Spiritual and emotional connection is important, yet there is one more piece to this puzzle, physical love.
Before the desire for intimacy was expressed verbally, we felt a connection through physical gestures. A baby is formed inside the body of his mother and over the course of her pregnancy, a mom knows who her child is even before seeing him. The child comes into the world not fully developed and it is up to the parents to listen to the various intonations of the cry to learn how to respond to his needs. Often, a mother will soothe her child with sweet caresses and cuddling. Even though as adults we grow in our capacity to verbally articulate our desires, there inevitably still comes a moment when we just need a hug. The physical dimension of an enduring relationship cannot be overstated. The regular release of bonding hormones through physical touch, caressing, and sexual intimacy are keys to the survival of a long-term marriage.
However, physical affection has to mean more than just sex. Yes, sex is an amazing gift to married couples, but every relationship should have healthy amounts of non-sexual physical contact. That freedom of physical expression will, in turn, bless the sexual embraces, too! This is because if every kiss is signal for sex, then kisses will start to be viewed suspiciously: “What does he want?” “I’m not in the mood.” “If I kiss back are we going all the way tonight?” That pressure will quickly eat away at a relationship. Freedom and respect of all forms of physical affection make for a healthy marriage.
If you are disconnected outside the bedroom, usually that disconnection will manifest in the bedroom, unless there are medical issues at work. If you are working on reconnecting in your marriage, work on your physical love, too. Yet, not in the way you might be thinking. Unfortunately, in our culture when the physical connection is lost, we turn to things like “Novelty Items,” which are really euphemisms for buying things that only further the objectification of our spouse. Make no mistake, objectification is what happens when we lose sight of their eternal goodness. If you have lost the spark, you do not need to buy “Adult Toys” or read books to spice up your romance. You just need each other. That’s it. God is enough and his grace is sufficient.
Do the harder work of rediscovering your spouse and sharing who you are today. When you get this right, you will see a deepening and more profound love because it honors both the history of time together and the newness that is ever unfolding in a relationship. Holding the tension of both is the key to everlasting love.
Couples have the freedom to express themselves in the bedroom, but just make sure that those expressions draw you closer together and make you think about the person in front of you. The way you dress, what you say, and how you act should all be things that are a manifestation of your unique relationship, not influenced by an external stimulus like pornography. I know it is hard because what we define as sexy tends to be influenced by our cultural notions. But our cultural tastes of sex are just off because the world does not understand marriage anymore. Rather than being harsh, we should be loving. Rather than being fixated on our personal pleasure, we should be attentive to the desires of the other. Sex is about “us” not “me.” Each time is a gift and opportunity to share in that togetherness. Talk about your preferences and share with your spouse when things are good and when they are uncomfortable.
Marriage is not rocket science. The things that make a marriage work are actually quite simple. Yet, as one of my clients said in a counseling session, “this is hard as sh–!” True. Simple but hard. Over the course of our lives, intimacy will ebb and flow. Interests change. New responsibilities. Life stressors. All of these things will try to pull apart. But resist that pull, because the truth is you need each other. The grace of marriage is that you have a partner to journey with you through each of those dips, changes, twists, and turns. As a sacrament, this means that God (through your bond) is present in each of those moments, too. Grace is real, but sometimes we have to work in life. Keep focused on loving each other daily and keep striving to stay connected through it all.