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Finding intimacy in marriage

I have a confession to make. I watch reality television. You might also find it interesting that I watch it with my husband. This weekly ritual is not because we want to keep up with people whose last name begins with a “K” or because we fancy “C” list celebrities. The reality television show that has captured our attention for an hour a week is a show about non-celebrity status individuals who willingly want to surrender their single status to six experts to select a compatible spouse for them. These volunteer applicants decide to trust their spousal match to relationship professionals and psychological assessments, and viewers watch as their marriage unfolds. At the end of the season, as statistics predict, not all the couples make it.

Out of thousands of applicants, six people are chosen and the first time the paired couples meet is at the altar with loved ones present to witness. The show, “Married at First Sight” has provided some interesting and strange entry points for us to have conversation about. We cringe, laugh and sometimes even cry (disclaimer – only I cry) as we watch these couples navigate newlywed life together.

Issues of communication differences and conflict have provided openings for us to talk about “us.”

It has never been easy for us to, out of the blue, sit down and engage in deep couple talk: “So how do you think we’re doing?” For us, these conversations don’t typically happen unless things are not going well. And the conversation might begin with less of a question and more of a statement of what the other perceives as “not so useful or helpful behavior” with a slight hint of accusation. Eventually we get there, but it’s not always smooth or easy. The journey deeper with your spouse is important because it builds intimacy. And intimacy in marriage is vital for growth and for creating a more satisfying and lasting marriage relationship.

Intimacy is such an integral part of a healthy relationship. For some, the immediate association of intimacy is sex. Once, while leading a marriage workshop, we asked people to respond to a statement about intimacy and realized that there were two distinct and different interpretations of the word. It seemed that half the group thought “sex” (we’ll let you wonder what gender that half was), while the other half thought “emotional connection.” Intimacy is complex. In part, it is the physical, but it is also (and some might argue, more) about the emotional, spiritual connection.

This past year, I realized that part of the connection I was missing was spiritual. If I’m not “feeling it” emotionally, mentally and spiritually, our marriage is not “feeling it” physically.

Last year, I needed to figure out new ways of being deliberate about my soul care. “Above all, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:3). I wanted something different. I did not have the time or energy for a book club, and desired something more than a traditional Bible study. I was seeking a new and different entry point into nurturing my spirit and I was longing for a refreshed and deeper connection with my spouse.

Both my mother-in-law and a close friend had studied spiritual direction and I became curious about it. This past year, Jonathan and I have been deliberate about scheduling time on our calendar to tend to this part of our personal lives, individually and sometimes together. In order for us to dream together, we need to be present and attend to our spiritual development and what it means for us as individuals as well as in our marriage. There is so much noise in my life, and creating space to be, to listen and to tend to my soul care has made a difference in my ability to be intimate with my spouse.

Are you satisfied with your level of intimacy in your marriage? Do you need a new entry point to reconnect with your spouse?

Resource: Urban Retreats — The Urban Retreat provides retreat experiences that foster personal and spiritual development in individuals and teams.

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— by Colette and Jonathan Stuart

Jonathan Stuart, Ph.D., is a faculty member in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. He specializes in training and mediation services. Colette Campbell, M.A., is an adjunct faculty member, speaker/consultant and coach. She offers workshops on connecting to your calling, working with differences, and workingbetter2gether.

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