to the challenge, and on to the next step.
Step 3. Create 3 Daily Mini-goals…BE INTENTIONAL… PLAN Them
Make a plan to do this challenge for the next 30 days. Pick 3 mini-goals to do each day. It could be anything from the list below, or you can make up your own. Just pick 3, write them down in a notebook, on a planner, or put them in your phone (set an alarm if you think you’ll need the reminders), and do them.
Every single day.
Oh… and don’t make it monotonous. Mix it up. Make it fun. Make it a surprise. Don’t tell your spouse what you are doing! Just do it!
Also, this is a good way to learn about your spouse. Make a special note about any positive reactions so you can do those kinds of things more often. This is being other-focused.
Step 4: Follow through.
Be consistent in your efforts. Keep on doing good, being affectionate and kind, no matter the response you get.
Don’t give up.
Intimacy is worth the effort! Your marriage is worth the effort.
Step 5: Repeat the steps.
Yes. I said it. Repeat them.
Do it all over again… from step 1. Every day of every month, of every year.
That’s how you have an intimate marriage. It takes choosing to love my spouse with everything I have, consistently. Forever. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
What if my spouse doesn’t do anything for me?
Notice I didn’t say to expect intentional acts in return or only do something if your husband (or wife) gives you the right kind of emotion or response when you make intentional efforts.
Regardless of the outcome. Remember? You are responsible for you.
When you made the choice to marry, you agreed to choose your partner over all else (aside from God). The same way that we have to be intentional in our relationship with God and others, we are required to put our best effort into our spouse.
Read more from Christi on her blog at resurrectingmarriage.com.
Check out others in the Love in the Real World Series.
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