“Love is a fever. When a man is in love, he endures more than at other times; he submits to everything,” says Freidrich Nietzche.
However, the very act of marriage sometimes serves as an antipyretic, bringing down Love’s fever to a tepid state. Then the man begins to treat the woman he wooed and won, like a piece of furniture – comfortable, useful and preferably long lasting.
No marriage can be durable without that priceless ingredient called Intimacy. Without its unifying strength, the marriage is likely to be unstable, and in danger of collapsing.
Marriage is a state of interdependence. Two imperfect human beings enter into a contractual obligation to mutually love and cherish each other. They strive for a oneness that excludes all others from their inner intimacies and physical relationships.
This interdependence however, is extremely difficult for a man. He needs to be in control of every situation. By becoming a part of another human being he feels threatened and believes it will diminish his stature.
Intimacy doesn’t mean loss of personality. In spite of differences in character, temperament and background, the husband and wife must interact and influence each other until over the years, it becomes impossible to think of one without the other. It is a process of growth which is perfected gradually, provided there is mutual caring and sharing.
Like runners in a three legged race, they learn to run smoothly despite the being two separate people. This becomes possible only when their relationship takes precedence over all other relationships – with parents, children or friends.
Dedication to each other, tolerance of each other’s failures and weaknesses, a cleaving together through all the vicissitudes of life, makes marriage the ultimate experience in life.
Intimacy is expressed on many levels –physical, emotional and sexual. Many well educated intellectual men make a mess of their marriages because they are lacking in knowledge concerning the basics in intramarital relationships.
They are ignorant of the fact that a woman blossoms when she is loved and cherished. Wooing must not stop with courtship but must go on through life, to keep a marriage alive and prevent it from getting into a rut.
Here are a few simple guidelines to achieve physical and emotional intimacy.
Be involved: A man usually is an attention getter. He does not take kindly to a wife stealing the limelight. But putting her interests and her welfare above his own, is complying with the Scriptural edict, “Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself.” He must rejoice in her successes.
Be accommodating: Men sometimes fantasize about a perfect wife. No such paragon exists. The earlier he learns this and accepts her for herself, with all her strengths and despite her weaknesses, the better it will be for their relationship.
At the same time, he should be aware of his own shortcomings and apologize when he is wrong, and never rub it in when he is right.
Be affectionate: Men dislike demonstrations of affection. But a woman thrives on it. Touching in non sexual ways – a hug, an embrace, an endearment, a loving look, could make her day.
Touch is like the balm of Gilead, an emollient to the rough edges of marriage. While it might be asking too much of some men to regularly remember birthdays and anniversaries, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to try. And today’s generation of wives would expect them to.
Be loyal: Many men treat their wives as imbeciles, unable to make decisions on vital issues. They insult them in the presence of others. Scoring points against a wife who is too embarrassed or too timid to retaliate, is cowardice.
Be appreciative: A sincere compliment about her appearance, her talents, and her home management skills will ensure lifelong loyalty.
Flirtations by wives are danger signals. They must be taken seriously, and action taken at once to rectify the underlying problem. A man who takes his wife for granted and ignores signs of unrest such as moodiness, sulks, anger, absent mindedness, will realize to his regret that procrastination makes resolution all the more difficult. She is only making a desperate plea to be heard, understood and loved.
A woman is not a robot to be programmed and left to function mechanically. There are many dimensions to her character – physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.
A woman is called upon to play multiple roles during her lifetime as wife, lover, friend, confidante and parent. No human being can be perfect in all roles. Switching back and forth between these roles is a psychological strain. Under these circumstances, it is a wonder that more women don’t suffer from split personalities. Unfavourable comparisons can also demoralize a woman and shatter her self esteem.
Most men don’t realize that what happens outside the bedroom is related to what happens within. Merely closing the door on the rest of the world does not turn her on.
The woman of today is aware of her sexuality. She is conscious of being a unique creature “fearfully and wonderfully made,” to be an equal partner in the game of life. Sexuality is intimately bound up with her roles both outside and inside the bedroom, and the best aphrodisiac is tenderness and caring.
“Sexuality and affection cannot be compartmentalized. Good sex is a continuum of closeness and affection,” says Virginia John Masters.
The change of perception regarding female sexuality, the renewal of interest in female physiology, and the openness in all things pertaining to sex, have created an awareness that a woman is not just a passive receptacle for man’s passion, but that she is capable of a response involving body, mind and emotions. She is therefore an active contributor to sexual mutuality.
With the discovery of the incredible G-spot in 1944, and the demystification of this physiological process, a change has taken place in the biological destiny of every woman.
The man must therefore take note of her positive identity, and not make sex a predictable routine. There should be no embarrassment about each other’s bodies. Only when communication barriers are removed will sexual intimacy be possible.
Manners and technique, hygiene, the importance of a romantic prelude, and gestures of love will nurture intimacy. It will eliminate the need of a woman to fake orgasms merely to please her husband. If this faking becomes habitual, she may lose interest in sex altogether.
Why does a woman need to bluff in bed? Because she feels that she is being critically evaluated by her husband. But this never need be the case where there is openness, and where the husband pays attention to her needs and his technique. Men should also be aware of what is physically attractive to women. Body odour, halitosis and lack of cleanliness can paralyze a woman sexually.
However, sex is only one aspect of a marital relationship. Sexual problems need not be synonymous with marital problems. A large number of couples, who are happy in marriage, confess that their sexual lives are nothing to rave about.
There are many women who go through life without experiencing orgasms, but who still enjoy intercourse. It is the feelings that one brings or fails to bring to the relationship that influences intimacy.
How nice it would be if a computer was tucked into every marriage! It is so sharp in highlighting mistakes. “Error in sequence,” “Word not in directory,” “Are you sure?” it would ask, and unless the mistakes are corrected, the marriage would be put on hold.
No marriage can be beautiful without intimacy and tenderness.