A reader recently commented on one my blog posts something to the effect of, "This author believes that having great sex makes for a great marriage." I think he intended for this to be a critical comment, but actually, I do believe that -- with some caveats, of course!
Let me explain.
I do believe that intimacy is critical to a great and lasting marriage. I have yet to meet a couple who was having marriage problems and thinking about divorce who told me that they still had phenomenal intimacy. Instead, what I often hear is this: "Somewhere along the line we drifted apart... we stopped talking, we stopped kissing, we stopped hugging, we stopped making love. We became roommates, not lovers."
And by intimacy, I mean physical intimacy and also verbal intimacy.
Physical intimacy is sex, but it also includes hugging, holding hands, walking through the room and running your fingers through his or her hair, and kissing (really kissing!). Remember the scene from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts, as a prostitute, is asked by Richard Gere's character, "What do you do?" Her answer: "Everything. But I don't kiss on the mouth." That's exactly right -- sometimes it's not the sex that is intimate, it's the kissing on the mouth.
So many of the people I speak with tell me that all of this intimacy stopped. I often hear, "I get more physical touch from my friends than I do from my husband (or wife)." It's hard to regain that physical touch once it's gone; it's awkward to get it back, and frequently easier to initiate with a complete stranger than with the person you married. And yet, physical intimacy is critically important to a strong marriage.
But verbal intimacy is also critical. Verbal intimacy is talking -- not about the kids or your schedules for the week -- but about your hopes and goals, your dreams and your fears. It's being comfortable going out to dinner, just the two of you, and not worrying about what you will talk about. I've seen couples whose social lives and vacation planning always had to include others because they didn't have enough to talk about with each other.
You may have heard the saying that, "couples who pray together, stay together." That's verbal intimacy. I heard from a man recently who told me, "I'm not sure when we stopped talking. I wonder when our communication stopped. I gradually allowed my emotions and ego to become anesthetized... then she left." As with physical intimacy, it's hard to regain verbal intimacy once it's lost.
Both physical and verbal intimacy require a dedicated focus. They require time. They require intention. We lead busy lives. As a nation, we're chronically tired. We have competing demands of work, children, extended family and volunteering. Because of these commitments, physical and verbal intimacy often fall by the wayside. No one wants to wake up one day and wonder, "I'm not sure when it all stopped. I feel like we are roommates."
The bottom line? Great intimacy is the key to a great marriage.
I have yet to see a husband and a wife who share great physical and verbal intimacy struggling in their marriage. I've never heard, "She is always touching me," or, "He always wants to open a bottle of wine and talk on the back porch," from anyone in marriage counseling. I haven't heard, "I love the way he kisses me when he comes home from work every day," and "She always asks me how I am doing and really listens," from anyone who is on the brink of divorce.
I'm curious. Do you know anyone in a strong marriage who doesn't share great physical and verbal intimacy with his or her spouse? Is it possible?