Today, we (Stephen and Shelley) want to talk about common roadblocks to intimacy within marriage. We believe you'll find this to be helpful and practical.
"There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear...” I John 4:18 ISV
- Roadblock #1: Ignoring Strong Feelings
- Roadblock #2: Isolating during Conflict
- Roadblock #3: Insecurity
- Roadblock #4: Inconsistency
You may wonder how we came up with these four roadblocks. As a counselor for the past decade or so working with men and women of all ages and backgrounds who struggle with strongholds to the point that their lives have become unmanageable, Stephen has seen these four issues play out again and again. For Shelley, her experiences with women's ministry for many years - which includes women in full-time ministry, women who have never had a personal relationship with Christ, and everywhere in between - she, too, has seen these issues show up many, many times. Let's face it, the bottom line is that we're married. We have dealt with, and still deal with to some extent, these roadblocks from time to time. The good news is that these roadblocks can be removed!
We have come to realize something that has created a major paradigm shift in our thinking and in our ways of dealing with challenges in relationships. This doesn't just apply to marriage, but since marriage is our only covenanted human relationship, it makes sense that this would be the relationship we'd most want to solidify and help to be as healthy and thriving as possible, right? Okay, so let's jump in!
1. "Every act of disobedience is founded in distrust." Bill Thrall
2. The two greatest motivators cannot operate in the same life at the same time. These two greatest motivators are FEAR and LOVE. Only love can overcome fear. ~ Shelley Hendrix
When I begin to understand that every time I allow a roadblock to intimacy form between my spouse and me that it is caused by fear/distrust, it gives me something tangible to work with to help remove that roadblock. For example, if I struggle with Roadblock #1 and I tend to ignore my strong feelings and not share these openly with my spouse, it is highly productive to realize where this is coming from, fear. More often than not, when this roadblock erects itself, its main ingredient is fear of rejection. There's this white noise in our brains that, if we'll listen to it prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what is actually being said, we'll begin to realize is actually saying, in our own voices, "If I share this with my spouse, they will not understand; they will be disappointed in me; they won't be attracted to me; they'll get mad; they'll think I'm not trustworthy just because I'm feeling this way...", etc. The truth is, depending on a spouse's own experiences and maturity level, some of these fears may well be founded, but in most cases, your spouse is waiting for you to take the risk of this level of honest communication, which may very well open the door to greater intimacy.
Let's look briefly at Roadblock #2, shall we? In our marriage, Stephen tends to isolate during conflict. Again, this action is based in fear rather than love. If we shut down indefinitely due to friction in our relationship, we miss out on the greater intimacy and enjoyment that can be experienced when we choose to act in love and engage with our spouse. Granted, during times of strong emotion, we may need a "time out" from one another to clear our heads, check our own motives, and pray. This time out doesn't need to last forever! Honor one another by setting some kind of time limit to the break from one another with the commitment to do your part to engage in a timely manner.
When we consider Roadblock #3, we see that our own insecurity, which can be a guy thing and a girl thing, is evident by the walls we erect between our spouse and us. This was something I (Shelley) experienced for the first two to three years of my marriage to Stephen. Having been through a very painful divorce of my own after going through the pain of my parents' divorce (after 23 year of marriage), I was guarded, to put it mildly! I wanted to enjoy intimacy with my spouse, but my own insecurity (FEAR) fueled my ability to keep Stephen at arm's length. I remember thinking to myself, "I'll get close, but not too close, because if he ever decides to hurt me, I need to keep a part of me for myself, a part I'll know he never knew.” I thought I was protecting myself. I wasn't. God, in His infinite grace and tenderness, gently worked on my heart and mind to help me recognize what I was doing and how much I was going to miss out on in my marriage if I didn't commit fully to knowing and being known by my spouse. You may notice that the first thing was allowing myself to trust my Heavenly Father and then my spouse.
Finally, as I (Stephen) counsel individuals and couples, I notice that one of the roadblocks (Roadblock #4) that couples experience is this one of being inconsistent in their promises and commitments to one another. For example, a husband makes a commitment to show greater patience with his wife and her family, but when it becomes even slightly uncomfortable for him, the commitment is broken, which doesn't help to foster trust in his wife. Another example can be much less significant; it could be something as little as promising to take out the trash to help your spouse out and then not doing it - again and again. Remember, all disobedience is formed in distrust; so spouses, if your husband/wife is simply forgetful, that's one thing. When you realize you're the one who's guilty of inconsistency, the responsibility to overcome this becomes yours. What is the antidote then? Intentionality. Sometimes it means caring enough to write it down or put it in your phone with an alarm to remind you. These simple things can go a long, long way!
Fear motivates. It's a very, very strong motivator, isn't it? It is what keeps terrorists in business. It's how the enemy of your soul motivates you. The Bible teaches that love casts out fear, and not just love, but PERFECT Love - That's God's love. If we will allow ourselves to trust our Heavenly Father with whatever trust we have (it can be the tiniest amount), He'll use it! Remember, it's not how much trust you have but in whom you place that trust that matters most.
Ignoring strong feelings, isolating from your spouse, giving insecurity room to grow, and being inconsistent rather than intentional are the I's you want to close if you're going to experience greater intimacy with the one to whom you said, "I do."
One final thought as we wrap this up. Not all of us have spouses who, right now, would be willing to go in 100% to match the 100% you want to offer. We realize and understand that this is the case far too often. May we encourage you to seek out a safe person to talk with and to walk with you? This can be a good friend, a counselor, a pastor, a family member, etc., but please do not try to go it alone.
The other tip is this: Don't try to be the Holy Spirit to your spouse, and refuse to compare him/her to other spouses with whom you come in contact. The truth is that God is the One who convicts and changes lives, not us. Although you may know other spouses well (even your own parents), you really don't know the whole story, and you don't know what they had to go through to get to where they are. Andy Stanley has said, "There is no win in comparison," and we couldn't agree more!
If you need guidance or resources to help you take steps toward trusting God more, please take a look at The Hopequest Ministry Group Resource page, which has a number of recommendations we encourage you to check out.
** This post was originally part of a series on www.ShelleyHendrix.com