4. Lean into all the forms of intimacy.
In the middle of all of this, Matt and I were working together in ministry. We had a podcast. We were raising two daughters. This side-by-side ministry and parenting offered moments of sideways glances where we would silently say, Oh, yeah! I like you. I forget sometimes. Just because one area of our lives was in pain didn’t mean we had to give up on all the areas.
Another place where we could lean in was emotionally. Focusing here actually helped me understand physical intimacy more clearly.
“What does my reaching out to you physically do for you?” I asked Matt during a date night. I was trying to break apart my paradigm of men as sex-focused fiends. I believed for many years Matt was different from other men, but the emerging memory was clouding my sight. “Does physical connection do something to your heart?”
“Yes,” he said, putting down his fork. “It tells me that you like me.” He walked into the next part tenderly. “When your perpetrators stole from you physically they said, ‘I only like your body.’ When you don’t want to be close to me physically, it says, ‘I only like your emotions.’ But my body is a part of me. I am holistic.”
Oh my word. I can steal from Matt emotionally, I thought. I suddenly had a fraction of sympathy for my perpetrators who physically stole from me, and empathy for Matt when I demanded from him emotionally. I didn’t want to steal from him like my perpetrators stole from me.
“Men are bigger than women physically,” Matt continued. “You probably innately know that we can overpower you.” I considered this and nodded. “But women are stronger emotionally. You can overpower us with your emotional prowess. We can feel helpless and at a loss at your emotional dominance. So when you step into the physical world of mine, I feel simultaneously loved and like I need to tenderly care for you there. But when you step into the emotional world of yours, you feel loved and like you need to tenderly care for my heart there.”
This conversation launched a huge mental shift in the way I viewed emotional and physical connection. Matt does not get to demand physical intimacy from me. Neither do I get to demand emotional intimacy from him.
Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:33).
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