In a world full of troubled marriages, people often settle for a marriage where they simply get along. But God intends for marriage to be so much more. And with His help, you and your spouse can achieve the real intimacy He wants husbands and wives to enjoy.

Here’s how you can create real intimacy in your marriage:

Know why you need to leave your past. Understand that if you drag baggage from the past into your marriage, it will sap the energy and life out of your relationship with your spouse. View your old loyalties (to your parents and other strong influences in your life) as secondary to the new bond you need to develop with your spouse for a strong marriage.

Know why you need to weave. Understand that if you have contempt for the differences between you and your spouse, you’ll block the blessings God wants each of you to experience from learning how to work together. Realize that your differences can complement each other. Remember that God wants to weave the different colored threads of your lives together to create a beautiful tapestry.

Know why you need to cleave. Understand that if you don’t intentionally pursue the goal of growing closer to God alongside your spouse, your marriage will stagnate. Remember that your relationship is a living organism that requires regular investments of time and energy to grow.

Consider the meaning of marriage. Recognize just how important marriage is in the world. Think about marriage as trinity (it reveals God’s relational nature and His love for creation), ethics (it helps you learn how to be good to each other as God is good to you), eschatology (it’s a foretaste of what it will be like to be in an intimate relationship with God in heaven forever), revelation (it’s meant to be a relationship that shows the world God’s glory and goodness as He acts in your lives).

Leave your past loyalties. Realize that trust can never fully be established in your marriage unless you sever the bonds of loyalty that controlled or influenced you strongly in the past (your relationship with your parents, other family members, friends, jobs, past boyfriends or girlfriends, etc.). Understand that by no means does this call for breaking off these relationships, but simply setting boundaries designed to protect young trust that is beginning to take root between you and your spouse. Make space for faithfulness. Give yourselves the space you need to build trust without undue intrusions or complications.

Know that marriage should change all aspects of both your lives as you merge them together to create something new. Understand that anything that might compromise the opening of your hearts to each other must be left behind as you pursue intimacy together.

Realize that building trust is a gradual process -- that trust is earned over a lifetime through small moments of faithfulness. Respect your spouse’s privacy by refusing to reveal matters that might cause embarrassment or shame for him or her. Show your spouse that you have the integrity to keep confidences. Keep secrets only between each other; never allow secrets between one of you and someone else.

Establish the primacy of your marriage over relationships with all other people -- forsaking all others for the sake of your spouse. Don’t give into efforts to divide you and your spouse. Make it clear to others that the power to make decisions is in you and your spouse’s hands, working together. Invite your parents and other people to offer their wisdom, but don’t feel obligated to obey their desires.

Share the full details of your pasts with each other so you know your spouse’s story, and he or she knows yours. Then intentionally merge your lives together to pursue a better present and future together.

Weave your souls together. Seek to connect with each other through communication. Spend lots of time talking and listening to each other. Engage in open-ended, curious conversation. Expect that it’s always possible for something good to result from your dialogue.

Honor the differences between you and your spouse by realizing that they’re healthy – not bad or dangerous. Esteem each other instead of tearing each other down. Put aside your presumptions so you can genuinely experience your spouse’s perspectives. Allow those perspectives to stretch and humble you. As your spouse’s sense of reality collides with yours, pray for it to help you understand more of how God views your lives together.

Don’t hide your thoughts, feelings, or desires from each other. Don’t blame or belittle each other. Don’t distort or obscure the real issues. Consider how compromise can help you weave a new pattern from different strands in your relationship.

Own your own failures and your spouse’s hurt. Be willing to forgive each other. Approach God in prayer together and ask for His perspective and the grace to work out hopeful solutions to your problems.

Take time regularly to get away from distractions and converse with each other, just the two of you. Schedule and protect the time. Think about how you can use the time for meaningful reflection – not just passively sitting in front of a movie screen together, but actively talking and listening about topics that matter to you both. Tell each other stories from your past and present, and listen well so you can gain a deeper perspective on your spouse than you had before. Share your dreams for the future with each other. Risk opening your hearts to each other in both pain and triumph.

Cleave to each other. Recognize that sex is a gift from God that should be honored and cherished as bearing His glory. Understand that trust between you and your spouse is vital for a healthy sex life, since it is impossible to surrender to sexual intimacy when tense or fearful. Get rid of bedroom ghosts like fear, anger, and disgust by working through the issues underlying them and pursuing healing together.

Ask God to give you the humility you need to be open, honest, and vulnerable in your relationships with Him and your spouse. Slow down, eliminate distractions, and live in the present moment so you can better appreciate sex with your spouse. Be playful and generous with each other. View good sex as a foretaste of heavenly worship.

Care for your marriage as if it were a garden. Understand that your marriage relationship is a living organism that, just like a garden, needs regular care to survive and grow. Care for your marriage daily by setting aside time to talk and pray together. Know that if you don’t keep up daily routines to stay connected, weeds will take over your marriage. Ask God to give you hope to wait for good results to emerge from the slow process of growth in your marriage. Be willing to do the hard work of making sacrifices to serve each other so you can each enjoy blossoming maturity.


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Adapted from The Intimate Mystery: Creating Strength and Beauty in Your Marriage, copyright 2005 by Dan B. Allender and Tremper Longman III. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.

Dan B. Allender (Ph.D., Michigan State) is president of Mars Hill Graduate School near Seattle. A speaker and writer, his other books include The Wounded Heart, The Healing Path, How Children Raise Parents and To Be Told.

Tremper Longman III (Ph.D., Yale University) is Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Ca. He is the author of How to Read the Psalms, How to Read Proverbs, How to Read Genesis and Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation, and coeditor of A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible.