“A sociologist once observed that the prevalence of intimacy themes in mass media, pop psychology, and ‘alternative lifestyles’ suggests that were driven by hunger for intimate union. It may look like this on the surface, but my clinical work helped me realize that there’s actually something else going on. We’re driven by something that makes us look like we crave intimacy, but in fact we’re after something else: we want someone else to make us feel acceptable and worthwhile. We’ve assigned the label ‘intimacy’ to what we want (validation and reciprocal disclosure) and developed pop psychologies that give it to us–while keeping true intimacy away. We’ve distorted what intimacy is, how it feels, how much we really want it, and how best to get it. Once we realize intimacy is not always soothing and often makes us feel insecure, it is clear why we back away from it.”
—David Schnarch, Passionate Marriage, pp. 39.
Schnarch writes for what many will be a very subtle distinction. But it’s not. Understanding this makes all the difference in a great marriage.
Here is what I often say to couples when I’m counseling them (and really, it’s what was first taught to me by Schnarch in this book years ago, and was later developed in my understanding of marriages and sexual intimacy in my work at The Hideaway Experience):
A great marriage is a relationship where spouses mutually give to one another (love, understanding, sense of worth, love, acceptance, etc, etc.).
But our sense of worth and acceptance should not solely depend on the validation we receive from our spouse. It’s great when we experience it, but it can be exhausting in many marriages where one’s need for validation is a vast pit that can never be filled.
So who we are and what we think and feel about ourselves needs to come from our own self-validation, and in my opinion, ultimately from something/someone bigger than us. Something unmovable that is not dictated by my moods and whims.
And so for me as a Christian, my sense of worth and love and acceptance is rooted in God’s love for me…and it is out of that place that I can freely give to my partner in marriage that I so desire to give.
It’s great when my wife can respond in kind, but who I am should not be dependent on how she feels about me at any given time.
True intimacy is experienced when we mutually share in the the worthiness, love and belonging that is given to us by our Creator.