Laura Burney, played by Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the Enemy, believed she had the fairytale life. She was married to Martin, the charismatic, handsome, and wealthy investment counselor and they lived in a beautiful home by the beach in the quaint and affluent town of Cape Cod. By all appearances, Laura had everything a girl could wish for. Dinners at the infamous Captain Linnell House, day trips to Martha’s Vineyard, moonlit walks along the shore of First Encounter Beach, friends over for grilled sea bass and chowder… the perfect life.
Or so she thought. Because within a few months into the marriage, the true Martin began to reveal himself. Underneath the mask of debonair charm resided an angry, possessive control freak. Laura’s dream became a nightmare and she was left asking the question, “I thought I knew him. What went so horribly wrong?”
Maybe your story isn’t as dramatic as Laura’s, but many of you may be able to relate to the notion of believing you knew someone and within a month, a year, 10 years, or 15 you woke and stared at the person you married and wondered, “Who is this masked man or woman?” Maybe you’ve wondered, how did I get it so wrong? How did I miss all the signs that have now culminated into this shiftless, lazy, unloving, sarcastic, messy, annoying, spouse of mine? What happened to the person who made me laugh? Who had goals, hopes, and dreams? Who wined and dined me? Who talked to me and listened as well? Where is that person? The one I thought I knew?
To know and be known. The yearning of so many, yet very few of us have little clue how to know more deeply or how to be known more completely. And if this isn’t your struggle, I’ll make it personal, because if certainly has been mine. After 22 years of marriage, I made the assumption, of course, we know each other, we’ve been married 22 years for goodness sake! Of course, we know! But once the children left home and we became empty-nesters, we began to realize that maybe we don’t “know” each other as intimately as we thought. Sure we’re aware of one another’s likes and dislikes and habits and routines. Sure we dialogue often about our schedules, agendas and daily occurrences. But do I know Derrick on that deep, meaningful level and am I willing to be vulnerable enough to truly be known? Do I understand his hearts’ desires or does he know my most profound fears and longings? Can he be open enough so that I see into the depths of his soul and do I really want to hear and understand what he thinks about me, my feelings, my mistakes, and all my baggage?
See, I believe that we’ve become so accustomed to hiding behind our masks, showing others the “self” we want them to see. We’ve developed such a deep rooted fear of letting our guard down. And let me just say, fear of being vulnerable may well be justified because being vulnerable exposes us and can leave us defenseless to the rebuke or scorn of others. Vulnerability may mean opening ourselves up to being hurt or misunderstood. Vulnerability may grant others permission to take your heart squeeze it tight and then rip it all to shreds.
This need to connect with my husband on a more intimate level– developing that deep, genuine and spiritual relationship, connecting with him on the deepest emotional, mental, physical and spiritual level – left me searching for a how-to model. What does it look like? How do I go about making it happen? Given my type A personality and my need for a template, a plan, a to-do-list, the search ensued. Google, Wikipedia, Family Life Today, books by Gary Chapman and Shannon Ethridge. And then it hit me. Why not consult the source of intimacy – God himself. As I draw closer to Christ, becoming more intimate with Him, I can also become more intimate with my earthly love. So what exactly does intimacy look like? Here are five _____:
Just like with God, your spouse is to be your one and only. This means your attention and your affections can’t be divided. There should be nothing that comes between you and your spouse including children, work, friends or family. Nothing should separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:35, 38-39) just as nothing should separate you from the love of your spouse.
Just like with God, you need to communicate often. Set aside time daily for deep, meaningful conversations. Ask questions that tap into one another’s most intimate thoughts and feelings. Talk and more importantly listen. (This Family Game Plan may get you started)
Just like with God, be willing to be vulnerable. One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown and in her books The Power of Vulnerability and Daring Greatly, she provides excellent strategies for taking the risk to be vulnerable.
Just like with God, keep the passion in your marriage alive. It’s so easy to get into a rut, but an intimate marriage requires intentionality. Complete this Passion Barometer and see where you stand. If the passion is low, it’s time to ramp it up!
Just like with God, pray without ceasing. Praying together as a couple has miraculous power. Set aside time daily for devotion and prayer together.
Know who your true enemy is. Remember, satan’s job is to kill, steal and destroy and that means your marriage. Don’t let him win. Reclaim your marriage and determine that it will be a marriage filled with true intimacy. Sleep with the enemy no more, always mindful that God’s plan for marriage is for you and your spouse to know and be known. For more information about knowing and being known, read Naked and Unashamed, pages 175-181.
From my heart to yours,