Friday, February 02, 2007

Two guardrails to keep a couple on the road to intimacy

marraige resource from RW Ministry Toolbox
includes practical pointers...

Two guardrails to keep a couple on the road to intimacy
by Selma and Rodney Wilson

In January of 1993, I knew Mom was dying of breast cancer, but Dad
refused to accept it. I'm a Daddy's girl, and to see him gripped by
denial was heart wrenching. He was trying so hard to be the provider
and protector that he had always been. But he could not protect Mom
from death.

I'll never forget the night Dad finally broke. He came in from working
the fields of his farm, sat down in "his" chair, and wept. I knelt
beside him, held his hand, and cried too. Then Dad said something I'll
always remember: "I have gone through everything with your Mom, but
she's going someplace I can't go yet, and I want to go with her."

That's the example of emotional intimacy I witnessed in my parents'
marriage. I really think Mom wouldn't let go until she knew Dad was
ready to let her go. Two short weeks later, after 46 years of
marriage, she left his arms, dying peacefully in her sleep. We took
great comfort in knowing that the second she left my Dad's warm and
protective embrace, Jesus wrapped his arms around her.

The necessity of emotional intimacy
That year was one of the most difficult journeys of my life, but along
the way God gave me many gifts -- one was Rodney. We had been married
16 years, and our commitment had never been more tested. During the
year prior to Mom's death, I gave my all emotionally, physically, and
spiritually to my parents. I traveled often from our home in Nashville
to their farm in East Tennessee. It broke my heart every time I would
leave Rodney and my two beautiful girls, ages 9 and 7, standing on our
front porch, waving goodbye to me.

Rodney was my anchor during that difficult time. You see, in giving so
much to Mom and Dad, I had little left to give him. I would return
home empty, exhausted, totally depleted. But rather than demanding I
give to him, Rodney gave to me. He would lovingly wrap his arms around
me -- emotionally, physically, and spiritually renewing my strength.
When I was too exhausted to pray, the Holy Spirit and my partner on
the journey of life would intercede for me. Rodney stood in the gap
and gave me the freedom to feel and express every emotion churning
inside me: anger, fear, guilt, and exhaustion. Never once did he say,
"You shouldn't feel that way." Instead, he listened, and he allowed me
the solace of silence.

Rodney has seen me open and vulnerable. He has witnessed both my good
days and my bad -- and he has loved me unconditionally through all of
them. Although that year was one of the most painful of my entire
life, it built our marriage more than any other. You see, just as
Genesis 2:25 describes, I stood before Rodney emotionally naked -- and
I felt no shame.

Not long ago I shared with Rodney my fear of getting breast cancer.
And just like my faithful Dad, Rodney gave me assurance that he would
be there with me every step of the way, whatever happened. It was a
sobering conversation for both of us. Yet there was depth. There was
closeness. There was reality. There was emotional connection. We
didn't wear masks. We didn't pretend. And that took our marriage to a
new level of intimacy.

Wired by the Creator
To be connected emotionally is to take the risk of removing your masks
and allowing your partner for life to see the real you. No concealing.
No competition.

Quite the contrary: You share your lives as partners -- teammates
cooperating, encouraging, and helping each other along this journey.
You offer each other the treasures of peace, comfort, and freedom to
be yourself.

Don't you long for that? Don't you yearn to be connected to your
spouse, for him or her to know you deeply -- the real you -- in every
area of your life? God wired you to have that yearning. And he wove
into your very DNA creativity, wisdom, love -- and an incredible range
of emotions to enable you and your mate to intimately experience life

In The Christ of Easter (Broadman & Holman, 2004), Calvin Miller says,
"Emotion is not the evidence that a religion is true, but emotion is
always the by-product of true religion. Why? Everything which impacts
our lives at the deepest level of our souls cannot help but elicit our
deepest, most profound feelings." God feels the deepest of emotions
and wants you to feel them, too. God wants a deeply spiritual
relationship with you. But he also wants to be intimate with you
emotionally. Such intimacy with God requires being real, making
yourself vulnerable.

God also wants you to be real with your mate. He created marriage as a
safe haven for a man and woman to be vulnerable. However, God can't do
much if you wear masks and play the game of surface relationships. But
oh, the extraordinary things he can do when he has your hearts -- your
real, unmasked hearts!

Emotional intimacy fuses you and your mate together. You know your
mate like no one else does. There's a certain extraordinary mystique
about that. You are in an exclusive two-member club -- just as God
planned from the beginning.

Safeguarding your emotional connection
Giving yourselves to each other emotionally is not just a good idea,
it's your responsibility. God wired you for emotional bonding, and the
need is powerful. When deprived of this type of intimacy, the enemy
can tempt you (see 1 Peter 5:8). He may try sending someone into your
path who gives you the emotional attention that you crave from your
mate. Then, in your mind, "the other man" or "the other woman" can
quickly become everything you feel your mate is not. That's a
dangerous scenario.

Emotional bonding with someone else can easily slip into a physical
relationship. Numerous couples have sat before me (Rodney) seeking
help from an affair begun by a lack of emotional connection within the
marriage. That's why it's vital to erect emotional guardrails around
your marriage. What's in our hearts and minds will make a difference
in our marriage relationship.

Let's look at two critical guardrails to put in your marriage.

1. Guard your heart.
You should only think of one man or woman as your emotional home, and
that person is your mate. Connect fully with the wisdom, power, and
protection provided in Philippians 4:7 (NIV): "And the peace of God,
which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus." This protection and peace comes when you let your
love for your spouse flow out of your love for God. By seeking after
him, the byproduct of peace will come. And it is that by-product of
peace that will guard your heart, keeping it focused only on your

2. Don't share deeply with someone of the opposite sex.
Guard your emotions and share them only with God, your spouse, a
Christian counselor, or a close friend of the same sex. Emotions are
the subtlest of attractions. Physical attractiveness is easy to spot
-- and thus guard against. But a warm, caring, sensitive personality
can draw you in so subtly, so smoothly, and so quickly that if
guardrails are not securely in place, you'll find yourself much closer
to the cliff of emotional bonding than it's safe or wise to be.

If you're thinking, "That would never happen to me! I would never have
an affair!" think again. Never overestimate yourself, and never
underestimate the enemy.

There's a reason the department of transportation erects guardrails at
dangerous curves in the road: Without them, people would accidentally,
but quickly, tumble over the edge. It's not any different with our
emotions. Boundaries must be established when relating to the opposite
sex, or you can easily and quickly find yourself going over the edge

For you to enjoy abundant emotional intimacy with your spouse, these
guardrails must be in place at all times. We are to be alert
constantly. With God's boundaries in place you are free to enjoy a
level of emotional intimacy that results in an extraordinary marriage!


How to move past surface talk
By Rodney Wilson

All of us have room for improving our emotional intimacy with our
mates. To move in the right emotional direction, let's talk about
talking. Years ago, David and Vera Mace, a Quaker couple known as the
founders of the marriage enrichment movement in the United States,
taught us four levels of communication between mates:

1. Stern Talk. That's sarcastic, manipulative talk. The style with the
stinger in its tail!

2. Surface Talk. That's small talk: "Have you paid the electric bill
this month?"

3. Search Talk. That's the dreaming stage when you share what your
goals and ambitions are.

4. Straight Talk. That's the deepest level of conversation. At this
level, whether the emotions are positive or negative, you and your
mate feel freedom and safety to share them.

Selma and I like to draw a line between levels of Surface Talk and
Search Talk. That line represents the difference between a couple's
merely sharing a house and sharing a life together. To get beyond
routine small talk, you need to take a major step.

It's much like walking up to a lake and sticking your toe in the
water. What you sense when you do that determines whether you'll go
farther into the water. If the water is warm, if it's "receptive," it
makes you want to go deeper. On the other hand, if it's cold, you'll
pull your toe out quickly and stay right where you are.

When your mate shares even a little that's below the emotional
surface, your response can determine where the conversation will go.
If you're supportive, you're inviting him to go deeper and share more
with you. If, however, you are critical or make fun of his dream or
feeling, you're telling your mate that the water is cold; don't go any

Be aware of the influence you have when your mate wants to share
emotionally with you. Encourage your mate to go deeper by asking him
to elaborate on the dream or feeling.

Selma and Rodney Wilson are co-editors-in-chief of HomeLife magazine.
From Extraordinary Marriage: God's Plan For Your Journey (LifeWay
Church Resources, 2004), by Rodney and Selma Wilson. (c)Copyright 2004
LifeWay Press.

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