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How to live dangerously in marriage

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~ Helen Keller

Creating intimacy between you and another person can be scary, even dangerous at times — but most everyone wants it; to not be alone as you journey through life. There are risks involved with intimacy  — you could feel hurt or embarrassed.

The good news is that you can learn how to cultivate intimacy in ways that fulfill both you and your partner.

To begin, you must realize that you are responsible for you. Too often, people wait for their spouse to make the first move, to initiate the conversation, to walk over and offer the hug or shoulder to cry on. The problem with this strategy is that you have no control over someone else’s actions. All you can control is you.

1. Focus Your Attention

Intimacy begins with the simple things.  Notice your partner, listen to them, and offer thanks when they help out in your world. Relationships struggle when one partner says things like, “You haven’t heard a thing I’ve said for the last five years” or “You have no idea how hard I work.” Long before you reach this point, take preventative action with the gift of attention.

2. Take Care of Yourself

Many people go into relationships looking for a way to be happy, complete, and whole. It’s the same mindset as believing that your spouse’s strengths will offset your weaknesses, and vice versa.  There’s nothing wrong with believing this, in theory; the problem is that reality is often different than theory. What if you approach your relationship another way?  Be happy, complete, and whole — and then have a relationship.

Depending on another human for your happiness sets yourself up for disappointment. Humans change, leave, do things we don’t understand. And they do these things without our consent. Depending on things outside yourself for happiness and wholeness is giving up control over your own life.

A word of caution here:

Growing stronger and learning to achieve happiness on your own can be hazardous to your relationship. As you grow, it puts pressure on your partner to do the same.   And sometimes partners are threatened by this growth, so they resist the changes or run.

This is sometimes seen in the graduate school world. While the current divorce rate remains around the 45 to 50 percent range, in marriages where one spouse is in graduate school, the divorce rate increases. The reason? One partner is changing and growing, and the other may be threatened by the change.

We meet and fall in love with people who are about as mentally healthy (or unhealthy) as ourselves. Like attracts like. So as one of you grows and evolves, it’s important that the other partner grow as well for your relationship to survive.  I’ve written more on this idea here.

3. Share Yourself

Be open with your spouse. Share how you view the world, what you think, how you feel. Talk about the significant things in your life right now. Reveal your worries, your fears, your concerns.  I’m not saying you must share every deep secret in your life with your spouse, but let them in a little.

An unwillingness to share yourself with your spouse works against the goal of intimacy.

4. Throw Away the Score Card

Couples in conflict frequently keep mental score cards. They keep track of every unkind word, selfish act, and thoughtless gesture made by their spouse.  In essence, they catalog every one of their spouse’s sins of commission and omission going back over decades. This leads to the obsession of having to get even.

In relationships where you feel you must get even, intimacy will be non-existent — guaranteed.

However, when you freely give to your spouse and allow them to be themselves, you’ll likely experience the intimacy you desire. This doesn’t mean becoming a doormat for others, or letting them take advantage of you.  But when you release resentments and take an initiative to resolve things between you, you’ll often see the payoff of increased intimacy.

What are ways you and your spouse proactively cultivate intimacy in your relationship?

This post was first published on October 7, 2009.

Reading Time:

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  1. Post-Modern Jen

    Ok, this is the last site I’m going to comment on and then I must go to bed 🙂 I agree with all of the steps listed here. The last three ring especially true to me. The first couple years of my marriage were the hardest as my husband and I worked to become a team. Of course, at the time we didn’t know that’s what we were doing, we thought we just were meant to fight all the time and never get along! Luckily, that has all changed. Somewhere along the way we learned to accept each other as we were and, at the same time, to compromise ourselves just enough to show we cared what the other thought. We know that when we take care of ourselves, we take care of eachother and our kids better. We stopped “keeping score” all the time, and we just started being more kind to eachother. Along with keeping the lines of communication open all the time, we have made our marriage so much stronger than when it started.
    .-= Post-Modern Jen´s last blog ..The New Mom-me: Parlez Vous Aprons? =-.

  2. Amy Reads Good Books

    Very interesting statistic about graduate school! However, I agree. . .it’s only when we’re happy with ourselves that we can really contribute to a marriage.
    .-= Amy Reads Good Books´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesday =-.

  3. babies

    Well !! it’s not for us… let us go to sleep…

  4. prerna

    Oh, I love this post and can so relate to it.. I love the part of being whole and complete first and then, looking for a relationship. Thank you so much for sharing this. Just shows how much of a difference simple things can make.
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..Being a Woman: Celebrating Karva Chauth =-.

  5. Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    Great post! My husband and I do little things for each other but one regular is that every night, almost without fail, I get a foot rub. It’s our time to sit and relax and enjoy each other and it really makes a difference – I think it helps keep us close.
    .-= Tabitha (From Single to Married)´s last blog ..Taps and Thumps and Kicks, Oh My! =-.

  6. Aidan Donnelley Rowley

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post. Certainly food for thought.
    .-= Aidan Donnelley Rowley´s last blog ..The Chase =-.

    • Jennie

      That is an AWESOME idea! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  7. Lisa

    here’s a comment on marriage that i left over at
    “The Lord placed on my heart many yrs ago that when I am frustrated at my husband for ANY reason at all (even if it seems to be ENTIRELY his fault) – what I am to do is:
    Ask the Lord what I have done wrong in the situation, and ask Him to help me change and make it right with Him and my husband.
    Interestingly, there’s ALWAYS something God wants me to see within my OWN self!
    (Pray Psalm 139:23-24 the next time you’re upset with your husband – and you’ll see: God’ll deal with it!)”
    I think it is so important to point the finger back at ME when I’m focusing on another’s faults.

    my latest blog post {Don’t do good deeds.} at

    • Kathy

      Excellent! Thanks for the wise words.

  8. Bethany

    I’m with Lisa – there’s ALWAYS something in ME that I need to address before I go to my hubby. We are currently working through an AMAZING book – “The Love that Lasts: When Marriage meets Grace” – and I highly recommend it to every couple who wants to grow in intimacy with the Lord and each other.

  9. Exchange For Green

    I think marriage just like a school. Both of you have to learn from each other, learn how to deal with each other and learn to manage your marriage. To me, marriage makes me think like an adult and realizes my responsibilities.

  10. Hilary

    All of my undies are the exact same style, but I have a bazillion different colors. One fun thing we do is have my husband choose my underwear each day. :*) If he left for work before I woke up, he’d lay them out. If I left first, he’d choose the night before. Then all day long he knows exactly what to imagine me in, and I get to wear something he picked out!
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..September Newsletter ~ $25 FREE =-.


    So true!

    I had to say, though, that I got a little bit of a laugh about the graduate school tidbit. My husband is in a doctorate program, and we’ve talked about the fact that the divorce rates are high for doctorate students… BUT, I know for a fact, at least for us, it isn’t about one person growing and the other not… it’s about the stress and time involved. Of course, he also works 12 hour days in school administration (who also have higher divorce rates) and we have a two year old who doesn’t sleep. Ever.

    I know it’s morbid, but we joke that we have the “perfect storm” to put us on the track to divorce.

    All kidding aside, stressors of any kind can be really hard on a marriage, and sometimes just saying to each other, out loud, “These things are causing stress in our marriage. We better watch it.” can go a long way to lighten the mood and push both of us to finding ways to reconnect.
    .-=´s last blog ..How Sweet it Is =-.

  12. Melanie at Parenting Ink

    I think couples, especially couples with young children, need to find ways to connect and create intimacy at home. Finances don’t always allow for babysitters or for dates away from home.
    We like to go for a night swim together, share a glass of wine, or cook together.
    One thing I know for sure: watching TV together does NOT create intimacy!
    .-= Melanie at Parenting Ink´s last blog ..Blessings Journal =-.

  13. Rhonda Steed

    Two weeks before my husband and I were married, my little sister was in a horrible car accident. She died after a week on life support. That Saturday we had a funeral. The next week we got married on a Friday. Was it hard? OF COURSE. She was my best friend. My only sister in a house of 5 brothers. But it sealed my husband and I together in a way that other couples are not. If you respond appropriately to struggle and hard things, they can bring you closer instead of further away.
    (And we’ve been in higher education 7 out of the 9 years of marriage. Is he learning lots (oh YEA! he’s now a medical resident) But i’ve found ways to learn and grow and we’ve always put each other first (right after God) and we’ve got a very good marriage!
    Great points you made!!
    .-= Rhonda Steed´s last blog ..Random =-.

  14. Pyrrh

    A beautiful post. Also remember that we don’t marry mind readers. If you need something (like a hug because you’re feeling down) then ASK. Your spouse will usually be more than happy to accommodate, and feel great that they could fulfill a need. Don’t make them guess, it just isn’t fair!
    .-= Pyrrh´s last blog ..Day of Beauty =-.

  15. laura @ peacoat

    i cannot tell you how much i like this post. the hardest time i’ve experienced with my husband was when we were dating and he was embarking on a new adventure that had nothing to do with me.

    even then i knew i was jealous, and wish i had handled the whole thing differently, but you live and learn and i’m determined not to make the same mistake again.
    .-= laura @ peacoat´s last blog ..rock-your-world packages =-.

  16. Bonnie

    I really appreciate you writing this informative article. I agree with throwing away the score card. It is important to forgive and go on to strengthen the relationship.
    .-= Bonnie´s last blog ..Types of Miscarriages =-.

  17. Therabreath

    I salute you for a very realistic post. I can say how hard you tried to put these thoughts all together and it moved me, actually there are many of us who were moved by it. I have to say I am happily married for a little more than 2 years and it frightens me to read articles like this but I do because I want to be watchful of my acts in our relationship. I want to do what is right and have to set limits for myself. I love my husband and I love our marriage – working it out is really important to me.
    .-= Therabreath´s last blog ..Therabreath Plus Coupons =-.

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  29. cheri

    Funny how I can appreciate articles like this coz I’m not even married (yet). Yes, it makes one hope or believe marriage is not gonna be a room full of roses that you walk into and then when a month or year passes it becomes a jail you want to get out of. How many single women read posts about marriage? Many, I guess. We either want to be assured that our fear is pointless or we want someone to confirm it.

  30. Katie @ Imperfect People

    Wow is every post you write a homerun! Thanks for these beautiful words.

  31. Katherine

    My husband and I have “Coffee Time” each morning. He makes me a latte and we sit together for a minimum of 5 minutes (usually more like 20-30) and talk about the upcoming day, what we read/learned during our quiet time, and kid stuff that needs addressing. It’s a small, yet powerful way to connect with each other and to say to the kids- Mom and Dad need some time together because we love each other.

  32. Alicia

    My husband and I have been married 14 years (I think!) and we still get closer all the time. We are always surrounded by our kids and almost never get date nights, but we sit and talk at the dinner table after all the kids have run off, have deep conversations on the drive to get groceries, give each other back rubs while watching our favorite shows in bed together and find other ways to connect. I think the biggest thing for us is that we go out of our way to be nice to each other and to appreciate each other. We also just honestly think the other is brilliant and wonderful. 🙂

  33. Erin

    Great post! I agree with everything you said….except I got a good laugh about the graduate school bit! My husband has been in graduate school for the past 7 years, during which time our family has also grown. Our stress-points are not as one-dimensional as one person changing and growing and the other not. We have both changed and grown. The main issue that we face is that our problems become magnified if we don’t devote TIME and ATTENTION to each other. The stresses on our marriage are the same as those who aren’t in school. However, graduate students have less time to do it all (school, family time, marriage), so oftentimes, and unfortunately, the marriage can get put last if you are not diligent about making it a priority. We call it the graduate school time warp – the demands of his program make it feel to him like it’s still 2004 (pre-graduate program). Meanwhile the years have zipped by at light-speed for me as I focus on raising our young children. We both have had to be intentional about “escaping” our “reality” so we can create those intimate moments that strengthen our marriage.

  34. Jenn

    I hear you on the score cards. When you’ve been in a relationship for a very long time and young kids enter the picture and you’re trying to share responsibilities, it can be very easy to make little mental check-marks for each time he changes a diaper or cleans a dirty toilet. It breaks down the real communication and is abrasive on the love you feel and share with each other.

    A hard habit to break but vital to do so!

  35. Jennie

    Drawing closer to Christ. When we are both making an effort to be more like Him, we have a noticeable increase in intimacy in our marriage.

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