What is spiritual intimacy in marriage?
And what can a wife do when the Biblical marriage she desires feels more like a spiritual burden?
When I got married eleven years ago, I expected my husband to take over and do all the heavy lifting on all matters spiritual.
But my hopes, though coming from an honest place, were misguided because our relationship with God doesn’t work that way.
Further, a Biblical marriage is based on two people actively working out their own salvation.
Over the years, I have talked to wives who struggle as I did.
A lot of women expect their husbands to absorb, to a large degree, the disciplines of cultivating a relationship with God. The want their husbands to be in charge of teaching, prayer, fasting, Bible reading, church activities, initiating connections with others etc.
And of course there’s nothing wrong with these values. And husbands are indeed mandated to set the tone in the marriage and family life.
But just because the husband has a spiritual life or has been mandated to set the tone doesn’t mean the wife waltz away, responsibility free.
Thus, it’s important to see spirituality in marriage as a partnership – where both people embrace their personal responsibility on all matters spiritual.
And then from that ownership, allow those individual strengths and God-given abilities to shine in the relationship. At the very least, stop getting upset because a husband don’t compare to another man or the image in our heads.
Based on my experience as a marriage educator, most husbands don’t fit the mold. Most men are not your over-the-top “pastoral” figures.
But it doesn’t mean they are not spiritual or they don’t express their spirituality at home.
Most spiritually healthy guys just have a sincere desire to provide, protect, and serve their marriage and family to the best of their abilities.
Can it be that all these husbands are wrong for their “simple” aspirations? Or have we overlooked the fact that spiritual stewardship also plays out through provision, protection, and service?
Do we need to rethink what it means to be a spiritual leader in the first place? (At the bottom of this post, I will leave a couple of links to other blog posts that dive into spiritual leadership in marriage.)
You see, to have a marriage that feels spiritually intimate, we need to understand how it manifests in our homes.
We need to accept that both spouses must cultivate their own spiritual intimacy with God and then bringing that intimacy to their marriage.
That is how spiritual intimacy in marriage develops – both people look to God, not each other, for spiritual growth and they appreciate the different ways God wired them for each other.Spiritual intimacy in marriage develops when both people look to God, not each other, for spiritual growth.
Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage
Spiritual intimacy in marriage can be defined as “a sense of unity and mutual commitment to God’s purpose for our lives and marriage, along with a respect for the special dreams of each other’s hearts. It’s the greatest depth of intimacy we experience in marriage.”1
As a new wife, I went through a season where I didn’t feel close to God at all.
I remember sitting in our study, looking at my open Bible and weeping because I felt so empty. I was at a different place, navigating a ton of new-wife feelings and adjustments, and I just wanted my relationship with God to feel normal.
But the newlywed season had me choosing between snuggle-time and prayer time. The weekends, previously filled with church activities and down- time were overflowing with cleaning and laundry, market runs and meal preps. (And of course couple-time).
My energy, which was previously endless, dived, as the practical, emotional, and mental responsibilities of marriage caught up. And it affected my relationship with God.
I felt empty and overwhelmed. I even blamed my marriage because as a single girl I didn’t have such “drift” problems.
And so today I want to help the wife who feels adrift in her walk with God.
Specifically, look at four shifts every new wife must make to strengthen spiritual intimacy in marriage. Because unless she gets spiritually healthy, she’ll struggle to feel spiritually intimate with God and her husband.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, perhaps even believe your marriage is to blame, remember the following
1. Dating, courtship and the wedding were highs
Yep. They were all highs. And marriage is the landing.
Matrimony is the only relationship that begins with a high and then slides to normalcy. To navigate the feelings of lost-ness, both in your spiritual life and other areas, you must accept the “what next?” feelings as part of growth.
Sometimes, your sparkly union will feel mundane and ordinary, and it won’t mean there’s something wrong. Just a sign you are married.
Are you wrestling with feelings of overwhelm in marriage? Is shutting down, fussing, anger, passive-aggressiveness common place in your relationship? Do you want to bring back the feelings of closeness and warmth you once enjoyed? Or maybe you just want to love better, create the marriage of your dreams. Your marriage can change! Get on the road to a great marriage when you pick up my book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After In The Early Years. Buy it > Amazon Paperback I Kindle I Barnes & Noble I PDF
2. Your marriage doesn’t make God mad
This will sound strange to some, but after the wedding, a lot of women feel guilty about the accommodations that come with marriage.
Specifically, they worry about the growth, the juggling, the re-alignment of priorities that come as a result of doing life with another human being.
Sometimes we go as far as thinking God is somehow mad or jealous about our husbands. That in throwing ourselves wholly into the earthly relationship, we are loving God a little less.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Also it’s a grave error (not to mention a complete mischaracterization of God) to imagine He who gave you someone to love would turn around and whack you for loving and enjoying him.It's a grave error and complete mischaracterization of the character of God to imagine He would give you a spouse to love and then punish you for enjoying the gift of marriage.
God is not a man – He does not get jealous as man does.
Indeed, He is to remain our highest priority. When we love God most, we love our spouses better.
But God isn’t asking us to choose between Himself and our husbands – the idea of a Biblical marriage assumes the people in the marriage will prioritize God above all, including each other.
And only from that prioritization will they learn to love and be intimate with each other.
So to the new (or oldie) wife, you can keep God first and enjoy a godly marriage. He designed marriage and is glorified in our marital love.
We don’t have to choose between loving God and loving our husbands. It is not a competition.
Further, God stays prioritized in marriage because He helps us keep Him first. When we think He’s mad at us, we will not seek His help when (not if) we struggle.
So take it from one struggled with incredible grief – God has more for us. He doesn’t give with one hand and take with the other.
Wrestle it out in prayer. You will be surprised by the victory that awaits as you start to get honest about how you feel and take it to God.We don't have to choose between loving God and loving our husbands. It is not a competition.
3. Spiritual intimacy in marriage: Get a spiritual life
A robust spiritual life doesn’t happen by accident. You have to get up and get it. And one of the ways you get it is through embracing God’s nearness.
To overcome my spiritual struggles, I had to start believing that God was not watching from a distance, wondering when I would get my wife-act together.
I began to learn He desired to help me wrestle through the questions and anxieties of new marriage. He wanted me to talk to Him about my husband and all the new things I was trying to wrap my head around.
He was concerned with our finances, our sex life, our spiritual life. He was waiting for me to raise my eyes from my little new world and begin to see the generosity and tenderness of His dealings with me.
This was the spiritual life I was pining for. The talking, the obeying, the wrestling, the pondering, the serving. That was the entirety of my walk with God, and until I saw my everyday marriage as part of my spiritual walk, I would strive for a long time.
As you adjust to the one-flesh union and pursue spiritual intimacy in marriage, it’s important to remember you are not seeking a one-sided relationship.
God already wants you. Actually, more than you want Him.
Furthermore, He ordains your seasons. Your married life will not look the same as your single life. Get okay with that because God already did.
4. Rethink the place of emotions
As women, we put a lot of emphasis on the heart – we feel deeply and strongly and tend to make decisions based on these senses.
But to navigate the feelings of disconnect so we can be intimate with God and our husbands again, we have to rethink the place of the heart as the main decision-maker.
In her book Women of The Word, Bible teacher Jen Wilkin talks about the difference between being led of the mind Vs. being led of the heart.
For some of us, the strength of our faith is gauged by how close we feel to God at any given moment – by how a sermon made us feel, by how a worship chorus made us feel, by how our quiet time made us feel.
Hidden in this thinking is an honest desire to share a a deep relationship with a personal God, but sustaining our emotions can be exhausting and defeating.
Changing circumstances can topple our emotional stability in an instant. Our “walk with the Lord” can feel more like a roller-coaster ride of peaks and valleys than a straight path in which peaks and valleys have been made level.
Could this be because we’ve gotten things backwards? By asking our hearts to lead our minds, have we willingly purchased a ticket to the roller-coaster ride? Unless we turn things around, placing the mind in charge of the heart, we could be in for a long wild ride”
Jen goes on to point several places where the Bible emphasizes the role of the mind in our walk with God, including Romans 12:2-3 ESV
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Refreshing perspective, don’t you think?
When you desire God but feel more confused than peaceful, examine your approach to your relationship with God.
Are you leaning hard on emotions? Or are you allowing your mind, transformed by the Word of God and led of His Spirit, to be in charge? Therein might be the answer to your struggle.
We already looked at the highs that come with the pre-marriage season and while feelings are important, we have to remember they have a place.
And that place is not at the lone-seat of decision making.
So don’t judge your marriage and connectedness to God and your husband based on feelings only. Instead, get into the daily habits of creating a relationship with God and husband – prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship and serving others, listening to the Holy Spirit, obedience e.t.c.
And then rest in the assurance that it is sufficient.
For more information on how to develop your relationship with God, I encourage you to check out Jen Wilkin’s book. (Link below)
When you are newly married and feel disconnected, or if you are older in marriage and wonder how to fan connection with God and your husband, remember the following
1. Sometimes marriage feels boring and that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. It just means you are married.
2. God wants you to enjoy marriage. There’s no competition.
3. A robust spiritual life doesn’t happen by accident.
4. Emotions are not everything.
Now it’s your turn! What point resonated with you the most? What else can you add?
Spiritual intimacy definition – Marriage Today – The simple secrets of spiritual intimacy