This study examines marital intimacy skills and the impact that these skills have on the marriage in terms of marital failure or marital success. The work of Fincham, Stanley, and Beach (2006) entitled "Transformative Processes in Marriage: An Analysis of Emerging Trends" reports that it has been argued by Stanley (2007) that we "are in a new stage of marital research that reflects a growing momentum toward larger meanings and deeper motivations about relationships, including a focus on constructs that are decidedly more positive." (p.276) Good marriage is noted as that which makes the provision to spouses of "a sense of meaning in their lives" and it is suggested by Fincham, Stanley, and Beach (2006) that this momentum "has set the stage for examination of transformative, rather than merely incremental changes in relationships. (p.276)
What is Intimacy?
Linaman (2006) writes that intimacy is something that every individual needs and that intimacy in a marriage "exists when a husband and wife allow each other to experience everything they have to offer physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually without fear of criticism, judgment or rejection." Without intimacy Linaman reports that a marriage is not able to thrive and will struggle for survival. (2006, paraphrased) It is reported that couples generally do not think of how barriers to marital intimacy will be dealt with and typically, this is only addressed at the time the couple experiences lack in marital intimacy.
Couples generally have a genuine desire for "closeness, companionship and harmony in their relationship" however there are obstacles to true marital intimacy. Stated as the most common threats to marital intimacy are such as:
(1) pressures from parenting;
(2) financial related stress;
(3) conflict, anger, and forgiveness that is unresolved. (Linaman, 2006)
However, it is reported that depression has a detrimental effect on marital intimacy as well. In fact, 18 million Americans are reported in Linaman's work to experience depression annually and women are twice as susceptible as are men to depression with "one of our every four women" experiencing an episode of depression at least once during their life. Depression, states Linaman, causes individuals who are "otherwise [in] reasonably happy marriages to perceive themselves and their relationships in negative ways often resulting in behaviors that sabotage positive marital interaction." (2006, p.1)
The example stated by Linaman is as follows:
"a husband coming home late from work. His depressed wife interprets it as a sign that he no longer cares for her when, in reality, his boss simply detained him to finish a project. Because of her assumptions, she avoids him when he arrives home. This causes him to feel isolated or rejected, and he, in turn, reacts by finding excuses not to spend time at home. Unless the silence is broken, the cycle of negative perceptions and rejection will undermine intimacy in the relationship." (Linaman, 2006, p.1)
Feelings of disappointment are natural and normal however, only for short periods when expectations but ongoing symptoms of depression must be addressed effectively.
II. Marital Intimacy and Prayer
The manner that the couple addresses the problems in their life matters and according to Beach, Fincham and Hurt: "Marriage and prayer are two intertwined highly valued aspects of the lives of some (most) individuals" and furthermore prayer is stated to be "deeply connected with motivational dynamics in the lives of individuals who believe." (Beach, Fincham and Hurt, 2009) In addition, prayer serves to enhance "and fuels forgiveness" and "impacts relationship quality by stimulated the power of committed love (Agape)." (Beach, Fincham and Hurt, 2009) Finally, prayer "supports and fosters commitment" and this is held to be due to the "probable linkages between eternal perspective and long-term view" of the individuals. (Beach, Fincham and Hurt, 2009)
Prayer serves to assist with effective communication between husband and wife and further serves to regulate negative emotions and assist each individual with seeing the viewpoint of their spouse. Prayer reinforces commitment and motivates positivity, altruism and sacrifice between the married couple. (Beach, Fincham and Hurt, 2009, paraphrased) Prayer adds to the marital skills of the couple and this conception is illustrated as follows:
Source: Beach, Fincham and Hurt (2009)
The work of Boa (nd) entitled "Marriage: Intimates or Inmates?" relates that the scripture contained in the Holy Bible informs one that man did not invent marriage but instead was "instituted by God" and designed "not only to be the basic building block of society, but also to provide an earthy analogy of spiritual truth." (Boa, nd) Marriage is a covenant between a man and woman resulting in oneness "on every level, spirit, soul, and body. This communion and intimacy between marriage partners is designed to reflect the image of God and provide the context for a lasting relationship of love and respect. This relationship in turn is the foundation for the privilege of reproduction and the God-given responsibility of physical, psychological, and spiritual nurturing of children." (Boa, nd)
III. The Male and Female Role in Marriage
Both the male and female role in a marriage each expresses a different aspect of God and together the man and woman "constitute the image of God." (Boa, nd) Several principles are stated in the work of Boa and included is that marriage is designed to be "a relationship of companionship, completion and communion." (Boa, nd) It is important to note the statement of Boa that the marital relationship requires that the couple leave and forsake other relationships so they can experience full commitment and as well that they 'cleave' or mutually commit to the other and become "inseparably joined together." (Boa, nd)
The mystery of marriage as stated in the Holy Bible is that the two (the man and the woman) shall "become one flesh" and this is not only physically but as well "psychologically, and spiritually. (Boa, nd) Boa states that the sexual union of marriage "was designed by God to be a delightful physical expression of a committed love relationship." (Boa, nd) Boa states "Marriage was never intended to be a static or dreary experience that tempts people to look elsewhere for fulfillment, but a dynamic process of deepening completeness and companionship. There is to be a new identity as two people become one in spirit, soul, and body." (Boa, nd)
IV. Different Types of Love
There are different types of love that human beings experience with the highest form of love being what is referred to as 'Agape' love, the form of love, which God has for human beings. There are also other types of love include the following:
(1) Epithumia -- This is a lustful type love in its most negative sense but it can also be used positively in relation to "legitimate desire." (Boa, nd ) Every marriage should possess physical desire and a lack of physical desire in a marriage is a symptom that something is amiss in the marriage, which may include communication problems or other problems or marital stress.
(2) Eros -- This speaks of love, which is characterized by " romantic preoccupation with the beloved. This is an emotional-based love.( Boa, nd)
(3) Storge -- this love while not used in the New Testament speak of love, affection and belonging and that born out of familiarity and is a type love that family members share with one another. This type love is characterized by feelings of security and refuge from the world outside. (Boa, nd)
(4) Phileo -- This is the love of friendship, companionship, and openness. It is the product of shared interests, time, insights, vision, and experiences. Without this dimension of friendship, a marriage will slip into the rut of mediocrity. (Boa, nd)
5. Agape -- This is love characterized by "a willful choice to put another's interest before one's own and to serve another person regardless of his or her response. It relates more to the will than to the emotions. Agape is not theoretical but practical, because it is expressed in actions. Agape is not natural. It is a divine love, and our choice to love others in this way requires us to be willing vessels of God's love. It is not something we can manufacture in the power of the flesh. Agape is the only love which can provide a true foundation for a successful Christian marriage." (Boa, nd)
All types of love except Agape love have shortcomings in the marital relationships and those are noted as follows in the work of Boa (nd):
Eithumia type love is reported as that which may "become addictive and selfish" as it seeks pleasure and the legitimate sexual desire for a spouse can turn into sexual lust for other men or women (Boa, nd);
Eros is reported as a type of love that "can become a tyrant, the feeling of 'being in love' can be so romanticized that is speaks with the voice of a god and leads people into illicit relationships (Boa, nd);
Storge is a type of love that can lead to rudeness, bad manners, jealousy, the…