Intimacy Barrier Part 2: Inability to Understand
Yesterday, we learned how making assumptions based on a negative perspective can impact a relationship. Today, authors Carrie and Gary Oliver share one of the secrets to achieving and maintaining intimacy in relationships – appreciating each other’s differences.
Many people act as if everyone else should be exactly like them! We marry because we like the unique things about our spouse that are different from us. I liked that Gary had an abundance of energy, that he had great vision and initiative. I liked that he was a man! I did not know that after we were married, some of these things would be terribly annoying! Differences become barriers when we become critical of each other and how we are different. Some things we may need to negotiate, but other things we can come to accept and perhaps even appreciate about our spouse.
When we travel, Gary likes to take in all that he can from a place that he visits. He likes to find the museums, understand the history, and enjoy all the things the area has to offer. On the island of Maui in Hawaii, one can take a helicopter ride, scuba dive, drive to Hana, bike ride down the Haleakala Crater, windsurf, walk the city of Lahaina – well, you get the picture. Gary would be the type who would want to do all of that on a first trip to Maui. I might want to try a couple of those things, but other than that, I would love playing in the ocean, sun tanning, snorkeling, shopping a little, enjoying fine food, resting, reading and going for walks. Instead of putting each other down for who we are, we have learned to find out what is important to both of us. When we’re on vacation, we decide what we want to do together, what we will do apart, and what we are willing to give up for the relationship.
We don’t have to let our differences be a determiner of who is right or wrong or something that divides us. Oh, the hurt and frustration that can build from differences! Women can feel unloved if their husbands do not want to have long, drawn-out conversations with them on a frequent basis. Yet most men are not built to desire these types of interactions, even though they may pull it off during the dating period.
According to Pat Love and Steven Stosny in their book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, men will often, once they’re married, perceive their home as a safe place just to be quiet. They no longer have to talk about everything, and that feels good to them! Women often see it differently. For most women, coming into marriage is even more opportunity for verbal connection. Most women desire to connect through talking, using feeling words and communicating needs. They have an innate desire to bond, and bonding often takes place through talking. If a woman’s husband is silent, she might believe he is upset with her or feel that her husband is cold and distant. But often husbands who get quiet with their wives feel safe and have a sense of contentment. Who says it is more right to talk a lot! In intimate marriages honesty, vulnerability, and conflict resolution can take place with few words, especially when we come to trust and understand each other.
What is important here is to see that differences in our gender, our personality, and our cultural background can be strong barriers to knowing each other and experiencing the level of intimacy we want. We must learn what our differences are and then have a love and tolerance for these differences.
Taken with permission from Carrie and Gary Oliver’s book, Mad About Us: Moving from Anger to Intimacy with Your Spouse .
Action for today
Recall some of the unique differences you first noticed and admired in your spouse and ask yourself whether they’re still a source of attraction or if they’ve become an annoyance. If they annoy you, shift your thinking. Remember, differences do not have to be a determiner of who is right or wrong. They are just different. You can learn to appreciate differences and love your spouse and/or child’s uniqueness.
Dr. Gary Oliver has over 30 years experience in individual, premarital, marital and family counseling and for the past 20 years he has had an extensive nationwide teaching ministry.