No intimacy in a marriage has many consequences. One of the biggest complaints I hear from couples is that they feel more like roomies than lovers—not what they signed on for. However, there are many varying forms and levels of intimacy; each couple is unique. Every person has a different drive and desire level. So, there are no magic solutions for lack of intimacy, although many behaviors steal connection from a marriage. Eliminate those, and you'll be on your way to a healthier and happier relationship.
Relationship is a lot like building or renovating a house. We change and decorate our home to make it feel comfortable and fit us as a couple. With that analogy in mind, a few years ago, I combed the internet and all the local stores for new window coverings, specifically blinds. My husband and I were replacing old ’60s wooden blinds in our living room to let in more light. And once we installed our new Hunter Douglas honeycomb blinds—what a difference! Easier to use, incredibly lightweight, allowed for maximum light while giving us privacy with the slightest touch and effort.
So, what do window blinds have to do with love and marriage? Actually, a lot!
Open the Blinds for More Intimacy in Marriage
We all have some form of window coverings, often blinds. But we have another kind of blinds, too. As we grow up, our brain is wiring the neural pathways through our experiences. Our childhood experiences and what we decide about these experiences literally design the windows (and their coverings) to our soul. They define our place in the world.
Our family of origin molds how we see the world. Those early developmental years construct limiting beliefs, which act as blinds (or blinders), blocking the light of insight, understanding, and love. Our childhood experiences build our sense of self, define our place in the world, and show us how to be in a relationship. In essence, they teach us about love. And what we learn about how safe the world and relationship are profoundly impacts our intimacy in marriage.
So ask yourself, “Is it time for an upgrade of blinds?”—not necessarily for your home, but for your mind and your relationship? Is it time to open the blinds and let more love in?
Many times, we are unaware of the limiting and unconscious blinders that impede our full potential and prevent us from truly seeing one another or having emotional intimacy in marriage. Blinders distort our perspective, and inhibit our love, connection, and emotional intimacy with each other—especially with our love partner.
Consider blinds (unconscious beliefs and behaviors) as a way for us to stay safe. We wear a mask that we show the world, cloaking our true self, our vulnerable self. We reserve our inner self for those we love most and who make us feel secure. We test the waters to see what and who is safe.
All unloving behavior are these protections in play. And in marriage and a love relationship, we require safety to peel off our mask. Whenever we act out in unloving ways toward our partner, we jeopardize closeness. The desire and ability to be intimate decline on so many levels: socially, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, physically, affectionately, and sexually.
Here are a few behaviors that inhibit safety for your partner:
- words and actions that don't match
- disrespect or pretending to listen
- lying or withholding truth
- sarcasm, criticism, or belittlement
- nagging, shaming, or judging
- controlling your partner
- unresolved conflicts that fester
Let me give you some personal examples from when my husband and I were first married that may help understand this concept.
Growing up with an alcoholic father, I had the ole '60s heavy, clunky blinds over my eyes that served as blinders. If blinders could talk, they might say something like:
- “Dad doesn’t (men don’t) care about me.”
- “Dad doesn’t (men don’t) show up for me!”
- “Dad is (men are) distant and checked out.”
So when I first got married, I viewed my husband through these blinds. (And whatever we look for, we will find.) Of course, I found all the ways he didn’t show up, and I kept out all the ways he loved me. I was so busy gathering evidence of all the ways he didn’t care that I missed all the ways he was tremendously caring and attentive.
Blinders prevent us from seeing our partner accurately and block so much richness and love!
Let me show you what I mean. My husband’s actions were benign but because of my blinders (childhood conditioning), the warmth of the sun (the good) was kept out. When he was reading the newspaper = he was ignoring me.
When he watched TV = he was checked out and distant; therefore, I was unimportant to him. If my husband wanted to go out with friends = he cared more about “the boys” than being with me. When he wanted to relax at home after a long day of hard work = he didn’t care because he didn’t help with dinner preparations and all the other household chores screaming at me to be done.
Silly, right? Well, you get the picture.
However, in each of these situations, my husband had legitimate needs and was still very much connected and caring. My years of childhood experiences with my dad created these blinders or limiting beliefs. Sure, I could open the blinds occasionally and see my husband for the wonderful person he was (and is), but they were only glimpses at first... until I took responsibility for my past pain that distorted my perceptions of him.
The challenge arises when we fall in love and enter marriage or a partnership, and unbeknownst to us these blinds become blinders. Blinders can block out love to a point where communication becomes difficult and intimacy impossible.
"We can love to the extent we can see and we can see to the extent we can love."
So the new blinds in our living room remind me of how much my husband and I have grown and how easily we see each other through different eyes.
Keeping your gaze on the positive qualities and learning to identify blind(er)s and raise them (or upgrade them) to let in light and love is so critical. This natural human tendency for projection, or transference, is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about reaching couples as they just start out. If couples can have self-awareness and put their attention on the positive qualities, so much love blossoms. If they can learn to shift their perceptions and choose love beyond differences and conditioning, the highway of love and connection stays wide open and love travels easily.