Thursday, February 21, 2008

Everyday Life: Building intimacy in marriage

My husband is a romantic at heart. He's the guy who walked with me hand-in-hand along the sandy shores of the Red Sea and stayed up talking until the early morning while we gazed at the stars. He waited to initiate our first kiss until we were standing on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. He also surprised me with more than a dozen pink roses before our first date in Egypt. Though the study abroad trip on which we met ended, the romance didn't. When we returned to the United States to finish our final semester of college, John often left me little love notes scattered throughout my house, sent me flowers before he left for weekend trips, orchestrated a Valentine's Day scavenger hunt and made me a candlelight dinner the night he proposed. Our courtship was blissful. The newly wed period was wonderful as well.
But three years, a full-time job and a cute, yet very demanding baby have somehow dampened my husband's romantic ventures.

Example No. 1: My birthday, 2008 -- John works from home that day so we can go out to dinner. However, in staying home, he reveals that I won't be getting a birthday card because he left it at work. "Honey," I tell him, "you can just give it to me the next time you go to work." "Oh," he says, "I was going to save it for next year" ...

Example No. 2: My birthday, 2008 -- It begins to blizzard outside, and I'm bound to the house with Gabe and John instead of going about my original birthday plans. John had been vowing for days to clean the dishes after he went on a cooking extravaganza the weekend prior. I figured he would start in on that project while I was out that day; I had visions of returning to a sparkling kitchen. But the snowstorm rages on, and my hubby complains that there are no clean little spoons. I hand him a tablespoon. "No," he says, "that's too big." I begin washing the dishes because I can tell that John cleansing them is not going to be part of my birthday gift and he is whining about having to use a big spoon. I pick up the blender to wash it and take off the lid only to find mold growing inside my blender. Ahhh, the gift that keeps on growing.

Example No. 3: Valentine's Day, 2008 -- John calls me in a little bit of a panic. "Did you already pack the suitcase?" he asks. "I started to," I reply. "Well, if you find anything in the suitcase, don't open it," he warns. I don't understand why he thinks I would unwrap a present from him while he's gone, but I comply to calm his fears. I find out later that night why John was concerned that I would "unwrap" his present when he hands it to me ... and I open the plastic Jewel bags the gift was "wrapped" in. Luckily, the contents were sparkly and wearable.

Now, I'll admit I haven't been terribly romantic either. After all, I rarely get dolled up anymore; I converse regularly with my husband about diapers, poop and rashes; I can't remember the last time I shaved my legs; and I don't often see the problem with not showering for a few days until John asks when I last set foot in the tub. My attempts at romance have been slim to none.

I'm not sure if it was the moldy blender or the lack of showering that got me thinking about marriage and building intimacy, but I realized we needed to deepen our relationship before we become the couple who sits in front of the television yelling answers at Wheel of Fortune and considering that time well spent together. Yeah, it's tough when your husband is gone at his job 12 hours every day and you've got your hands full with the kiddo(s), but for the sake of yourself, your spouse and the wee ones, building a deeper marital relationship has got to be a priority.

Luckily, the Lord knew before I did that I needed to hear about how to build intimacy in marriage. I attended a MOPs meeting where our church's pastor and his wife spoke to us about deepening martial relationships. I learned that there are many areas in which we can build this intimacy: intelligent conversation, physical displays, emotional connections and quality time.

I began trying to connect with John by conversing with him about things he finds interesting like finance and current events instead of solely talking about baby-related issues like the color and consistency of the day's poop. He has enjoyed these conversations, and I actually feel like I know more about what he's been thinking about during his day when we make it a priority to talk on this level.

We also came across Relevant Church's 30-Day Sex Challenge, which seeks to help couples connect deeply by exploring each partner's level of need in 10 emotional areas: affection, sexual fulfillment, conversation, recreational companionship, honesty and openness, attraction, financial support, domestic support, family commitment and admiration.

We each filled out the emotional need questionnaire and discussed our answers. We learned a lot about our relationship and what we can do to help fulfill each other's needs and thus build the intimacy in our relationship. It took a little bit of time, but I think the results are well worth it. I'm looking forward to going through the married guide with John as well. I'm also looking forward to seeing if this challenge might help me acquire a non-furry birthday gift next year and motivate me to become friends with my razor again.

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There's nothing better than good conversation ... but not while talking to myself. Will you play a part in this discussion?

AND will you pretty please have your email linked to your account or leave it for me so I can respond?

Thanks for taking the time to make these thoughts into conversation.