How to Overcome Common Barriers to Intimacy in Marriage

By Chip Ingram

Whether you’ve been married six weeks or 60 years, you’ve probably experienced some sort of conflict or difficulty in your marriage. Unfortunately, many people mistake normal conflict as a sign that something is drastically wrong with their marriage.

Before I got married, I thought that everyone else was going to have marriage problems, but not me and Theresa! I thought she was sweeter and lovelier and kinder and more wonderful than any other woman in the whole world. So we couldn’t possibly have conflict.

I also foolishly thought that I was going to be the man for her and everything was going to work out great. After all, if two people really love one another then all will just work out, right?

Boy, was I wrong!

As soon as we got back from our honeymoon we got into a huge fight about hanging a picture frame. I thought, wow, did I just mess up? Did I marry the wrong person? I had never been so angry in my life.

In reality, we all struggle with conflict in our relationships because we all experience the common sin barriers to intimacy.

The result of our sin is that we knowingly and unknowingly put up protective walls that keep us from being deeply touched and loved in ways we’re desperate to experience.

In Genesis 3:16-19, we discover that after The Fall the woman’s greatest desire is for emotional connection and a man’s greatest desire is for impact and significance. God’s curse thwarts these deepest longings in both women and men’s hearts.

One the ways this plays out in our marriages is by making an unconscious goal: Meet my needs! Fix me! Satisfy my longings. At the core of our flesh as human beings is our selfishness.

We also respond to one another in different ways out of fear. A woman’s strategy centers on controlling. She wants to control her husband and her world. She wants everything to be in place. Ultimately, she wants control so she doesn’t get abandoned.

A man’s strategy centers on compensating. As he focuses on impact, he struggles with futility and the fear of failure. If he feels inadequate at home in his marriage or family, he often compensates with hobbies and work.

So, what’s God’s solution to our sin barriers of selfishness and fear?

Honest, grace-filled understanding and communication to lovingly pull down the walls, risk vulnerability, and restore intimacy. But this requires us to see our insecurities, admit how rejected we may feel and how unsatisfied we are, and at the same time to ask, “What does my mate need?”

This also requires that we seek God to give us the grace we need so that we, in turn, can be an agents of grace for our spouses.

The truth is that we will never get right with our mates until there is vitality and power in our relationship with Christ.

If you’ve never received Christ, right now you can pray, “Lord, I want my marriage to work and I desperately need you. I believe you died on the cross for my sin. Would you forgive me? I repent. Come into my life right now.”

He’ll meet you right where you are.

For more information about this topic, take a look at Chip’s series: Experiencing God’s Dream for Your Marriage, House or Home: Marriage Edition and Unstuck – Overcoming the Pain of Your Past.

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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