You can be close to a good friend you’ve known since childhood or college days. You can be close to a sibling, your parents, or a cousin who’s about your same age. But nothing rivals the closeness that’s experienced between a husband and wife. Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships.
That’s why we need it so much. Each of us comes into life with an inborn hunger to be known, love, and accepted. We want people to know your name, to recognize us when they see us, and to value who we are. The prospect of sharing our home with another person who knows us down to the most intimate detail is part of the deep pleasure of marriage.
Yet this great blessing is also the site of its greatest danger. Someone who knows us this intimately can either love us at a depth we never imagined, or can wound us in ways we may never fully recover from. It’s both the fire and the fear of marriage.
Which of these are you experiencing the most in your home right now? Are the secrets your spouse knows about you reasons for shame, or reason for drawing you closer? If your spouse were to answer this same question, would they say you make them feel safe, or scared?
If home is not considered a place of safety, you will both be tempted to seek it somewhere else. Perhaps you might look to another person initiating a relationship that either flirts with adultery or actually enters in. You may look for comfort in work or outside hobbies, something that partially shields you from intimacy but also keeps you around people who respect and accept you.
Your mate should not feel pressured to be perfect in order to receive your approval. They should not walk on eggshells in the very place where they ought to feel the most comfortable in their bare feet. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). The atmosphere in your marriage should be one of freedom. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, your closeness should only intensify your intimacy. Being “naked” and “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25) should exist in the same sentence, right in your marriage – physically and emotionally.
Admittedly, this is tender territory. Marriage has unloaded another person’s baggage into your life, and yours into theirs. Both of you have reason to feel embarrassed that this much has been revealed about you to another living soul. But this is your opportunity to wrap all this private information about them in the protective embrace of your love, and promise to be the one who can best help him or her deal with it.
Some of these secrets may need correcting. Therefore, you can be an agent of healing and repair – not by lecturing, not by criticizing, but by listening in love and offering support.
Some of these secrets just need to be accepted. They are part of this person’s make-up and history. And though these issues may not be very pleasant to deal with, they will always require a gentle touch.
In either case, you and you alone wield the power either to reject your spouse because of this or to welcome them in – warts and all. They will either know they’re in a place of safety where they are free to make mistakes, or they will recoil into themselves and be lost to you, perhaps forever. Loving them well should be your life’s work.
Think of it this way. No one knows you better than God does, the One who made you. The writer of Psalm 139 was right when he said, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all” (Psalm 139:2-4).
And yet God, who knows secrets about us that we even hide from ourselves, loves us at a depth we cannot begin to fathom. How much more should we – as imperfect people – reach out to our spouse in grace and understanding, accepting them for who they are and assuring them that their secrets are safe with us?
This may be an area where you’ve really failed in the past. If so, don’t expect your mate to immediately give you wide-open access to their heart. You must begin to rebuild trust. Jesus Himself is described as One who doesn’t barge into people’s lives but who stands at the door and knocks. “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and I will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
The reality of intimacy always takes time to develop, especially after being compromised. But your commitment to re-establishing it can happen today – for anyone willing to take the dare.
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
– Proverbs 17:9 NIV
Determine to guard your mate’s secrets (unless they are dangerous to them or to you) and to pray for them. Talk with your spouse, and resolve to demonstrate love in spite of these issues. Really listen to them when they share personal thoughts and struggles with you. Make them feel safe.