I was at a shopping mall recently and observed an elderly couple walking together hand in hand. I wondered how long had they been married and what their life journey must have been. I hoped that some day my wife and I would be as old as them walking hand in hand at the twilight of our life.
A healthy marriage is three-dimensional encompassing emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy. Marriages that regularly experience all three levels of intimacy weather the storms of life creating the kind of bond I witnessed with the elderly couple in the mall.
Recently a client shared a letter he sent to his wife after an argument. He wanted to “step into the relationship” by sharing his feelings with her. He was able validate her feelings, affirm her and risk sharing how he was feeling.
Emotional intimacy is experienced when we risk being vulnerable and expose our most tender feelings and in return are heard and validated. The outcome of this clients exchange was a deeper level of intimacy and trust being built between them.
Husbands letter to his wife
My dear sweet Wife,
There are so many things that I love about you. I love your creativity, how you are able to see the beauty in things and create something that expresses it’s beauty to share with others.
I love your tender heart for others and how this gentleness reaches out to those hurting, even when you don’t know them. It upsets you to hear me be critical or judgmental of strangers I see on the street and make comments. I love how you honor the value that God places on people by seeing the good and lovely in people. I love how you have been my champion. Even when I didn’t believe in me, you did. You have been my constant companion always believing the best about me.
You are one of the most beautiful women I have ever met, inside and out. Your beauty flows from the strength of your character. I love that you love God more than you love me. I love your dedication and commitment to him above all else. I love that you get up every morning to meet with him. I love that you pray for me and hear God on my behalf. You are the most valuable thing outside of Christ in my life.
I am struggling to find intimacy with you that I have never been able to have because of my fear of being rejected. I recognize that his fear is so ingrained that in my most intimate relationship with you, I am often afraid to risk. This is my fear to conquer; my battle to wage; this does not say anything about you. This is about my fear and what God is compelling me to do, to fight.
You see if I can push through and find intimacy with you, I am convinced that I will find the kind of intimacy with Him that has evaded me my whole life. Understand, I feel close to God and often feel his presence, but I know he wants a deeper relationship with Him. And I believe He wants to use our relationship to accomplish this...for me and for you. He is after our hearts.
I felt hurt by your anger tonight. Please forgive me for triggering your anger. I know at times I am self-absorbed which is damaging to such a precious and gentle heart like yours. I feel sorrow over driving you to that place of anger.
Part of being intimate is sharing how one feels, including and perhaps most importantly those powerful feelings that attempt to falsely define us. If I am clumsy about that I am sorry.
I work hard and diligently at not letting shame define who I am. I have done terrible things and hurt you at the core of who you are. I will forever be sorry for that and grieve the pain that I have caused you. I want to be able to validate your pain my past actions have inflicted upon you.
Your words about “Tennessee” felt accusatory. They cut me and pushed me to a place of mistrust and defensiveness. I don’t like these feelings. But I am refusing to conclude that there is something wrong with me and that I don’t deserve forgiveness. The truth is that I am forgiven simply because God values me and has declared me forgiven.
I need to be able to tell you how I feel about you. I need to tell you how I am afraid of pursing deeper intimacy with you...afraid you may reject me, laugh at me, and think less of me. I need you to risk being more intimate with me. I need you to share your deep and dark secrets and feelings with me.
I know in your family of origin, expressing negative and painful feelings was discouraged. I realize that is difficult for you to identify those feelings. And in some way I love that you always see the glass as half-full. But if our feelings motivate our behaviors then it is important that we are aware of them, can acknowledge them and share them with each other.
I want to know how you feel. I want you to share them with me. But it seems that the feelings that are buried deep only come out with a punch of anger. That leaves me feeling defensive.
There are so many feelings regarding our intimacy that I want to share with you. But I am afraid. Often when I try to share the barriers to our intimacy you seem to become defensive. This leaves me feeling unsafe and I withdraw.
Somehow we need to find the place in our relationship where we can talk about why we don’t have more intimacy. We need to talk about why we don’t have sex. I am convinced that being sexual with each other is one of the greatest ways we can worship God and give him glory. I want that for me, for you and for Him.
I am sorry for the conflict last night. We cannot afford to let this moment pass. We must attempt to sort out our feelings and share them safely with each other. I am trying to lead in this. Will you follow? Will you trust that I know the direction God wants us to go? I so desperately need your help in this.
You are so precious to me. I often feel rather clumsy in my handling you; this precious thing God has given me. Perhaps our son’s clumsiness is from me. He doesn’t mean to break things...nevertheless he often does. Forgive me and help me love you better by sharing your feelings with me.
I love you.