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Marital Intimacy Skills -- Can They be Trained?
Marital intimacy is highly correlated to satisfaction in a marriage, and it is also seen as one of the factors that lead to a long-term marriage. The data and the Bible both suggest that a person can be trained to experience and give marital intimacy, and there are techniques that have been proven by research. Therapists have worked with cognitive therapies that change an individual's perceptions of their marriage, and other treatments that involve both members of the couple have been successful also, and they have also used focused therapy that has had good results. The Biblical view is that these elements can be taught also, and that it is in the best interest of the couple to seek this intimacy. Biblical scholars have detailed how marriage intimacy was ordained by God when He presided over the first marriage. Research into the efficacy of counseling when a person is injured in a way that reduces their ability to experience intimacy is also examined.
Marital Intimacy Skill -- Can They be Trained?
Marriage, as a concept, has become one of the most talked about subjects in the United States over the past few years. The idea that a man and a woman made up the couple within a marriage, but that notion is being challenged. Largely on the basis of the external benefits of marriage. Couples other than the traditional often live together for long periods of time, but they did not need the contractual agreement until just recently. This fact is coupled with the stories about the death of marriage (Coontz, 2007), or the fact that couples are saying that they do not feel the same need to get married that they once did and are cohabitating. One thing that has not changed about this relationship though is the fact that people believe that marriage should be joined by two people who are intimately connected (Polinska, 2011). As a matter of fact, people still believe that marriage, as an institution is one of the most honored in all of American society Coontz (2007) stated
"The percentage of people who believe it is acceptable to cheat, lie, or keep secrets in a marriage has fallen over the past 40 years. Many couples work hard to enrich their relationship and deepen their intimacy, with a dedication that would astonish most couples of the past."
This would actually surprise most people because the divorce rate is as high now as it has ever been (Polinska, 2011). However, though people may not get married as readily as they once did, they still believe that once married they should stay together (Coontz, 2007).
This leads to a discussion of marital intimacy and whether it can be taught to couples who have either lost it, or have at least experienced its ebb. The fact that people believe that married partners should be married is not a surprise, but that intimacy can be enhanced through a course or therapy may surprise people. This research paper looks at marriage from both a Biblical and a secular stance and tries to make an argument that not only can intimacy be taught, but that it has been since ancient times.
The earliest known history of a man and a woman engaging in what people today would know as marriage was when God joined Adam and Eve together and Adam said "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). However, it is before this, in Genesis 2:18 that God speaks of the intimacy that a man needs. He said "it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." It is not the mention of the word "alone" that indicates the intimacy God wants for the man and the woman, but the word "helpmeet." In later verses, especially in the New testament it explains that a helpmeet is someone honored by her husband and loved (1 Peter 3:7; Eph. 5:25). However, the history of marriage changed over the millennia.
It could be said that God did arrange the first marriage, but since there were only two people around at the time, there was no other alternative. Arranged marriages were the norm for much of history. It is only recently that people, no matter what their class or caste, have been able to choose their own mate. The reason for this was that "Marriage was seen as a means of enlarging one's economic enterprise, acquiring powerful in-laws, strengthening military alliances, or (for the less privileged) enlarging the family's labor force" Polinska, 2011). Marriage was a way to add to the family, and it could not be left up to the two people who were to be wed because they may not choose the most advantageous match. In the case of the economically disadvantaged, there often were not many people to choose from (especially if it was a period in history when men were at war constantly or adventuring in new lands). But times changed, as they often do, because of shift in the prevalent thought process. "Romantic love became widely accepted only in the nineteenth century under the influence of enlightenment thought, ideals of the French and American Revolutions and of the romantic movement" (Polinska, 2011). This does not mean that people did not fall in love and marry prior to this time, but that people were primarily brought together instead of finding one another on their own.
The idea of intimacy was different to. Prior to the early part of the twentieth century, women were thought of as property (Coontz, 2007). She was first owned by her father, and he passed that ownership to the husband. Because of this arrangement, intimacy was not as much of a concern back then (Coontz, 2007).
Marital intimacy was one of God's concerns though, as has already been shown through a reading of some scripture. However, He explained the concept even better in the writings of Paul. Not only did God wish an intimate connection on couples, He told them how to achieve the perfect intimacy with one another. Ephesians chapter five has the most detailed explanation of how men and women in a marital bond are to act towards one another. To wives He says "Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:22). This may seem like a dire pronouncement for the wife, but in verse 25 of the same chapter He says to the man "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it." The wife is to submit herself to a man who loves her the way Christ loved and cherished the church enough to die a horrible death for it. That is an amazing statement and one difficult to live up to. At the end of the chapter God reminds them "Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverences her husband" (Eph. 5: 33). So, the husband is to show love to his wife as the most intimacy inducing act he can produce, and the wife is to reverence, or have respect for, her husband as her gift of intimacy. God gave the instruction that was most needed to men and women according to their individual gifts, but people have had a hard time following the advice.
Intimacy can be said to include the sexual aspect of the marriage, but that is not the sole progenitor of intimate feelings. Stahman (2004) relates the different dimensions of intimacy, and lists them as: "social, emotional, cognitive/planning, financial, spiritual, intergenerational, affectional, and sexual" (Stahman, 2004). The social aspect is with regard to how the couple spends their time together. This does not mean that the couple does everything together or that they do not have some disparate interests, but that when they are together, they enjoy the time that they have together (Stahman, 2004). The emotional dimension has more to do with how the couple reacts to thought of the other when they are apart. It also has to do with the fact that the partners feel secure when they think about the other person. Most couples also have strong feelings that they will work to build a long-term relationship together (Polinska, 2011). Because of this, the couple will feel the need to come to decisions based on that goal and plan their future together. Many times couples who have experienced divorce say that money was a primary reason for the disunion (Coontz, 2007). The opposite of disunion is a unity of purpose with regard to the couple's thought about financial planning, and how they will earn the money that they make as a couple. There are also many couples that have survived the fact that they have been raised with religious and…[continue]
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