Robert and Freda met at university. Eventually they decided they had what it takes to make a good marriage. Everyone who knew them thought so too, so after graduation they married.
Love began dying during their first year of marriage, but they hardly noticed it. Like many couples, they allowed their careers (both were lawyers) to consume their lives, leaving little time for each other.
Strangely, their courtship years had been just as busy, maybe more. Love flourished, even in a typhoon of exams and research papers. In those days their relationship gave them relief from the stresses of school work. Now their marriage had become just one more drain on their time and energy.
It didn’t help when Freda, feeling lonely, developed a close friendship with her young, male piano teacher. The friendship was apparently innocent, but potentially dangerous. There was a certain excitement and tenderness that she missed with her husband. And laughter! Freda enjoyed the bright humor of her piano teacher. Definitely dangerous, especially for a woman in Freda’s situation.
When someone told Robert about the friendship, he ordered Freda to stop her piano lessons and never see the teacher again. Of course he was within his rights, but he didn’t address the deeper, underlying issue. He should have asked Freda why she felt she needed that friendship. He didn’t. Instead, he became indignant and self-righteous, acting wounded.
Robert did another thing. He stopped trusting Freda. He became more controlling, less understanding, and more distant. When trust died, so did intimacy. Somehow they managed to have three children, but their marriage deteriorated. Talk became trivial; avoidance became commonplace
Covering Up the Emptiness
How does a couple maintain a marriage in such circumstances? It seems impossible, yet many couples do. They stay together because of pressures from family or society. They stay together through fear of what others would think if they divorce. They stay together because of the children, or to avoid losing face.
But they don’t stay together because they love, honor, value, and enjoy each another. Love is lost, and with it all joy. These couples maintain their marriage the same way doctors maintain a terminally ill patient. They sustain life, but do not, or cannot, heal the disease.
It was snowing when I first wrote this section. Snow is beautiful and has the wonderful ability to cover the ugliest things, making them look clean and white. A pile of rubbish can look pure and pristine when enough snow falls on it. Unfortunately the camouflage has a short life. Snow melts. When it does, the rubbish pile is still there, still dirty and still ugly.
Some couples have tried for years to cover up the rubbish in their relationships and their lives. But covering doesn’t mean removing. To get rid of it, you have to admit the problem exists and find a good, godly way to address it.
Why do we sidestep the issues that are hurting our marriages? Often it is because we don’t think we can find solutions. Or, if we find a solution, we are afraid won’t have what it takes to carry it out. Sometimes we don’t face the problems because we don’t want to admit that we, personally, need to change our attitudes and actions. Positive change has a price, true, but it is so worth whatever it costs us personally.
Lacking any other promising alternative, we try to find fulfillment by staying busy. We involve ourselves in activities that we hope will fill the emptiness. All that activity dulls our minds like a narcotic, but it doesn’t feed our souls.
We feed our soul, the inner person, through intimate friendships with our spouses, our children, our companions, and most of all, our God. Without intimacy, we experience increasing emptiness.
Have you experienced a loss of intimacy? If so, just one question: Will you try to recover it? If you do, both you and your spouse will become stronger, healthier people, experiencing the healing, restoring benefits of true intimacy.
The Three Ds
Remember that restoring intimacy takes work, like all rewarding endeavors. I am not much of a gardener, but when I see a beautiful garden I know three things:
- The gardener desires that garden, for desire is the beginning point of all beauty.
- The gardener has a design for that garden. Beautiful gardens begin with a concept. How do we want this garden to look? What kind of fruits and flowers do we want to enjoy? Desire without design is nothing but an empty dream, a fantasy without hope of reality.
- The gardener has great determination. Near our house lives a man with a lovely garden. The trees and flowers are arranged in such a manner that they invite you to linger and refresh your soul for a few moments. It is not surprising, therefore, to see that man working in his garden. He may not always love the work, but he surely loves the results. You will, too！
It is my hope that these words from Calvin Coolidge will become your words, too:
” We are beginning to comprehend more definitely, what course should be pursued, what remedies ought to be applied, what actions should be taken for our deliverance, and are clearly manifesting a determined will faithfully and conscientiously to adopt these methods of relief.”
Think, Act, Pray
1. How many different causes can you find for Robert and Freda losing intimacy?
2. What would have helped Robert and Freda renew their intimacy?
3. If you see a loss of intimacy in your marriage, what are you doing that is contributing to the loss?
4. What is keeping you from beginning to restore intimacy in your marriage?
5.If you did restore intimacy, what positive results would you see?
6. Take some time to evaluate your desire, design, and determination.