This article will be discussing both communication and intimacy (spiritual and physical).
Before I dive in, allow me to formally introduce myself. My name is Clayton Prater. I am a retired Sergeant First Class (SFC) of the United States Army, having served my entire 20+ year career on active duty. I’ll be celebrating my eleventh wedding anniversary with the woman God handpicked for me. Needless to say, I’m one lucky man.
Without further ado, let’s begin with communication.
A couple days ago, my wife came to me and said, “Hey, you have to write an article.” I guess that’s a form of communication. Honestly, that’s how our communication has been most of our married life.
While serving in the Army, I was responsible for troops, training, schedules, counseling, soldier issues, and the list goes on and on. To whom much is given, much is required. So my wife would tell me where I had to be, what time I had to be there, and what I needed to wear. It worked for us. It worked for me. Apparently, she hasn’t quite let go of that role.
However, our communication has not always been so. In fact, the word communication couldn’t be found in our marriage dictionary during our first three or four years of marriage.
“What’s for dinner?”
“What did you do all day, because the house isn’t clean?”
“Can you be quiet? I’m watching ESPN.”
“Can you be any more annoying?”
Yes, those were the words that came directly from my lips to her ears.
Beginning in Ephesians 5:25, Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”
Let’s break down the word splendor from this passage:
- Splendor is defined as “brilliant or gorgeous appearance.” I never told my wife how beautiful she was. Instead, I tore her down with my words.
- Splendor is defined as “a display of imposing grandeur.” I treated my wife like someone would treat a piece of furniture left on the curb with a sign that read “FREE.”
- Splendor is defined as “magnificence; great brightness; brilliant light or luster.” I spoke to my wife like she was ordinary instead of extraordinary. I verbally and nonverbally communicated to my wife that she was bland, lacking magnificence, and dull.
I was neglecting my wife and tearing her down with my words. James 3:8 says, “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” I was injecting poison into my wife with my words.
Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; cause me to understand wherein I have erred. (Job 6:24)
Our marriage finally came to a crossroad. I wanted out; she said no. I threatened to take the car that was in my name; I threatened divorce; I threatened everything in between. She said no. It wasn’t until I was given an ultimatum (which I will discuss more later) that I finally turned from my wicked ways. Another deployment to Iraq also helped with my ability in communicating with her.
While deployed, I began diving more into God’s infallible Word. I held Bible studies. I gave spiritual counsel to Christians and non-Christians alike. I read and studied more about communicating with my wife. She was a beautiful flower, surrounded by weeds, struggling to not be overtaken and wither away; yet I was the weed master. I began writing letters home, telling her how much I cared for her and how beautiful she was. When I spoke to her on the phone, I let her know how important she was to me. I learned that the little things I said made big impacts.
“I love you.”
“Wow! You look amazing!”
“I am so lucky to have you in my life.”
Little words make a huge impact.
Throughout this deployment, I focused on loving my wife. I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Although Chan is talking about critiquing the church, this book helped me to speak words of encouragement and love to my wife.
I also reread The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In order for me to effectively communicate with my wife, I had to know her love language. While my love language is receiving gifts, hers is words of affirmation. She knew I loved her, but needed to hear me say, “I love you.” She needed to hear how beautiful, smart, gorgeous, amazing, and magnificent she was. In his book, Chapman explains how my wife has a love bank. In order for me to make withdrawals from the love bank, I had to make deposits. The problem was that I never made deposits. Her love bank was overdrawn.
Another book I read was Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). If you want to know how Solomon felt about a woman, read this poetic love letter.
Where did it all go wrong? I used to tell her all these things before we married. Why did I stop?
I wish I had an answer. I can’t pinpoint when I stopped telling her these words of affirmation. My communication began to change after we got married. I won the prize, so why keep playing the game? She said, “I do,” so why keep putting forth the effort? I expected her to treat me like a king while I treated her like the court jester.
We listened to a study on a podcast or CD about marriage once. The author stated that marriage is not 50/50, but rather 100/100. Even when your spouse isn’t giving 100%, you must still uphold your 100%. All my life I was told marriage was 50/50. I was told marriage must be built on a firm foundation, but let’s face it – that’s just a make-believe term someone used to sell a book. I wasn’t giving my 100% in our marriage and I had to change, starting with my communication.
I also began sharing everything with my wife – my fears, my dreams, my hopes, my aspirations, my thoughts, my beliefs, my values, my hopes for our kids, and everything in between. This was difficult for me. However, once I began cracking that hard outer shell, everything else became easier.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22)
My communication had a major inconsistency. If you were to ask me to pray in front of 20,000 people, I would happily oblige. I’m comfortable praying with my children, with friends, and even with strangers. I’m not the most disciplined about it, but I love to pray. Why is it that I will accept almost any excuse not to pray with my wife? I love my wife dearly and am well pleased with her, with our marriage, and with our life together.
I have a few guesses why it’s so difficult to pray with my wife:
- She knows me too well. Twenty thousand men gathered together aren’t quite so intimately aware of my shortcomings. I feel like a hypocrite when I talk to God with her. However, this actually creates a great benefit, doesn’t it? If I feel like a hypocrite, then the opportunities for true intimacy should be apparent.
- Praying with my wife has probably 10 times the impact in the spiritual realm that praying with 20,000 strangers does, so Satan is probably much more motivated to dissuade me from praying with my wife. Only God knows the impact of hundreds of small prayers over the decades, but I know that praying with my wife certainly has 10 times more impact on my daily spiritual life than praying with a crowd.
- I hate feeling foolish, especially with the woman I promised to cherish, love, and honor. I feel like I need to be clever, creative, and eloquent with my words.
- I wasn’t sure what to do or what to say. However, I’ve learned that not knowing is more often an excuse than it is reality. There is a difference between not knowing and not doing. I’m guilty of not doing as much as I should.
Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Allow God to be among you. In time, the prayers with your wife will have an impact on your marriage.
On a side note: Ladies, sometimes your husband just needs a little help. He needs a kick-start of sorts. Sometimes it takes you to begin the prayer. Yes, before you say anything, I know your husband is the spiritual leader of the house and the responsibility rests squarely upon his shoulders. Look at your husband and ask yourself, “Is he comfortable praying in front of strangers? Praying in front of church leaders? Praying with his children?” If any of those answers are yes, then ask yourself, “Why isn’t he comfortable praying with me?” Crazy question, right? Well, allow me to elaborate with my personal beliefs on this matter.
- Strangers don’t know me. It’s too easy for me to pray for them and with them. It’s also a possibility that I’ll probably never see them again.
- I’m supposed to pray in front of church leaders, right? Don’t I want leaders in my church to know that my family is “squared away”? I am the spiritual leader. I am supposed to pray in front of and for my pastor, my deacons, the sick, the tired, the financially unstable, the lost, the missionaries, etc. Although it may sound like a façade – praying in front of and for the ministry but not with my wife – I assure you it’s not. My prayers are sincere. I am the spiritual leader in my home. I read scriptures everyday. I pray everyday.
- My children think I hung the moon. I can do no wrong in their eyes. When they need toys put together – Daddy. When they need batteries installed – Daddy. When they want to ride their bikes – Daddy. When they need help building a LEGO structure – Daddy. When they want to wrestle – Daddy. When they’re scared at night – Daddy. Daddy is the be-all and end-all. Daddy is strong. Daddy defeats the boogeyman. Daddy makes the best pancakes. Daddy loves his children. Why wouldn’t Daddy pray with his children?
- Why not pray with my wife? Tough question. I wish I had the answer. I’ve prayed with my wife a few times. However, it’s not enough. I know it and she knows it. I try to do better, but it seldom ever happens. Why not? My wife knows me intimately. She knows my faults. She knows my shortcomings. I love my wife more than I could ever put into words. I know this and she knows this. More importantly, God knows this. All I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, is that praying with your wife is one of the most intimate things you will ever do. Prayer tears down walls and makes us men feel vulnerable. Isn’t that what God wants, though? He wants us vulnerable. He wants us yearning for Him. He wants us to lead our families and love our wives as Christ loves the church!
That’s the thoughts I wanted to share about communication. I apologize for the length, but I felt it was important.
Now let’s venture into intimacy. Where should I begin? How far should I go before embarrassing my wife? Oh, the roads I could travel.
Our path to marriage was a speed race. We met, we talked, we eloped. However, that’s not the reason for the lack of intimacy. Honestly, I had no experience in this realm. I mean, I did, but I didn’t. To put it mildly, I had a lot of experience with relations, but not relationships.
I lived a very promiscuous life prior to my marriage, but it was never supposed to be that way. I had morals and strict values I set for myself. I would not have sex until I married; women were to be treated as queens; I would always be a man of honor; and the list goes on. These were the values I set for myself and lived by until lust took over my life and I succumbed to its passionate temptation. My wife had no idea the skeletons I kept hidden in my closet.
Next came the pornography. Actually, first came the pornography. I would sneak and watch these movies and look at these magazines whenever I had the chance. I was infatuated with the female body.
1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.” In my mind, I thought that by watching these videos, I would know how to please a woman. That was far from the truth.
Insidious is a blind inception.
The thrill of pornography became an addiction that carried over into my marriage. I thought it was okay because many of my married friends kept pornographic material in their homes. Besides, it wasn’t like I was having a physical relationship with another woman, right? Wrong. My addiction grew from an occasional viewing to an everyday obsession. Oh, what tangled webs we weave when we lie and deceive. It all came crashing down when my wife gave me an ultimatum.
We weren’t intimate during our first couple years of marriage. Actually, I wasn’t intimate with my wife. I was receiving all I needed from porn. She knew I watched porn and asked me to quit. I denied her request. She requested again and I told her I would stop. She knew I didn’t stop.
A righteous man hates lying, but a wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame. (Proverbs 13:5)
I would deny my wife any form of intimacy. We were newlyweds, but she felt like a stranger in our home. She finally gave me the ultimatum . . . the porn or her.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Hebrews 13:4)
I was reminded of the above passage each time I turned to porn. I was reminded of this passage every time I looked at my wife. Although I never cheated on her in the physical sense, I cheated on her mentally through my addiction.
We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.
I chose my wife. It was a struggle to get past my addiction. However, I had an accountability partner – my wife. We moved the computer from the basement to the family room. She monitored the sites I visited. She asked me how I was doing. She was being more than just my wife; she was being a friend who cared about my recovery.
The intimacy in our marriage remained stale, but my wife remained pregnant. Six months after the birth of my youngest, I deployed again. Oddly enough, this was the spark that was needed to light the flame in our marriage.
My wife wrote me letters that included scripture references from Song of Solomon.
You are all fair, my love, and there is no spot in you. You have ravished my heart, with one look of your eyes. How fair is your love. How much better than wine is your love, and the scent of your perfumes than all spices! Your lips, O my spouse, drip as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under your tongue. (Song of Solomon 4)
Our intimacy has taken a 180 degree turn since our first few years of marriage. I did not treat her as the woman God handpicked for me. Once I came to grips with my faults and shortcomings as a husband, I felt like the worst man in the world. How could I have been so stupid?
I began this journey of intimacy with words. Words, you ask? Yes, words. As previously mentioned, my wife’s love language is words of affirmation. She needed to not only hear me say all the things a woman loves to hear, but she needed to feel them in her heart.
First, I apologized. Then I apologized some more. Then I continued to apologize. Next, I owned up to my mistakes. I met them head on. I was open and candid about my failures.
I became vulnerable, but it was necessary for our marriage. Although my wife’s love language is engulfed with words, that didn’t stop me from buying her flowers or chocolate peanut butter cups. It’s all about the little things.
Every woman has doubts about their bodies. The things we say can have a negative impact on our wives for many years. I was never the greatest with expressing my feelings. My excuse was that I’m a man. My excuse was that I’m a soldier who was responsible for lives in the heat of combat. My excuse was . . . me.
Excuses are tools of incompetence used to build monuments of nothing; and those that dwell within seldom amount to anything more than excuses.
The change had to start with me by stopping the excuses. Actually, it had to start with me to stop being the excuse. I had to love my wife. More importantly, my wife had to hear, see, and feel how much I loved her.
As a husband, I consider intimacy to be one way while my wife considers it to be another way. My wife would send me romantic gestures that often went unnoticed. I don’t pick up on gestures. When I’m in “the mood,” everything she does is a romantic gesture.
Here’s a few things I changed:
- I started and ended each day by talking to her.
- Instead of talking at her, I talked to her.
- I expressed my need for her.
- I expressed her value to me.
- We snuggled together more often.
- I sucked it up and watched The Notebook.
- I let go of the small stuff.
- When we spoke, I put down any distractions and made eye contact.
- I made dinner from time to time.
- I baked her favorite cookies often.
- I showed her affection without sexual intentions.
Obviously I’m not an expert on intimacy in marriage. I’m making changes for the better, and I’m continuing to make strides. The most important thing is loving my wife. She is beautiful and I’m lucky to have her. I’ve been graced by the love of God when He, Himself, handpicked this woman to be my bride.