Knowing that the words on a page or the scenes in a movie were what aroused my husband instead of, well… me, would honestly hurt my feelings. I expect my husband to hold sacred his marriage vows and to honor and cherish me…and I hold myself to the same standard. Many women are urging their friends to read erotica or watch titillating movies to enhance marital intimacy. But that’s like putting a soiled bandage on an open wound. It covers the wound, but when you take it off, the infection has worsened.
If you find yourself looking outside your marriage for arousal, don’t grab a bodice ripper, instead work on your marriage. Below are some tips to help you achieve emotional intimacy with your spouse. The results will be satisfying and long lasting.
FORGIVE – We’ve all been hurt by our spouse. When you live with someone 24 hours a day you’re bound to be hurt by them in some way. Maybe they don’t appreciate the work you put into your family, maybe they don’t notice when you need something, maybe they don’t give you love in the way you need it. There are probably many ways you’ve done the hurting as well. If you harbor unforgiveness you need to let it go. Use the Sacrament of Reconciliation often to confess the unforgiveness. Pray for the desire to forgive. Ask your spouse to forgive you for these feelings as well. Discussing this with your husband or wife could open up a door to healing. What would the result be if you gently approached and said, “Honey, I feel hurt and unimportant to you when you schedule girl’s night/guy’s night without checking my calendar and I’ve had a hard time forgiving you for that. I’m sorry.” In my own personal experience, dialogues like this go a long way in creating emotional intimacy.
ALWAYS ASSUME – I know the old adage about never assuming, but there is one exception to this rule. Always assume that what your spouse says or does has a good intention. Adopting this attitude is helpful in avoiding misunderstandings. You don’t really want to be at odds with your spouse, do you?
ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE VULNERABLE – When you close yourself off to pain, you close yourself off to joy as well. Many of us have past hurts that we are healing from. Because of this we’ve built a brick wall around our hearts, not allowing anyone in, afraid to be hurt again. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Hey, you! Tear that wall down!” If you have childhood wounds, allow yourself to feel the pain and let them go. Find a good therapist and work through it. Visit the Blessed Sacrament often and sit in the presence of Our Lord and ask Him to heal you. If you can, conjure up the memory of the incident and invite Jesus into it. You will be amazed at how healing this can be.
LEARN YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE – Everyone has a love language. When our spouse learns to speak our language we feel loved. Some people feel loved when their spouse performs acts of kindness. This is me. I always tell my husband, “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like taking out the trash.” For some, like my husband, it’s words of affirmation. To satisfy his need I text him throughout the day and let him know how much he means to me. (Thanks for making my tea this morning or just a simple I love you.) The book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is an excellent resource. I would suggest taking the quiz, determining your love language and then reading the chapters that address you and your spouse’s particular love language. It’s a small exercise that will have huge results in your marriage.
PRAY – Invite the Lord into all aspects of your marriage. Pray for your spouse. Pray with your spouse. Pray before sex. The prayer that Tobias prays before he makes love to his wife Sarah is an excellent way to begin intimacy.
Now Lord, you know I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her and allow us to live together to a happy old age. (Tobit 8:7)
Pray during sex. The simple prayer, “Lord, help me to make a gift of myself to name,” will help you focus on your spouse and not yourself.
Pray instead of gossiping. Men and women alike will complain to their friends about their spouse’s shortcomings, which creates animosity in a marriage and fuels the fire of unforgiveness. Instead, use a prayer journal and pour your heart out to the Lord. Then ask Him to heal these areas of your spouse’s life and pray for the desire to forgive. Wouldn’t this do more for your marriage than texting your BFF or posting a passive aggressive status on Facebook?
PRACTICE CHURCH TEACHING IN YOUR MARRIAGE – Church teaching…it’s not what you think it is! Many people assume that the church is oppressive and prudish when it comes to sex. Guess what? They’re WRONG! When my own marriage was lacking, the book Holy Sex! by Dr. Greg Popcak made all the difference for me. It took Theology of the Body and put it in practical terms that were extremely simple to apply to my marriage. Christopher West’s Heaven’s Song was the book that made it all click for my husband. Remember, God created sex. He wrote the manual. Use it!
We have used these principles in our own marriage. When I see my husband loving me to the best of his ability, making sacrifices for our family, and taking on the role of the spiritual head of the household, that does much more for me than any book, movie or cyber dude ever could.
Marital intimacy is something that grows from a deep emotional bond. Humility and selflessness are the seeds that grow this bond. True intimacy doesn’t start in the bedroom. It begins the moment you open your eyes in the morning. Focus on your relationship with God and fulfilling your spouse’s needs. When both a husband and wife focus on God and each other, everybody wins.
Sometimes marriages need some extra help. Retrouvaille is a program to help couples who are considering divorce. Marriage Encounter is for couples who have a good marriage, but want to create a deeper bond. And many marriages suffer because of the effects of pornography use or past sexual trauma. Recovering Hearts is a counseling service which specializes in these areas.
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