By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach
There are so many failed marriage stories in the headlines it can make you wonder, “Is an intimate relationship even possible anymore?” and if so, “How do you get one?” It seems that some couples quickly move from being fired up with romantic passion to wanting to just fire each other like a bully-boss does to an exhausted employee.
It’s no wonder people are more cautious about opening up their hearts to another person, because they have likely witnessed the process of intense romantic chemistry quickly eroding into hateful rejection and ugly conflicts. Everybody talks about wanting a meaningful relationship where they are loved and accepted, yet few are willing to take the chance of being vulnerable or hurt again.
Marital intimacy is about seeing into the heart and mind of your mate and learning to connect with them in multiple ways to feel close, accepted and loved on the inside, no matter what kind of pressure might be happening on the outside. Listen to the word if it is slowly spoken… ‘In-to-see-me’ since true intimacy is about complete openness, and coming closely together to connect in the most intense ways that God designed for married partners to share over a lifetime of love.
To experience this kind of intense relationship, you need to understand both sides of an intimate connection to grow to a new level of purpose and passion together. These different levels of connection reflect the differences between a cultural view of relationship where romance is the primary goal; and a Christian view of marriage where learning to connect together through the realities of daily life is joined alongside romance to build intensity, regardless of the circumstances. You need both sides to make your relationship go the distance from short term infatuation to build long term success in your marriage.
This relationship exercise is designed to guide you through the process of identifying strengths and weaknesses so you can develop greater connection in every area of marital intimacy. As you read through all 20 categories think about how connected your marriage is, as well as areas you could grow stronger in as a couple.
TENDER CONNECTION through ROMANCE
(These are the softer sides of relationship which can feel fun, exciting or fulfilling)
Sexual- connecting physically through the stages of flirting- foreplay- sexual union and after-play
Emotional- connecting through feelings, moods, attitudes or being on the same wave-length
Intellectual- connecting through the world of current events in news, blogs, magazines or books
Educational- connecting through shared learning experiences in classes, seminars or workshops
Aesthetic- connecting through experiences of beauty in fine art, craftsmanship, antiques or nature
Creative- connecting while sharing ideas about designing or developing projects together
Recreational- connecting through shared sports, hobbies, exercise, travel or theme parks
Social- connecting through parties or events at work, church or with friends & family
Entertainment- connecting through music, TV, films, concerts, dining or shopping
Humor- connecting through shared laughter, giggles, comedy or silliness in any situation
TOUGH CONNECTION through REALITY
(these are the harder sides of a relationship which may feel boring, difficult or challenging)
Work- connecting through common tasks, daily chores & responsibilities at home or in career
Time- connecting together with scheduling, planning, clocks, calendars or daily routines
Financial- connecting through shared values on budgeting, spending, saving or investing goals
Caregiving or Co-parenting- connecting through shared responsibility to care for others (or pets)
Conflict- connecting through differences in strongly held beliefs with mutual respect or admiration
Crisis- connecting through problems, pressures or painful events, especially in reaching out to others
Commitment-connecting through the shared belief of honoring marital vows as sacred promises
Spiritual- connecting through shared religious traditions, beliefs, ethics, values & worship styles
Communication- connecting verbally or nonverbally to share the ‘real you’ or listening to your partner
Trust- connecting through shared feelings of respect, honesty, integrity or confidence in your mate
Notice the differences between these 2 types of Marital Connection:
Tender Connection is about Romance & Chemistry
Media images tend to define the ultimate degree of love as feeling happy with that person you are spending time with right now instead of investing into a partner for life
If you only have a tender connection in your relationship, it leaves a potential gap open for a married person to essentially function as a ‘single person’ with the mindset of serving self over their spouse, resulting in a person feeling very, very alone.
View this as the “Me-My-I” mindset of the self-absorbed or pleasure seekers that avoid taking responsibility for their behavior or blame shift problems away from their selfish decisions to find a reason to show that it’s really your fault that they are the way they are or do the things they do.
Tough Connection is about Reality & Consequences
Biblical images of defining the ultimate degree of love as choosing to reach out to build a long term relationship as married “Partners” during the fun or frustrating times of life
If you have included the reality of a tough connection in your relationship, it closes the gap of being a self-serving or single person in the marriage, since the mindset and goal is of building marital unity.
View this as the “We-Us-Our” mindset of building a relationship together with each person taking ownership and responsibility for their part of the marriage as they serve and give to one another in love.
So, how can you improve your marital connection? Start by deciding to work on it together. Ask your mate their ideas as you identify the ‘hot buttons’ areas to avoid because of conflict; as well as considering the areas that always work so you can build on the relationship strengths together as you create fun and positive momentum in the marriage again.
Plus, you could build an intimate connection through creative ways that aren’t listed above, for instance through helping others through non-profit groups like “Habitat for Humanity”, co-leading a support group at your local church, helping to coach a child’s little league team together, redecorating or painting a room together, or becoming involved through the common connection of shared community or spiritual values, (like Toys for Tots or working together as foster parents for abused kids).
The key issue is to take action to enjoy your relationship as the best part of your day, instead of the worst as you experience the blessings that come from a well connected marriage relationship full of intimacy on every possible level.
Build marital closeness into your relationship with a combination of these important factors
TRUST- the foundation of every form of every relationship at every stage of life
TIME- the easiest way to show that you love someone is by taking time for them
TALK- sharing ideas, information and insights about any topic is essential
TOUCH – healthy relationships are safe places of caring expressions of closeness
TENDERNESS- gentle expressions of affection through emotions, words or actions
TOGETHER – developing companionship by sharing in any activity to draw closer
THEOLOGY –growing together in what God’s Word teaches about relationships
TRADITIONS- reaching back to see what traditions are connected and meaningful
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About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.