In this article, the second of a three-part series on Recharging Your Intimacy Batteries, we’ll focus on how to develop and demonstrate romantic passion in your marriage.
Developing Your Romance Passion
Gary Smalley — teacher, speaker and counselor for marriages — writes about the five levels of communicating life-long marriage intimacy in his book Secrets to Lasting Love.
The essence of those secrets, Smalley says, is the very core of a loving marriage — communication. He points out that in order to develop passion and intimacy in marriage we need to enter into meaningful communication with our spouse that goes beyond the cursory levels of cliche and sharing facts with each other.
Actually, most of us communicate within five levels or depths of patterns:
Level 1 is sharing Cliches — were we simply speak ice-breakers like “Hope you had a good day today” or “How ya doin?'” as the commercial says! Responses can be equally as shallow with no real depth or explanation.
Level 2 is sharing facts with each other — simply communicating truisms like “Johnny won his game today” or “Honey, this is really a great meal. I liked it!” or any number of other factual comments pertaining to work, activities or even world events. This level promotes a little deeper and even safer level of conversation, but still does not require much thinking or feeling during the conversation.
Level 3 is sharing opinions with each other — Opinions come from our differences of family origins, temperaments, cultural backgrounds, education and other past experiences in our individual lives. Psalms 139:13 says that God has made us wonderfully different.
Statements that begin with “It’s my opinion…” or “I feel that…” are examples of this level of conversation. While there is more depth in the conversation, conflict can occur at this level because these opinions may also reveal some hidden or attached expectations that are suddenly revealed.
Erika and I often see this happening in our mentoring of pre-married couples. After several sessions together, the couple begins to feel comfortable enough to reveal their real differences and opinions that were hidden in their courting relationship. These opinions sometimes lead to conflicts or “mild arguments” causing them to become hurt or uncomfortable again. As a result, they sometimes retreat back to sharing facts or cliche with each other — where they think it is safe. However, once they understand and embrace their differences, they continue growing in their Christ-centered relationship.
If sharing opinions can be mastered, conflict can be avoided or minimized allowing us to move to the next level of communicating.
Level 4 — sharing our deepest and truest feelings — Unlike sharing opinions, this level of sharing our feelings gauges how well our needs are being met. Here we share our emotions hurts and frustrations. This is where we look for validations of our feelings — without criticism! In this level we must really be in touch with who we are in Christ and be willing to speak the truth trusting our spouse to listen and hear us intently.
Examples include communication like “I feel hurt because…”, “I really felt insecure when you …” or “I’m confused and need help with …”
We not only have the challenge of communicating our feelings honestly but also listening and gracefully responding to our spouse’s feelings appropriately with love and acceptance.
Level 5 — sharing our most intimacy needs — The deepest level of love and marital satisfaction occurs here. It takes about 6 years for the average person to share his or her feelings and needs!
Researchers like Smalley, Willard Harley, Scott Stanley and others have pointed to these ten needs as being common to most of us:
Conversation, recreational companionship, financial security, family commitment, attractive spouse, domestic support, admiration, honesty, sexual fulfillment and affection (not necessarily in that order).
Pretty comprehensive, eh? Can you identify with some of these needs?
Here’s a great marriage date-night activity for you:
1.Each of you rank your top five intimacy needs from the list above
2.Rank what you perceive to be you spouse’s top five needs
3.Share you lists with each other
So as not to influence you before completing this exercise, I’ll share the research findings about the top five intimacy needs for men and women in next month’s article.
Demonstrating your passion — jump-starting your romance battery
OK, so far we’ve discovered that God’s design for intimacy in our marriages includes the spiritual, physical and emotional aspects of intimacy. We also learned how communication powers our romance battery, which ultimately sparks the physical intimacy engine in our marriage.
How do we release that power that will start our intimacy engine so we can have the celebration that God intended us to enjoy and cherish?
Let me first say that demonstrating your passion is a process… not just an isolated action. You just don’t do passion one time and say that you have mastered it! You have to live it out.
One spouse may feel that demonstrating passion (or love) to their spouse means having sexual activity. At the same time, the other may feel that same sexual activity is something that should be part of a process involving expressions of love or passion. You have to practice demonstrating and using passion to prepare for the celebration!
Here’s an example:
When we were first married Erika felt that I used my passion like a microwave — step up, punch in a time to prepare (30 seconds or so) and “ding!” the door opens and I’m ready! This could have been any time; healthy or sick, awake or asleep, here or anywhere. Just like a microwave!
She, on the other hand, is like a crock-pot — a slow cooking brew of stuff inside that needs to be stirred and nurtured for a long while before enjoying the fruits of the simmering. It must be sampled, seasoned and finally served with the most care and appreciation imaginable. Sometimes, the process must be started at the very beginning of the day if not the night before. Just like a crock-pot!
We’ve since compromised by putting crock-pot in the microwave for just a few hours!
Lewis Smedes says in his book “Sex for Christians”, “The moral issue is never ?how much’ sex but whether physical sex is being integrated into a pattern of personal dedication. What happens ?between the times’ is more important than how many times.”
OK, so Lewis never owned a microwave… but how can we keep passion alive in our marriages?
Dr. Gary Chapman author of the bestselling Love Languages, says that most of us receive love in five different ways. By discovering our spouse’s “love language” and “speaking” it often, we will be demonstrating and using our passion as God intended. He reminds us that speaking our mate’s love language is not about loving them in ways that we want to be loved, but loving them in ways that they want to receive love.
Chapman suggests these ways to speak your partners love language:
1.Words of affirmation — verbal encouragement, positive and edifying words (Eph 4:29 & 1Cor 8:1)
2.Quality time — togetherness, focused attention or “doing” together (Mark 3:14 Jesus made quality time with his Disciples)
3.Receiving gifts — become concrete expressions of love. They say “I’m thinking of or remembering you” (John 3:16)
4.Acts of service — “doing” requires planning, effort, time and energy (1John 3:18). This is Erika’s primary love language!
5.Physical touch — creates feeling of being connected, comforted, soothed and caressed. (Mark 10:16 Jesus gently touches and blesses children). This is my personal favorite!
By nature, we speak our love language first — we love the way we want to be loved. But if that isn’t our spouse’s love language, it will not communicate the same meaning. We, therefore, need to communicate and discover our spouse’s love language and the best ways to speak it.
Here’s another marriage date-night activity for you:
1.From the list mentioned, list your primary and secondary love language
2.List what you perceive to be your spouse’s primary and secondary love language
3.Share your lists with each other (specially taking notes of how your spouse wants to be loved!)
4.Let your spouse know how he/she can best speak your love language
Recharging Our Intimacy Batteries: knowing that God designed passionate intimacy (spiritual, emotional and physical) for our marriages, building the power of passion by entering the deepest level of communication (sharing our needs with our spouse) and using that power of passion by genuinely loving them by “speaking” their language of love.
In February’s final article in this series, we’ll prepare for the “celebration of marriage” as we unleash the power of passion using some tips to Starting the Physical Intimacy Engine!
Copyright © 2003 Duane Careb, used with permission.
Duane is on staff with Growthtrac and is a regular contributor to our featured article library. He and his wife Erika are voluntary marriage mentors for pre-married couples within their church. They also serve Growthtrac as seminar leaders and teachers of various Bible-based marriage topics custom written upon request. They have five married daughters and seven grandchildren!
Read more about Dr. Harley’s book, Love Busters.