Monday, 22 October 2018

C Columns

Improving Intimacy The One Element Every Couple Needs

By Hilary Cobb

Problems  with  physical  intimacy  are  rarely  something  that  bring  couples  to  see  me  for  marriage  counseling,  yet  it  often  comes  up  within  the  first  one  or  two  sessions.  The  difficulty  with  eroding  intimacy  is  that  it  is  a  complicated  blend  of  physical  and  emotional  connection;  and  for  many  couples  in  crisis,  they  don’t  even  know  where  to  start  to  fix  the  problem.

Over  the  course  of  a  marriage,  it  is  not  uncommon  to  have  times  where  external  factors  such  as  a  new  baby,  medical  issues,  or  opposite  work  schedules  can  impact  intimacy.  Sometimes  there  are  deeper  issues  —  untreated  medical  or  mental  health  issues,  an  addiction,  affairs.  However,  for  couples  that  report  a  decrease  in  intimacy  without  an  obvious  cause,  there  is  often one  underlying  factor:  trust.

You  might  read  this  and  think,  “Are  our  problems  really  related  to  trust  issues?  We  haven’t  felt  sexually  connected  in  months,  but  it’s  not  like  either  of  us  has  cheated.”

When  we  think  of  broken  trust  in  relationships,  we  often  associate  it  with  an  affair  or  pornography  addiction.  The  problem  is,  we  view  trust  in  terms  of  infidelity,  but  it  is  much  larger  than  that.

Trust  is  an  integral,  daily  part  of  your  relationship.  It  is  the  sense  that  you  can  trust  your  partner  to  react  kindly  throughout  the  day.  That  you  can  trust  that  your  spouse  will  leave  the  frustrations  of  work  at  work,  instead  of  sulking  for  the  rest  of  the  evening.  It  is  a  deep  sense  that  you  can  trust  your  partner  to  handle  difficult  conversations  about  money,  sex,  or  parenting  with  grace  instead  of  defensiveness.

The  difficult  thing  is  that  even  if  there  are  not  trust  issues  around  physical  intimacy  per  se,  problems  with  trust  in  other  areas  will  impact  a  couple’s  sex  life  as  well.  Unfortunately,  couples  often  minimize  the  role  of  emotional  connection  as  part  of  sexual  intimacy,  but  Ephesians  5:31  reminds  us  that,  “Therefore  a  man  shall  leave  his  father  and  mother  and  hold  fast  to  his  wife,  and  the  two  shall  become  one  flesh  (ESV).”  True  intimacy  is  more  than  a  physical  act.  It  is  the  joining  of  two  souls  where  we  literally  become  one  flesh.

Many  Christians  limit  their  conversations  to  only  focusing  on  sexual  sin,  yet  it  is  crucial  that  we  identify  the  elements  that  contribute  to  a  healthy  sex  life.  One  where  both  partners  feel  connected  and  fulfilled,  one  where  they  can  bare  their  whole  selves  —  slightly  overweight,  stretch-marked,  and  starting-to-sag  —  and  know  that  their  partner  will  be  complimentary  and  loving,  not  mocking,  distracted  or  dismissive.

So  if  you  find  yourself  shying  away  from  your  partner,  ask  yourself:  do  you  really  trust  your  spouse?  Not  just  in  terms  of  their  faithfulness.  Do  you  trust  their  reactions,  their  commitment,  their  love?  Sometimes,  trust  issues  develop  because  your  partner  has  been  untrustworthy  in  the  past;  other  times  it  may  be  the  result  of  your  own  insecurities.  When  adults  have  parents  who  have  had  affairs,  they  often  share  that  they  have  difficulty  trusting  their  spouse,  even  if  there  is  no  infidelity.

If  you  are  unsure  what  is  causing  your  mistrust,  meet  with  a  counselor  or  a  pastor.  They  will  be  able  to  help  you  identify  the  source  of  your  unease  so  that  you  can  work  on  rebuilding  trust  and  intimacy  with  your  partner.

Perhaps  you  are  in  the  opposite  position.  You  find  that  your  partner  is  retreating  and  rejecting  advances  more  and  more.  Make  sure  that  you  ask  yourself  honestly:  are  you  acting  in  a  trustworthy  manner?  Can  your  partner  trust  you  to  listen  when  they  are  struggling?  Can  they  trust  you  to  handle  difficult  discussions  with  grace  and  humility  as  opposed  to  anger?

If  the  answer  is  no,  focus  on  changing  your  behaviors  and  rebuilding  trust  with  your  partner.  Demonstrate  kindness  consistently,  so  at  the  end  of  the  day,  they  can  trust  that  you  will  embrace  intimacy  with  them  with  that  same  kindness.

If  you  are  struggling  with  intimacy  in  your  relationship,  know  that  it  is  not  hopeless.  With  a  little  counseling  and  some  honest  conversations,  many  couples  will  overcome  declining  intimacy  and  report  a  stronger,  more  connected  marriage.  It  just  takes  a  little  work.

Hilary  Cobb  is  the  owner  of  Still  Waters  Behavioral  Health  in  Middleton,  Idaho  and  blogs  about  God,  marriage  and  parenting  at  Blessed  By  His  Love.  Find  her  at  www.blessedbyhislove.com

 

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