3 years. 1095 days. That’s how long it took for my marriage to get intimate.
And when I say intimate, I don’t mean the sexual kind because while sex is intimacy, intimacy is not just sex.
Our journey began one cold October night, on our first anniversary.
“So”, I started, “I think we should just have this be an open forum. A debrief of our first year of marriage. Full Michael Scott style 'immunity'. You can say whatever you want, and I can’t hold it against you - and vice versa. I want to first talk about what has been driving each of us up the wall this past year, and then we can talk about what we loved about it and want to keep doing more of.”
This doesn’t seem like your typical exercise in intimacy - unloading one’s matrimonial grievances, especially on your spouse! I can imagine most of you are thinking this is like dry tinder in a hot box in a marriage. But we’ve always had a relationship where we wanted to do better, and we started out that way. We have always wanted to know what was on each others mind, and how we could meet each other's needs the best we could.
So that first year, as we sat in that little restaurant in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago - over frothy whiskey sours, french fries, and pot de creme, we hashed out the previous year's delights and complaints. And it was mostly about piles of dirty laundry and snoring. Nothing too serious.
But then there was our third anniversary.
We sat across from each other and Andrew took my hands in his. He looked in my eyes, and so sincerely (this I remember perfectly) said, “I’ll start by saying this...thank you for moving to Connecticut with me. I couldn’t have done this without you.”
And that’s when I felt my face get hot. And the following words tumble out of my mouth unfiltered.
“Well...I could have done this without you.” I slowly replied, “I could have stayed back in Chicago. I could have kept my life there. I had to move with you. We’re married.”
That’s all I really remember from the rest of the conversation. I had ruined our evening and disappointed Andrew. Wasn’t this what our anniversary ritual was about? Being open and honest about the past year of marriage?
Sometimes on the surface level of marriage, it doesn’t seem like you should be able to talk about everything - but please know you can and should.
Certainly, I’ve had times (like the one I shared above) that have made me feel bad for speaking my mind, but what is intimacy without a full, unashamed baring of oneself? Opening up at a level like this does not have to turn into an explosion but instead can be an honest conversation. An unloading. A bearing each other’s burdens together. And this is good, natural even.
Here are our three keys to cultivating a deeper intimacy within our marriage:
Be full of grace.
Grace within marriage does not equal becoming a doormat. It does not mean people pleasing. It does not mean settling for unhealthy behavior in your spouse. Grace within marriage is beautiful acceptance, no matter the circumstance. It's truly loving. It’s our vows. Remember this. Allow each other space and grace to truly speak and hear one another.
Growing intimacy is work. It can come easy to some, but there is an emotional labor to it all. The biggest thing you can do for your partner (and yourself!) is to be willing to grow. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be willing to be wrong. Whatever your partner is asking of you, first be willing.
The more space we give our partner to be themselves, share their inner-most self, and be honest about what’s going on for them in the moment - the more they will be willing to be that for you. Be courageous and love them just as they are.