I sat across the table from my friend Jay. He held his head in his hands. “My wife won’t touch me,” he groaned. “We haven’t had sex for months, and she’s not interested. I don’t know what to do.” I wish I could say that Jay is an aberration, but barriers to intimacy are much more common in marriage than you might think.
After all, intimacy is much more than physical, especially for women. Men are more likely to want physical intimacy even if things are wonky in the relationship. However, the majority of women find it difficult, if not impossible, to push through emotional and relational barriers to intimacy for the sake of physical intimacy. If you’re struggling to connect with your wife, here are 5 barriers to intimacy you might be overlooking.
Life gets busy. You’re working long hours, running the kids to practice, working on house projects. Oh, and it’s baseball (or football, or basketball, or soccer) season. In other words, you’ve got a lot on your mind—a lot, that is, besides your wife.
As the years go by, it’s easy to take your wife for granted. After all, she’s busy, too. Before you know it, you’re on autopilot, only responding when things are bad. You might even have a good relationship, but intimacy has slipped out the back door while you were distracted.
Some of us are controlling by nature. Others have learned control as a protective measure. We’ve learned that life can be messy and so we do all we can to keep things under control. When we’re healthy, this can manifest in really positive ways, such as strong attention to detail or a real conscientious streak that pushes you to take responsibility for your actions.Control is one of the strongest barriers to intimacy because by nature, it cannot be taken—it has to be given.
However, if we’re not healthy, this can become suffocating to those around us. We might become increasingly demanding or uncompromising. We hold tightly to what we want and won’t work with those around us. Control is one of the strongest barriers to intimacy because intimacy, by its very nature, cannot be taken—it has to be given. Intimacy requires safety and freedom.
There are obviously destructive fantasies that destroy intimacy, such as porn. Porn creates unrealistic expectations in our minds about sex and intimacy, which can make it very difficult to sustain intimacy with an actual person.
However, there are other, more subtle but also damaging fantasies. We can fantasize about our own wife doing things that our actual flesh and blood wife would not do. We can fantasize that she’s a different kind of person who likes what we want her to like and thinks and acts like we want her to. The key to intimacy is not trying to make your wife someone she’s not, but opening yourself to knowing and being known by the person she actually is.
Fear is an incredibly powerful barrier to intimacy. Now, you may be thinking, “My wife wouldn’t be afraid of me. I’d never do anything to hurt her!” However, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. There’s more to be afraid of than just physical pain.
There is a fear of being vulnerable. Your wife might believe you aren’t safe to share her feelings with. Perhaps she’s experienced being mocked or patronized or ignored by you. You thought you were just “lightening the mood,” but instead, you taught her that you didn’t want to be bothered with her pain. Intimacy requires safety.
There’s this famous command in the Bible about not “coveting your neighbor’s wife.” To covet is to want something that isn’t yours. It’s essentially to be envious. Envy makes you resentful and increases the relational space between you and your wife.
If you are envious of the wife of another, whether it’s because she’s got a better job, is more physically attractive, or perhaps has a personality that you prefer, it’s nearly impossible to receive intimacy with your own wife with gratitude. But just as envy is a choice, so is gratitude. You can choose to see what makes your wife a gift. You can choose to celebrate what is unique and beautiful about her. This choice can only be made by you, and it is the key to dismantling the barriers of intimacy.
Sound off: What other barriers to intimacy exist in marriage?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “Is there anything that makes it difficult for you to feel connected to me?”