Last week in my article as part of this series on Chronic Illness and Marriage, I shared with you how my health challenges have been a common theme throughout my marriage; dealing with roadblocks to shared intimacy between us as husband and wife has been something that Randy and I have learned to navigate together.
I am going to do my best to write in more detail about this subject tonight while hoping to balance honesty and discretion in sharing about such a personal topic. I want to be sure to share with you from my heart in this area while trying to walk that fine line between sharing too much vs. not enough information.
If you are in a marriage that lacks deep intimacy, you know that there is something missing; I know that you are hoping to find encouragement and read tips in this article that can help you reconnect with your husband, even in a marriage defined by chronic illness.
* Please note: I am not a medical professional or a licensed therapist. What I share here with you is from my own experience and is not to be taken as medical or relationship advice. If you need help that goes beyond what is addressed here, please feel free to write me for further resources and suggestions, reach out to your own pastor or Christian counselor, or contact your medical doctor. *
The first thing to help in rebuilding intimacy in your marriage is: Communication
This is the primary thing that helps lay the foundation for deeper intimacy between a husband and wife. If there is a breakdown in this aspect of marriage or a lack of time and honesty, being able to grow together will be like building a house without a solid foundation. Things may look good from the outside, but once the weight of the world starts piling on top of it all, things start to get shaky and eventually the walls collapse and the roof falls in.
It’s crucial but also very vulnerable to be honest with each other in marriage. Sometimes we don’t know how to tell our spouse something that could potentially hurt them or disappoint them in any way. It’s hard to break bad patterns and learn how to blaze new trails when we haven’t had good models – - – but, we must learn how to be good communicators about all aspects of our hearts, lives, emotions, and thoughts.
I remember when I had to go on bed-rest for the first time. I started to feel like there was a dark cloud overshadowing my life. I retreated into myself and was afraid to be affectionate with my husband. Randy obviously felt rejected. He knew that there were some things I couldn’t participate in during that time in our marriage, but he still longed for a connection with me physically.
Eventually, we talked about it. I shared how scared I was, how I felt like I was letting him down, and how I wanted to be more to him. We found our way to be close to one another while being respectful of our current limitations in physical intimacy during that season. I wonder how much farther that we would have drifted apart had we not talked about this barrier.
How hard it is to open our mouths and say the things that we fear the most; it is only in the shared opening of hearts and mutual words of Grace during those stressful times that husband and wife are able to take each other’s hand and take shelter from the rain that threatens to drown the very best marriage.
Randy and I stay in touch through the day through text messages and he always calls me on his lunch break to pray with me. He knows that I am only a call or text away, and I know the same goes for him. When he comes home at night, we just pick up where we left off that day. That’s one of the best things we do that helps us communicate!
Use that technology to your advantage! :-)
The second thing is: Compassion
It’s human nature to react badly during times of stress; even as Christian women, wives, and mothers, we are not immune to reacting in the flesh rather than relying on the Spirit to help us react in grace and compassion when we are hurt or hurting.
But, compassion is key to navigating the rocky road of building intimacy in marriage, especially when you have to work together through chronic illness.
Chronic illness robs the relationship of energy, takes away the ability to be spontaneous, and requires routine in addressing the needs of the one who is ill over the needs of many others in the home. It’s something that is normal and can’t be helped; that doesn’t mean that the healthier spouse doesn’t sometimes lose patience in always serving or that the children will stop demanding attention from parents who are at the end of being able to serve one more moment.
Life doesn’t stop when we are faced with trials and struggles.
Compassion in thought, in word, in tone, in a tender look between each other can mean more to connecting with our spouse than anything that Hollywood can show us in a movie. I won’t deny that connecting physically with our spouse is an amazing and spiritual experience; without compassion and service our physical union can feel like a act more than love in action.
I am grateful that I have a husband who is compassionate and never complains about having to serve me or our family. I am so very blessed.
The third thing is: Connection
This is the stage where we take the foundation of communication with the next layer of compassion and use it to frame our connection as spouses. Many will automatically think of this stage in reference to the physical; I won’t deny that physical intimacy is a crucial and lovely part of the marriage relationship.
There will be times when one or both of the spouses aren’t able to complete the full act of what we consider to be intimacy between husband and wife. When that happens, we are left with a choice: are we going to let ourselves be defined (and confined) by what we can’t do, or are we going to explore and discover just how much we can do together to stay connected and express love to the other?
Holding hands, sharing affectionate touches, kisses, hugs, and being close to one another is something we can do, no matter our physical limitations, unless we have more chronic, severe physical limitations. I find it so inspiring to see many couples overcome this barrier to sharing a connection no matter what the challenge they face together.
Be careful to not allow yourself to neglect this part of your marriage; I know from first-hand experience how easily we can allow ourselves to be loving, caring, and attentive wives while we neglect what we can do to be the wife our husband can express love to every day.
Take the lead in initiating more with your husband, when you feel up to it. Shower and prepare yourself that day, take a nap, and pray for God to help you remember how to let yourself love and be loved by the love of your life. Expect progress and mindfulness in this area, not perfection. I imagine God will be there at your side helping you grow even closer together in intimacy as man and wife.
Just because you face limitations in your physical body, you are not condemned to a love-less and solitary existence in your marriage relationship. I know that in writing this article I barely scratched the surface of this topic; I may come back to visit it again if and when God leads.
Purpose in your heart that life will not rob you of the best marriage you can have with the LORD’s help. He can and will help you repair your health and your marriage through prayer and faith in His power and will for your life.
I am here for you and I am praying for God to do amazing, miraculous things in your life and marriage!
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To God be the GLORY!