Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and maybe, as a married person, you’re not feeling it. You have probably seen the best and the worst of each other, and maybe you’re wondering how you could possibly restore the passion in your marriage? Ee Boon Kiat and his wife Pauline share some pro tips.
After being married for a number of years, few couples hark back to their dating days and the deep connection that they used to share. Back then, every goodbye seemed to come too soon, and every conversation seemed too short. Whenever you were apart, your hearts longed for one another.
What a different picture it is after a few years of marriage: you could be sitting a metre apart but your hearts are miles away from one another. You may even struggle to feel desire for your spouse. Is is at all possible to reignite that spark in your marriage?
At the Virtual Missions conference organised by City Harvest’s The Harvest Network in November 2021, Ee Boon Kiat and his wife Pauline spoke on this very topic: restoring intimacy in a marriage. Boon Kiat has been a cell group leader in City Harvest Church for many years and Pauline is a pastoral supervisor who also teaches in workshops that prepare couples for marriage and parenting.
In the workshop, the couple who celebrated 12 years of marriage last year, taught that even if two people feel the fire in their marriage has gone out, it is entirely possible to get back that passion—they simply need to go back to doing what caused them to love each other in the first place.
GOD’S GOAL FOR MARRIAGES
Genesis 2:24 reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
God’s goal for a man and a woman who decide to get married, is to be of one flesh. Becoming “one flesh” is not just about physical sex—it also means becoming more united emotionally, intellectually, financially and spiritually.
This is important because only when a husband and his wife become “one flesh” can they represent the image of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-33). Jesus is 100 percent committed to His Church. He says that the Church is the body, and He is the Head. He has joined Himself to the Church.
Therefore, when two people come together in a marriage, they must become dependent on one another. They must avoid living like singles when they get married. The Ees told of couples who lived separate lives day in and day out. However, when COVID-19 happened, they were forced to see each other for long periods of time during the lockdown, their differences start to surface and they began to notice that their marriage was actually in crisis.
In some families, the roles of the husband and wife are overly defined, so much so that one does not know what the other is doing. The husband focuses too much on his work and providing for the family while the wife takes care of the children and household chores.
Statistics show that there is an increasing number of older couples getting divorced after their children grow up and leave the nest. It is therefore important for a couple to not spend too much time maintaining the household and children, and neglect building intimacy in their marriage.
SOME REASONS COUPLES LOSE THEIR INTIMACY
Busyness is the number one killer for relationship breakdown. However, the goal here is not to become less busy—it is to learn to prioritise. Many things are urgent but not all are important. If your marriage is important, then both of you need to do your best to prioritise your marriage and each other above all other things.
When it comes to important dates like each other’s birthday and wedding anniversary, do you put them in your calendar? Do you plan for it?
Because busyness is hard to avoid, the Ees make it a point to be honest when they feel the other person is becoming too busy. The couple stressed that it is not wise to assume that your spouse knows your thoughts. Conversely, the spouse should not become defensive when confronted with honesty.
But the truth must always be delivered with love. If you shout and blame your spouse for being too busy for you all the time, he or she will not respond well to you even if it’s true. Why would anyone want to give more time to someone who is always shouting at them?
The Ees know of a couple with three young children. The wife is often upset that her husband is too busy with work. The husband thinks that if he spends more time with the children and only works while they are asleep, he would solve the problem.
However, things only got worse. As Boon Kiat and Pauline spoke with the wife, they discovered that her issue was not that her husband was too busy. He would call her during lunch to speak with the children, but not to her. When he is home, he is watching TV or reading, ignoring his wife. As a result, she began to feel neglected and unattractive.
When Boon Kiat and Pauline shared this osbservation with the husband, he realised that the problem was not busyness but his lack of affection towards his wife. It does not take a lot of money or effort to make his wife feel loved, but it definitely takes intention.
Children add to the busyness of a couple’s daily lives. When their children were very young, Boon Kiat and Pauline found there was so much to do every day, by the end of the day all they want to do was to lie down and sleep.
Despite being tired, there were some things they intentionally did to spend time together alone. The Ees never fail to celebrate their anniversary or each other’s birthday as a couple. They also schedule short trips away together without the children. Now that their children are older, they watch TV together when the children are asleep and talk about things that happened during the day.
Another reason for a couple to lose their intimacy is the difference in communication styles. One common scenario is a spouse who is distracted by his or her phone when the other is talking.
One way to avoid this is to make it clear to your spouse that you need him or her to pay attention to what you are saying. There are those who think that asking for their spouse’s attention loses its meaning, but the Ees suggest that they throw that thought away. It is not helpful for a marriage when one party continues to assume that their spouse knows what they need without them asking.
Another way around distractions is to arrange for a better time to communicate. Don’t try talking to your husband when he is watching a live soccer match or talk to your wife when she is watching her favourite drama.
Having good listening skills helps in communication. At times, it is important to recognise that your spouse may not be looking for a solution, but a listening ear. While offering a solution solves problems quickly, it shortens the process of communication. Active listening allows us to be present for our spouse, to show empathy, love and concern which is much more important than the solution itself.
If your spouse habitually provides solutions, then you need to let them know when you are looking for a listening ear. You cannot assume that they know this without you saying so, especially for men who are not naturally wired for long conversations!
Most men and women are different in the way they talk about their problems. Most women feel loved when they have long conversations with others. On the other hand, most men don’t like to talk about their problems—they feel miserable recounting the details.
This explains why husbands are quick to solve their wives’ problems and why they don’t like to talk about their own problems.
Wives, if you need to have long conversation, try to arrange a suitable time with your husband. Find time to talk over a meal or a drink. You can also give your husband a heads up that the conversation will take a while, and that you aren’t looking for a solution just yet.
STEPS TO RESTORING INTIMACY
The first thing to do is to understand how to fill up each other’s love tank.
In the book The Five Love Languages, authorGary Chapman writes about a love tank that represents a person’s need to feel loved. However, to ways to fill the love tank of a man and a woman differ greatly. The things that fill the wife’s love tank may not necessarily fill the husband’s.
In a survey done by Dr WF Harley in his book His Needs, Her Needs, most women said that their top need in a relationship is affection while the top need for a man is sexual fulfilment.
While some husbands wish to get into the act of physical intimacy quickly, they fail to recognise that they have not shown their wives the affection they need. As a result, even though there may be sexual intimacy, the wife may not feel close to her husband.
Showing affection fills up the love tank for most women. It does not need to be complicated. It can be simple things like asking “How are you?” and saying, “I love you”. It could be making breakfast for each other or helping each other with chores. Giving each other a hug at random or simply appreciating them for who they are.
Most men feel close to their wives through sexual intimacy. While a wife may not feel a strong need for sex, she should not withhold sex from the husband who needs it—especially not as a form of “punishment” towards the husband.
1 Corinthians 7:3-4 reads, “The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
The Bible warns that when we do not come together regularly, Satan can tempt us easily. Sexual intimacy is therefore a great defence against temptation.
However, a couple cannot depend on physical sex alone to build intimacy. Intimacy should also be built through sharing of emotional needs, thoughts, dreams, spiritual revelations and finances. This is important because there might be certain seasons in our lives where sexual intimacy is not feasible, for example, when the wife is heavily pregnant or when one party is suffering from poor health or physical injury.
In conclusion, building intimacy in a marriage requires a married couple to look to God for His wisdom and strength. It also requires them to make the effort to learn and apply marriage-strengthening tools, which are available in the form of books and workshops.
Most importantly, be Christ to each other. Christlikeness is attractive and works better at keeping us in love with one another than expensive gifts.