One of the more common complaints I hear from spouses is when one of the partners in the marriage talk about being alone in the marriage. These lonely spouses perceive a seemingly invisible barrier between them. It’s a level of communication they cannot move past.
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The spouse describes it as a relational detachment. They are married and connected in some ways, but the deepest and most meaningful way they should be connected is not happening. It’s a spiritual disconnection.
Busy but Disconnected
The deepest and most intimate component in your marriage is uniquely spiritual. While many couples can disconnect in different ways, there is one way that is non-negotiable if your intent is to love like Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:25-33)
That missing component is an intimate “three-person” dynamic between the husband, wife, and God. I’m not necessarily talking about praying together, going to church, reading the Bible, or other “churchy” things. Some spouses respond to this spiritual disconnect by saying,
We talk about God. We pray together. We talk about church. Shoot, we go to church. Our kids are involved in the ministries of the church; we are active churchgoers. I attend the weekly men’s meeting, and my wife leads her Bible study. It’s not that we don’t love God or each other.
What I’m talking about is not necessarily what a couple or family is doing in their church, with their church, or for their church. Some of the busiest church people can be some of the most discontented people in their marriages.
The biblical term for what is lacking in this kind of marriage is koinonia, which is where we get our word communication, community, participation, or fellowship. Koinonia is a “three-person community” that represents the deepest possible intimacy a man and woman can experience in their marriage.
True koinonia can only happen in your marriage when you are sharing your full experience with God–the good and the bad of it–with your spouse, and your spouse is sharing her full experience of God with you. That is a real community. It is a free-flowing, dynamic relationship without interruption or hindrance.
Koinonia will not happen if either one of you guys is unwilling to be transparent, honest, open, mature, humble, vulnerable, and intentionally communicating with each other. If those character qualities are not present, there is no way for you to enjoy true biblical fellowship.
Three of the more common hindrances in marriage are fear, anger, and unforgiveness. You could say these things are koinonia killers.
- Do you have fear or inhibition between you and your spouse?
- Do you harbor frustration, impatience, or other forms of anger toward your spouse?
- Are you holding on to unforgiveness because of something your spouse has done in the past?
If your hope is to not be alone in your marriage, you must work through these communication killers. Identify what is hindering you from having this kind of relationship with your spouse. Begin a process of change so you can successfully remove anything that is disrupting your conjugal community.
This infographic illustrates the three most important features to marital koinonia.
- The husband has a relationship with God.
- The wife has a relationship with God.
- The husband and wife reciprocate their individual and unique relationships with God with each other.
Because of their mysterious joining to God and each other, there is an opportunity for all three of them to have a shared intimacy with each other. This intimacy can happen when the husband invites his wife into his full relationship with God, and the wife invites her husband into her full relationship with God.
To ascribe to and maintain this level of marital intimacy takes a lot of time, work, trust, and risk. The onus is for both spouses to lead each other into this kind of community. You do this by opening up your whole heart to your spouse while giving him (her) permission to access the secret places of your heart.
If you will do this, more than likely your spouse will be willing–in time–to reciprocate vulnerability. You want to set the example that compels your spouse into your serious and radical relationship with God.
True community leaves no stone unturned. The couple shares the good and bad of each other’s lives while you both cooperate with the Lord in maturing as a couple. After this process begins, you are set up to enjoy true one flesh living.
There is a progressive and growing openness in each other’s lives, which continues to intertwine you into the deepest possible community that you could have with God and another person.
Call to Action
Are you game for this kind of life with your spouse? If so, I have a few koinonia questions that can jump-start your marriage in the right direction. These are the questions that Lucia and I ask each other.
Your call to action is to ask the Lord to give you (1) time, (2) context, and (3) courage to talk about these things with your spouse. Plan a few uninterrupted date nights where you guys can go and talk. No dinner and a movie; just you and your spouse, staring and sharing eye-to-eye, as you work through these questions.
- Will you help me in this [name a specific area of temptation] in my life?
- What is God doing in your life–the good and not so good?
- How is the grace of God working in a particular area of sin?
- What specific areas are you still struggling?
- What have you lately read or heard that is helping you in your sanctification?
- How can I serve you in a [name a specific area of sanctification] in your life?
- What has God taught you recently? How have you applied it to your life?
Also published on Medium.