Everyone knows that intimacy is part of a good marital relationship.
The Torah teaches already in the beginning of Parshat Bereshit:
“Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and cleave with his wife, and they shall be as one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
However there is usually less awareness and acceptance that it is also necessary in a healthy marital relationship to maintain ones individuality or “me” within the couple?s togetherness or “we”.
This can be shown graphically:
As an experienced licensed Psychologist and Marital Therapist, who also is a licensed Hypnotherapist, I have often assessed that a goal of treatment is to help the couple achieve the right “balance” of maintaining their “me” within the “we”.
For example, if there is too much “me” there isn’t much of a relationship. However, when there is too much ?”we” and not enough “me”, the individual can lose himself and become too dependent on one’s spouse. This often happens in abusive relationships, when one partner has become “co-dependent”.
It is interesting to observe that each person has their own “subjective recipe” for the degree and type of intimacy and closeness that they want and need to have.
Each partner in a marriage needs to be aware of what intimacy means to him/herself, and his/her spouse and be ready to express what he needs and also hear and adapt to what one’s spouse needs and wants.
For example, it might be extremely important for the wife to be able to speak with her husband every night for an hour without interruption. For the husband 15 minutes might “be enough”. In this situation the wife might feel rejected and sad, while the husband might feel pressured and resentful that his wife “needs so much of his attention”, and from this feel less respect for her. Some husbands are upset if their wife wants to speak on the phone with a sister or a good woman friend. Some wives are inwardly offended if their husband wants to go out of the house every night even to learn with a chavruta (חברותא) rather than stay home and prefer to be with her after the kids are asleep.
In every relationship it’s necessary to accept that you might not have all that you expected with an attitude based on trust or bitachon that “everything is for the best.”
Couples often need to learn intimacy doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree. They need to be more aware that all relationships work according to the pattern of “approach” (Ratzo) and “move back” (Shav). Halacha expresses this principle through the laws of Family Purity where a married couple need to be separated from physical intimacy during a part of each month.
The need to have personal space and privacy doesn’t mean there is a “problem with the relationship”.
Intimacy is related to good communication skills. Many don’t realize enough that “simply listening” to one’s spouse is so important in marriage. This is because when a person is being given attention and being listened to, it conveys the message that one is being respected and understood by one?s spouse.
It’s critical to show one’s partner that you are sincerely and openly trying to understand his/her perspective and what something means to them, even if you don’t always “see things the same way”.
Chazal teach us that “just as everyone’s face is different”so everyone has their own way of looking at things. (Berachot 58a)
Finally, couples need to be more aware that most communication is non-verbal and that “words that come from the heart enter the heart of another”.
“דברים היוצאים מהלב נכנסים אל הלב” (Berachot 6b)