Over the past couple of decades, Dr. Passwater has been mentoring local area Christian businessmen and women with the primary goal of increasing their servant leadership, both at home and at work. Though this is directed primarily at those who are in the autumn years of their lives, it includes lessons for us all. We are pleased to share Dr. Passwater's suggestions here today, in honor of Valentine's Day. Happy Valentine’s Day, every day, to all!
There are lots of ways to capture the essence of our life. I have done so in a simple form and labeled it “Chapters.” The first chapter of our life is from birth to adulthood: What I call the “discovery period of our life.” The second chapter of our life is from marriage to our first child: What I call the “development period of our life.” The third chapter is from our first child’s birth until the last child leaves home: What I call the “survival period of our life.” The fourth and final chapter is our time with our spouse at home: What I call the “intimacy period of our life.”
Many businessmen and women, particularly Christian ones, have done a good job in accomplishing the task of providing a well-rounded life for their families. Many of us have been so focused upon the economic challenges at the office, as well as the necessary tasks at home, that once we arrive at the fourth chapter of our lives, we discover, sadly enough, that we are not feeling fulfilled in the relationship with our spouses. The joys of seeing our kids in a good place, hopefully married and gainfully employed, are deeply satisfying but not sufficient to feel fulfilled. We desire to enjoy this chapter of our lives with our children's mother or father, our life long mate and sexual partner, in a manner unrivaled by the previous chapters. Like a good book, the story should get better with each chapter.
The challenge is: How do we get there? What do we do to make amends for our previous miscalculations? How can we cherish our spouse throughout the balance of our life? Peaceful coexistence simply is not good enough. We need and want to have an intimate, close friend who we can share our dreams, fears, challenges, and if all goes well, ride off into the sunset with. Let me provide a few suggestions. Obviously, only a few will fit your life, but I encourage you to reflect deeply upon each and try out a couple this month and then a few more the following. You can be either a passenger on this ride, or the driver. It is your call. I hope the effort pays great dividends for you, your spouse and all your kin.
Generic suggestions for obtaining relational intimacy
First of all, begin with praying for a miracle in your relationship with your spouse. Do not expect a miracle without praying for one. Create a game plan that has observable signs that what you are trying is working. Do not expect to change an attitude in one day. It took many years to get where you are and it will take time to rebound: Hopefully, not as many as it took to get where you are at today. Mark Twain once said, “You do not change an attitude by throwing it out the window, you have to lead it down the stairs, one step at a time.” Accordingly, be gently with your spouse and yourself, and remember making significant changes takes time.
My first supposition: Your spouse loves you, is committed to you, and wants a relationally intimate life with you. It may not seem that way to you if there is significant emotional distance but that is 99% likely to be the case. They share not only your children, but also grandchildren and it is important to them that the family remains intact.
My second supposition: In big and little ways, you have screwed up many times and there are lots of unobservable, below the surface hurts. We all need to feel safe, and over time we do a great job of eroding the relational safety factor. As a successful businessperson, we know how to accomplish, how to win. We are good at conflict, have staying power, and are used to making decisions. Our spouses may feel we lack sensitivity to their emotional needs, and many times we simply overwhelm our spouses.
My third supposition: You can, with God’s help, change your life and the present situation. We must be intentional about this and by attempting to meet their needs. Over time, you can have a loving, satisfying, and staying relational intimacy with your spouse.
In order to do so, we must think Biblically first. The scriptures speak many times about marriage; we must take the time to understand them. The main theme: husbands, love your wives; wives, respect your husbands. We must understand that our story ends well if we do these things, and not so well if we choose not to.
How can we do this? Now that we have done what was expected (i.e., kept the family well fed, clothed, educated, vacationed, churched, etc.), is it not time for us to “kick back” and see the fruit of our hard work? Perhaps in some cases, but the one thing we must continue until our last breath is to cherish our spouse.