Friday, January 24, 2014

The Passions in Christianity

When you throw the two words--Christianity and passions--together, many people will get varied images. Victorian morality, contradictory, hypocrisy, legalistic, Manichean (oh, okay, maybe not too many on that one), among others. To put it mildly, there is a checkered past on how to understand it and deal with it. But it has not always been so.

Indeed, a proper understanding of passion from a Biblical perspective will unlock the first and major means of managing the passions in a productive manner that is beneficial to all involved. Including when the passion of lust drives a spouse to cheat.

Before we go further, however, if you've not read the first article in this series, The Fire of Passion, I highly recommend you do so before reading this one. This article assumes the context presented there in understanding what the passions are.

To my non-Christian readers, let me relate these thoughts if you've come this far. The following is going to be related from a Christian viewpoint, if that hasn't been obvious to you by this point. For you, I'll sum up the main point you need to take away from this article. Take the principle and apply it in your faith or agnosticism/atheism as the case may be.

Successfully managing the passions requires a power beyond ourselves.

A higher power, as Alcoholics Anonymous puts it. Or more generically still, a purpose and cause beyond yourself. It is the focus on self that feeds the passions. To reach the place of self-denial, to starve the negative passions in our lives, takes a focus, a purpose, and a motivation beyond ourselves.

For the Christian, this goes deeper than merely a focus beyond self, and includes the power to do the above and the tactics we'll discuss in the next article. We'll be exploring that in the following paragraphs, and you are welcome to read on, if for no other reason than to gain an understanding. Because I can just about promise you this will be nothing like your parent's Sunday School class.

Now back to what passions are understood to be and its solution in Christianity.

If there is one Biblical passage that sums up the Christian understanding of the passions, it is the following:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
(Php 4:11-13 KJV)

There are three points to notice here.

1. Avoiding pleasure is not the answer. Paul states that it is not whether one is experiencing a passion or the fulfillment of a passion that trips us up. We need to know how to handle both: when we get what we want and when we don't, in a healthy way.

2. Controlling the passions through contentment is the answer. That is, a particular passion does not control us to the point we have no choice but to fulfill it. Rather, to be content is to remain unmoved by a passion. Sure, we'll feel it. But we are able to ignore it if it isn't proper to fulfill or the timing isn't right. We have the ability to say, "No" and mean it.

3. It is the energy and grace of union with the life of Jesus Christ that gives us contentment. Phil 4:13 is one of the most taken-out-of-context verses of all time. Paul is admitting that within himself he doesn't have the ability to manage and control the passions. Contentment is nigh impossible. But with Christ, he is able.

Why is that the case? It goes back to the Fall of man.

Genesis 1 is not intended to be a list of steps God took to create our world in a series, but in parallel.

Many people don't realize this, but once you look at it, it is obvious. Notice how day one speaks of light being created in general, while day four talks about creating specific lights in the sky. Then on the second day, God creates the sky and waters, and on the fifth day He creates the birds and fish that populate those environments. On the third day, God creates the land, and on the sixth day, He creates the animals that populate the land.

But that is not all that happened on the third and sixth day. On the third day, God creates the plants. On the sixth, man. This comparison is key. For as plant life is the bridge between inanimate and animate life, man is the bridge between animal life and divine life. Thus the divine life inhabits the animals and world through this link, bring it all into harmony.

The divine link in man is described in two ways.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . .
(Gen 1:26 KJV)

God created man both in His image and His likeness. In His image, because we are created to live with His life in us. In His likeness, because God infused His life in us at creation.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
(Gen 2:7 KJV)

Note the two sources of the creation of man. The dirt of this world, linking man firmly to it as are the animals who were created from the earth, that is, dirt, by God calling out for the earth to bring forth the animals. Gen 1:24 In this respect, man was created in the same way the animals were.

But unlike the animals, God breathed into man the breath of life. The word for breath is also translated spirit. In essence, God breathes His own spiritual life, and filled man with the Holy Spirit, which is His likeness.

Man was created to operate as an animal given divine life. A more intelligent animal, perhaps. But it is this divine life in man that gave him complete control over his passions which are inherent from the animal nature.

But as most know the story, that changed. Note what God tells man or Adam (same word, translators arbitrarily pick when to start calling him Adam instead of man).

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
(Gen 2:16-17 KJV)

Note what God says here: ". . . for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." God didn't say eventually. He didn't say in 900+ years. He said on the day he ate of it, Adam would die.

Yet, you know the story. Eve gets tempted, ends up having a passion for the fruit of the tree, saw that it would make her like God, and ate of it. So did Adam.

Memo to Christians: if people living in Paradise, with all they could want and need freely provided for them, with divine life coursing through their soul, can give into a passion, rationalize and justify getting what their passion wants, who are you to think you are immune? I used to think my marriage was immune to infidelity. It wasn't. Neither is yours.

Yet, Adam and Eve lived on for hundreds of years after this day. What gives?

The truth is they did die that day. The divine life departed from them, for if it had stayed, they would have been physically destroyed. But spiritually, Adam and Eve died that very day. They lost the divine life that they were created to contain.

The result, as the Church Fathers commonly write, is Adam and Eve are left with their animal life. The power to control the animalistic passions diminished with the passing of divine life. They lost the power to control them as before the Fall. Like the animals, we are more often controlled by them than us, them.

This points to what we mentioned in the last article. Just because one has a passion, a desire for something, doesn't mean it needs to be fulfilled in order to "be who you are created to be." Our current passion-dominated lives are not how God created us to be. Our passions don't dictate who we are. Rather, it is a tool to be used for our and others' benefits. In our fallen state, we tend to be driven to live according to our passions. This is not who we were created to be. It is an unnatural fallen existence that will, unchecked, eventually kill us.

The only solution to this dilemma is to unite your animal life to the divine life found through Jesus Christ.

The route to obtaining this life in evident through Scripture:

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. . . . For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(Joh 3:5, 16 KJV)

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. . . . For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
(Rom 6:3-4, 8 KJV)

It is the Spirit who makes alive; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
(Joh 6:63 EMTV)

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
(Joh 6:54 KJV)

To summarize, if we unite to Him in faith, that is believing in Him, trusting Him, and obeying Him; if we are baptized into the likeness of His death and raised to new life in Him, known as being born again; and partake of Him in the Lord's Supper, our soul will be filled with His Spirit, His divine life as we were created to exist. The only difference between us and Adam is we still live in a fallen world. But thanks to Christ, we no longer need be controlled by the animal-like passions. We no longer need to live as fallen people, even in this fallen world.

With His life in us, we now have the ability to feed the right passion:

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
(Gal 5:16 KJV)
 In the last article, we will investigate the tools we can use to walk in the Spirit--the practical tactics we can use to manage the passions using contentment. Naturally, to do that, you first have to have His Spirit, full of His life, breathed into you once again. It gives you the power and ability to operate the tools effectively. Without it, your chances of effectively controlling the passions are greatly reduced.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Our Recommended Reading List

People often want to know what books we recommend they read to help rebuild from an affair, aside from our own book, Healing Infidelity, of course. We've read the following books and have found them the most helpful in our recovery.

Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On -- Together or Apart by Douglas K. Snyder - Comprehensive, balanced, and helpful not only in dealing with the initial emotional upheaval in the days immediately after discovery day, but also in working through the various issues of rebuilding. Ideal for both the hurt and unfaithful spouse to work through together. A good book to get and read as soon as possible.

Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Shirley P. Glass - The most recommended book and a classic. It is recommended for good reason. It breaks down how friendships turn into affairs, how those affect the marriage, and the needed steps for recovery. If a hurt spouse is only going to read one book, this is the one most would mention.

How to Help Your Spouse Heal from Your Affair: A Compact Manual for the Unfaithful by Linda MacDonald - Likewise, if an unfaithful spouse is going to read only one book (and we certainly do recommend that you read more), this is hands down the one to read. We call it required reading for the unfaithful spouse who seriously wants to rebuild, but needs guidance how to do it. Good for a BS to read as well so they know what they should be expecting a serious rebuilding effort to look like.

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Jr. Harley - A book that rejuvenated our marriage in the aftermath of the affair. A couple may not want to tackle this book first, maybe only after the initial dust has settled from learning about the affair. And the hurt spouse needs to approach it knowing that the discussion of the marriage isn't blaming him for the spouse's affair, but the author discovered that focusing on rebuilding the romantic love after an affair boasted his success rate from the standard 40% range to the 60s. This is the book that helped us not just try to get back to where we were pre-discovery day, but made out marriage better than its ever been. Which spills over into a positive energy in all the areas of rebuilding.

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction by Mark Laaser - If sexual addiction is diagnosed, this is a helpful book in dealing with it. Will be over the top if you're not an addict, but only experienced addictive behaviors. Disclaimer: We read the book, but Lenita was not diagnosed as having a sexual addiction. So we didn't do the practical steps in the book and can't testify how effective it is. Seek out a good sex therapist for help.

The Fire of Passion

One's passions fuel the fire of most affairs. The typical scenario is a spouse crosses seemingly innocent boundaries with someone of the opposite sex (or same sex in the case of homosexual relationships), something sparks between them, emotional bonds are created on some level, and the desire for each other ignites. Or I should say, the desire for the feelings the other person is producing in you ignite.

Even in those who intentionally seek out affairs, the action is based upon some driving desire, whether lust or wanting to feel like a stud/attractive. When a guy pays a prostitute, it is because he enjoys, wants, has to have the sexual feelings that experience provides.

Take away passion, and an overwhelming majority of affairs would never happen.

Likewise, this destroys many attempts at rebuilding from an affair. Often the unfaithful spouse will say they want to save their marriage, but they have difficulties letting go of their affair partner. The passions for him are often raging when it is discovered, and the unfaithful spouse finds it difficult to shut that down. Holding to no-contact with one's affair partner is in most cases the hardest part of rebuilding that an unfaithful spouse will deal with. Why? Because passions have to die over a period of not being fed. Unfortunately, we can't easily switch them off.

Learning how to manage one's passions and let the bad ones die a slow and painful death is necessary both for preventing an affair in the first place, and preventing a re-occurrence later, as well as equipping you with more self-control in other areas of your life.

Therefore, not only do unfaithful spouses rebuilding their marriage benefit from this, but also hurt spouses--who, believe it or not, are more suceptible to having affairs of their own after being cheated on,--the affair partner, and spouses who are as of yet untouched by an affair.

To that end, the next series of articles will deal with what the passions are, how they operate, and tactics to managing them in your life, especially as it relates to rebuilding from infidelity.

What Is a Passion?

In English, the word refers to two main concepts. One, "an intense desire or enthusiasm for something." Two, "the suffering and death of Jesus." The word, derived from the Greek and Latin, means "to suffer."

How does desire and suffering relate to each other?

When you have a strong and barely controllable emotion or desire, you are suffering until that desire is satisfied or the desire dissipates. Most unfaithful spouses can verify that feeling in relation to their affair partner. It is the feeling of suffering a lack which drives an individual to fulfill it so as to quench and end the suffering. It is the suffering aspect that defines what passion is.

This suffering is seen clearly in hunger. When the body needs food to survive, it creates a suffering in the body we call hunger. It causes us to be driven to find food and eat. Out of the passions, it is the primary one. We deal with it daily, often multiple times a day. There is not a more base passion we experience for survival. It is one of the first things a baby does upon exiting the womb, and most likely one of the activities we'll do on the last day of our life here.

Some passions, however, take on survival need without actually being a survival need. An obvious example is someone addicted to a drug. Withdraw symptoms are the body's way of creating the suffering designed to motivate you to get more of what your body thinks it needs. But in this case it is not a real need, no matter how much you feel physically and emotionally that you need it for survival.

Because one experiences a desire, doesn't mean it is needed or beneficial to fulfill that desire.

There are many who justify their behavior by suggesting "this is just who I am, and to be fulfilled, I need to fulfill my desires." Since passions can trick the body and mind into believing it needs something that is actually destructive, obviously we cannot depend on the hedonistic approach to life to find fulfillment personally.

If we do something because our body and emotions demand it, we become slaves to them, and will be led into all sorts of destructive behaviors. Infidelity being one of the big ones. Freedom is when your body and mind say, "I have to have this," and you can say "no" and mean it with your actions.

Passions work on two levels: physical and mental.

Physically oriented passions focus on physical sensations and the body's suffering to get them. Most often seen in withdraw symptoms like fever, sweating, shakes, etc. For sexual/romantic type passions, it is more a mental longing to experience a particular feeling. The body responds by getting "horny" using chemicals. Sexual sensitivity is heightened. The least little external stimulation like a visual or mental image can fire off a physical ache to fulfill that "need."

Mentally, passions generate the emotions that motivate us into action. Because they are emotionally based rather than rationally, logic takes a back seat. Once a strong passion kicks in for something, rational arguments rarely dissuade a person from doing what their body and mind are telling them they have to get.

Passions work on two levels: addictive and being an addict.

When a person first encounters a strong passionate desire for something, an addictive quality comes into play in the person's response. The dopamine reward system triggers in the brain that this is a highly desirable experience and needs to be repeated. The higher the dopamine spike, the more desire for a repeat performance happens to the person.

That desire is passed onto the decision making areas of the brain. Initially, the brain can more easily say "no" to the desire. It has an addictive quality in that your mind is saying you want this real bad, but you still have the ability to rationally say it isn't good for you and reject it as a viable course of action, in word, thought, and deed. But not saying no in all three ways leads to eventually fulfilling the passion.

However, as the person decides, "yes, go get it," in either word, thought, and/or deed, it creates a feedback loop. The experience is repeated, the dopamine reward system sends the message to the brain that this need is critical to have. The decision making part of the brain says, "get some more," and the cycle continues.

Once that cycle has been repeated enough times, the addictive qualities of the experience create "ruts" in the brain, making it harder and harder to break free from that cycle. Such a person becomes addicted.

To break free of the addiction requires going through feelings of great loss and ignoring a desperate sense of needing what you are wanting. This often is not something a person can do with their own will power, and will need help, support, and accountability to get through the physical and emotional withdraw symptoms and to convince your body and mind that, no, you don't need this to survive.

But due to the ruts established by the addictive cycle, it is also easier for such a person to fall back into those ruts. Such a person recovering from passion-enslavement will have to establish boundaries far enough away from the ruts, more so than most who have no such addiction.

Passions Are Not All Bad

This is not to suggest that all passion is bad. There are passions that do provide for a true survival needs, like food and procreation. If we are to be moved to do beneficial activities, it will often be because we are motivated by our passion for something.

The English word compassion is made up of two Latin words: com and passio. Literally translated, the word means "with passion," or "to join together with suffering." Thereby you get the English word's meaning: to have empathy for someone who is suffering. Without passion, we are also not motivated to do good and beneficial activities for others either.

This is why I talk about managing passion, not eradicating it. We're going to have passion for something. The question is, will we use that passion to motivate us to beneficial goals and actions, or will we let our passions pull us into destructive goals and actions, leading us around like a dog on a collar?

To that end, I'm planning two more articles at least:

A Christian Understanding of the Passions

How to Manage the Passions

How have you managed or not managed your passions to keep them from ruining your life?

Next article: The Passions in Christianity

Friday, January 10, 2014

Should I Tell? - The Full Story

As I stated in my article, Should I Tell, Reloaded, I wrote a chapter in my book, Healing Infidelity, called "Should I Tell." You can read an early version of that chapter on the web. In that chapter, I attempted to appeal to unfaithful spouses whose spouse has not discovered the affair, why they should want to tell if they sincerely want to save their marriage. I tried to write it from their perspective, using a reason they should care about. Because the truth is, infidelity is like a cancer.

My wife's brother-in-law had cancer. Problem was, he hid it from everyone one. Probably even from himself. By the time he went to the doctor and was diagnosed, they gave him a week to live. He died before that week was up.

Whether the hurt spouse knows about the affair(s) or not, it is eating away at the relationship. If he never finds out, he'll always wonder why the marriage deteriorated over the years. The guilt of the unfaithful spouse, and the secrets they hide about something so critical to the marriage, end up letting the cancer spread unchecked because no one is doing much to heal it as long as it remains hidden.

That said, I know even that is not likely to convince an unfaithful spouse in many cases to confess.

Most unfaithful spouses justify their decision not to tell because they don't want to hurt their spouse.

As if they haven't already done that by having an affair. Let's reword that reason to make it more accurate. You don't want to tell because you don't want to face the consequences of having hurt your spouse.

To that end, I felt it would be enlightening, I hope, to now look at the reasons a hurt spouse would want to know despite the pain of finding out the truth. Whether this will convince many unfaithful spouses to fess up, I know isn't highly likely, but you never know what will snap someone out of the fog-thinking and face the truth.

So aside from the healing reason listed in the original article, here are the main reasons from a hurt spouse perspective why you should confess your affair.

1. Most hurt spouses want you to tell them.

Yes, there are some hurt spouses who would rather not know, who would prefer to live in a matrix-like fantasy land, take the red pill, and not face the cancer, like my wife's brother-in-law did. But those are in a definite minority. When polled on our infidelity form we visit, all but one out of around 30 hurt spouses said they were glad they discovered the truth. The reasons for this are linked to the following.

2. The unfaithful spouse violates their spouse's rights in hiding the affair.

By keeping the affair a secret from your spouse, you are making decisions about the course of your relationship with them without their knowledge. They deserve as much say in the direction of your relationship as you are having at their expense. It is the moral equivalent of a spouse spending the college savings fund on a new sports car without consulting you on the purchase. Not telling violates the very reason two people get married: to share their life with each other.

3. Not telling the hurt spouse is a form of manipulative control abuse.

One of the main reasons an unfaithful spouse doesn't want to tell because as soon as they do, they lose control over their spouse and the affair. As long as you have this secret information, you control him. That is the manipulation of another individual through deceit and is a form of abuse, either directly, or broadly in a passive-aggressive manner.

4. Not telling the spouse puts their health at risk.

It is one thing for you to knowingly put your health at risk of STDs. Quite another to subject someone else to that risk unknowingly who you say you love. Out of these reasons, this is the one I exhibited the most anger toward my wife. I could have ended up with a life-long sickness so she could have her moments of "fun." I have a right to know if having sex with her is playing Russian Roulette with my health and life. Yes, protection may mitigate that risk, but it doesn't eliminate it.

5. Deceit compounds the violation of an affair.

Discovering an affair is bad enough. Discovering your spouse has been keeping it a secret from you for months or years multiplies the destruction of trust in the relationship, making it very difficult to heal. While there are no guarantees as to how any one particular hurt spouse will respond when told, a confession will go a long ways toward rebuilding trust. Don't expect immediate trust, but it can be the difference between months and years in how fast that trust can recover, all else being equal.

6. You've made your decision; it is only right they get to make theirs.

Related to reason #2, this deserves its own mention. Yes, confessing might mean the end of your marriage. But shouldn't your spouse have the right to make that decision? If you really love them, you wouldn't deny them excercising their options to respond to your decisions.

7. Secrets about the marriage destroy intimacy.

Whatever secrets related to the marriage you keep from your spouse, that is an area of your life not shared with your spouse. It is an off-limit area. The lack of intimacy there bleeds over into the rest of the marriage, for fear getting too close will result in them learning the truth. That and dealing with the guilt over your violation to the marriage is part of the cancer that will eat away at an otherwise healthy relationship.

8. They deserve to know when the contract has been broken.

I put this last, because it seems wedding vows rarely stop an unfaithful spouse from being unfaithful or deciding to tell. But the fact is, those vows, in most cases, are part of a legal contract that you agreed to whether before a preacher, judge, or other witnesses. If you've broken that legal contract, the other spouse deserves to know that fact, legally.

Is it always a good idea to confess?

In general, if you want a potentially healthy marriage, yes. But their can be exceptions. A clinically abusive spouse is one. If your spouse has a history of suicidal depression would be another. Essentially if there is the likelihood of physical and/or emotional harm from confessing, it may be best to not tell. Keeping in mind if they discover it on their own, that risk could be higher. Not telling doesn't eliminate it; not having the affair does.

But some unfaithful spouses have used these as excuses not to tell, even when there is little evidence it is a big risk. They think that there is some risk (you never know how any one person will respond) so that means they shouldn't tell for fear, however small, that they might commit suicide. If a person has a history of threatening, that is one thing. Without that, however, the slight chance it could happen despite no prior evidence it would doesn't trump the above reasons. It is a rationalization.

Can you think of any other valid reasons to tell?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Rebuilding Intimacy

In discussing marriage, I listed several levels of marital bonding: social, emotional, legal, spiritual, and physical. I pointed out that the sexual union consummates, or fulfills, the other levels by converting them into a marital reality, demonstrated biologically, biblically, socially. Meanwhile, consummating a marriage via sex without the other levels of marriage in place devalues the bond it creates and abuses it by treating it as not intimate.

Except for the legal bond, which is more about protection, benefits, and responsibilities under a specific legal system, these levels of marriage represent levels of intimacy between two people. This illustrates not only why infidelity destroys these marital bonds of intimacy, but also the focus of rebuilding that intimacy.

First, we need to define intimacy, so we know what we're talking about. Intimacy has different levels. We usually think of these in categories of acquaintances, generic friendships, friendships, close friendships, and best friendships. Properly speaking, spouse should fall as the most intimate after best friends.

Intimacy is based upon how much you share of yourself and how many people to whom you share that reality.

Sure, you may find exceptions, but that is going to apply in most situations and people. The more you let someone into your life and the fewer who abide there, the more intimate it becomes. Here is a simple example that most who've experienced infidelity will readily get.

During an affair, usually only the unfaithful spouse and the affair partner know the affair is going on. Only those two share that secret. No one else is privy to that part of their life. This creates a deep intimacy in that area between the two.

Then the hurt spouse finds out. Maybe one of the participants told their best friend about it. The cat is out of the bag, and now more people see this intimate part of your life. There is still a high level of intimacy, but now that  more people know about it, it becomes less intimate than it was before.

Then you tell or they find out, your family/extended family about it. Now it becomes a "family secret." While still retaining a level of intimacy, it has been greatly watered down. A whole group has had a peek into this area of your life.

Then you do something like what Lenita and I have done: write a book about what happened and put it out for anyone in the world to pick up and read. More commonly for celebrities like Tiger Wood, the news reporters find out about it and it is broadcast all over the world. Now some dude in India may know all about your affair, who you don't even know exists. That makes the information about the affair the least intimate. Everyone can know about it.

Now lets apply this to the four levels of intimacy in marriage: emotional, social, spiritual, and physical. You may notice a correlation between these four and the article on the four loves in our book: philio, storge, agape, and eros respectively, roughly so.

Emotional Intimacy

This type of intimacy is characterized by the closeness of best friends. You get to know your spouse or potential spouses' dreams, goals, struggles, history, family, accomplishments and failures. The more of their life they share, and the fewer people with whom they share it with, the stronger that emotional bond.

There is an important part of your life that you share with such a best friend that is a huge measure of your emotional intimacy with a person: your time.

Both time spent together and time spent thinking about them and their welfare. You have a limited amount of time, especially discretionary time. Who you decide to spend that time with most says a lot about how emotionally intimate you are with that person. It designates who are the most intimate relationships in your life.

This is an intimacy that naturally runs high at the beginning of a relationship, but as it becomes familiar, and new shiny things attract our interest, we stop spending as much time together. The time we do spend together, tends to be on necessary mundane things that demand our attention. Over the years, what started out as a burning desire to spend most of your discretionary time with a person, dwindles to when you're required to, because you are interested in spending that time in other areas.

That person gets the message that they are not as important to you. You are not that emotionally intimate to share your life, your time, together with them. This happens all too often in marriages. It happened in mine.

When an affair hits, it should be obvious why this further destroys this intimacy. Yes, to many an affair is at least encouraged by a lack of emotional intimacy. This doesn't justify it or blame the other spouse for having one, but it is easy to understand why someone starved of emotional intimacy in their marriage would be attracted to anyone offering a buffet of attention and interest and wanting to spend their time with them.

But it is a death spiral for the marriage. Whereas before, that emotional intimacy was waiting in the wings to be taken, now it is no longer available because it has been given to another without the hurt spouse's knowledge or consent. Intimacy that properly belongs to the one you are united to in marriage has been given to another. As long as that continues, that is emotional intimacy the hurt spouse cannot have.

Likewise, to rebuild emotional intimacy post-affair involves reversing that process. Going no contact with the affair partner cuts off what is feeding the emotional intimacy with him: your time given to him. Going no contact also means cutting off time spent thinking about him.

But you don't cut that off by simply stopping, but by reinvesting that time in your spouse. By purposefully spend time thinking about your love and desire to be with your spouse, and planning to spend your free time with them, no matter what other "priorities" you have on your plate.

That is why a book like His Needs, Her Needs is so critical for rebuilding. You don't just let the emotional intimacy of the affair partner die off, you replace it by reviving your marriage, by making each other important again. By restoring the emotional intimacy with your spouse where it belongs, and not given to another.

Social Intimacy

Social intimacy corresponds with a sense of comfortableness being around each other. It provides a sense of stability and support to one another. It overlaps with emotional intimacy in that social activities are shared and time spent doing them together and being with each other are sought and longed for above any other relationship.

This doesn't mean other relationships, like the kids, are not attended to and important, but that the marital relationship maintains a priority position above any other relationship, even one's children. For the well-being of the children rests in the quality of the marital relationship.

Social intimacy can include several areas. Living together. Financial unity. Inlaw relations. Child rearing. Social activities. How well these and related areas of your life are integrated between two people indicates the degree of social intimacy you have.

Some of these, like living together, may appear easy. You either are or aren't living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed. But are you really living in the same house, or just existing in the same house? Maybe you have an integrated checking account where both of your monies reside, but are you jointly making decisions on how it is spent? The kids might be disciplined, but are you both involved and communicating about how discipline is handled?

Being socially intimate is for both of you to be involved in the decision-making processes, refusing to cut your spouse out of the picture to get your own way. Being the head of the household does not equate to being a dictator. That is the opposite of intimacy. That is cutting your spouse out of your life.

Gaining social intimacy means not expecting to get your way all the time. It does mean acknowledging each other's expectations and being wiling to compromise in order to obtain an "operating procedure" you can both agree to and adopt in any area of your social lives.

If you are having trouble in your marriage with these issues, seek marriage counseling. In addition or if counseling is not a viable option, I'd suggest you both read: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Don't settle for allowing the lack of social intimacy to continue, because it can come back to bite you in the end.

Spiritual Intimacy

If you are one that does not hold to any religious beliefs, you may think this section doesn't apply to you. Yes, if you have religious beliefs, it is best they be compatible, and that you can worship as a family. Living your life religiously divided would be a lack of intimacy. That would apply equally if an atheist and a Muslim were married as it would a Catholic and a Jew (I've met a couple like that before).

But spiritual intimacy is more than religious intimacy. This intimacy involves two things: humility and sacrifice.

Humility in that pride shuts the other person out of our inner person. Pride is wearing a mask. Pride is the fence we build around who we are for fear they won't like what they see. Humility breaks down that wall and says, "Here I am, warts and all. What you see is what you get." Humility exposes the man behind the curtain, trying to act macho to hide how weak and small he feels.

Spiritual intimacy involves seeing each other as you truly are. No secrets. No pretense. No masks or walls. Just who you are in all your vulnerability.

But the other leg this intimacy stands on is sacrifice. Being humble opens yourself up to the other person. Sacrificing your own agenda for their needs gives of yourself to each other. Letting each other into your lives and sacrificing for each other fosters a spiritual intimacy that exist at the core of your being.

How does that type of intimacy grown? By submission to one another in love and obedience. "But I don't want to be seen as inferior, as some type of slave." That's not what we are talking about here. We're talking about mutual obedience to each other in humility, doing what is beneficial for each other. I spell this out in my article on using humility to gain self-esteem.

Failure to do this, however, will mean a lack of spiritual intimacy, no matter how often you attend church together.

Physical Intimacy

Most would understand this to speak of being sexual with each other. Certainly it involves this. As I've said in other places, by the time many people get married, sexual activity is no longer that intimate. Or not as intimate as it should be. Remember our definition of intimacy at the start? The more people you share your body with, the less intimate it becomes.

But this intimacy goes beyond general sexual experiences. It focuses onto the one sexual act that forms the basis for marriage as I discussed in my July articles on this topic: sexual intercourse. This is the most intimate of sexual acts in that it joins two people into a union with the potential to create life together. It is this specific sexual act that turns the other types of union into a marital union. Without it, you're left with an intimate friendship, but not a marriage.

This also explains why an affair that results in adultery, whether mentally or physically, create such a cancerous illness in a marriage. For the unfaithful spouse is divorcing his spouse and marrying his affair partner in having sexual intercourse with them. Likewise, if he is having sex with his spouse too, he is continually divorcing and remarrying each of them over and over again. Doing so with no intent to foster the other types of intimacy devalues the marital bond and commitment that sexual intercourse inherently contains. When it is used merely for recreation and entertainment, the marital bond it creates is cheapened.

Yet, it goes beyond this. Yes, in the proper context, sexual intercourse is an intimate act. The most intimate physical activity we can do with someone. Any involvement of sexual activity, for most of us, isn't something we invite just anyone to join with us in. So unless we run around naked and participate in sexual activities with anyone who will have us, the number of people we are involved with is a limited number, and so has some level of intimacy, even if not the ideal of one.

Doing the act, in and of itself, doesn't necessarily foster full physical intimacy. For the physical intimacy to be complete means the previous intimacies above are firing on all cylinders, and a commitment to make each other the most important person in each other's lives is manifest. Then the intimacy inherent in sexual intercourse and other sexual activities are fulfilled and meaningful, making physical intimacy complete.

It should be coupled with emotional intimacy, keeping that romantic spark alive. Social intimacy lives out the reality of the physical intimacy. Spiritual intimacy keeps love as the motivation, and its purpose a giving of yourself rather than merely taking. Only then does physical intimacy rise above bodily intimacy and become a complete marital intimacy.

The quality of one's sexual intimacy should be worked on as well. Few of us take classes on this topic, but there are some good books. A book I've read and recommend is Sheet Music. Sometimes problems in the bedroom need a counselor to untie issues you are too close to see or deal with.

We should also note that physical intimacy is much broader a category than sexual intimacy. While a hug or even kiss is not nearly as intimate as sexual activities, it is a selective act. Rubbing a shoulder, scratching a back, massaging a foot can all be very intimate to a person and make any sexual intimacy that much richer. It should be considered a problem if the only physical intimacy that happens is during sex. That indicates a lack of intimacy physically.

As you can see, building intimacy in a marriage takes a holistic approach. It isn't as simple as tweaking a thing or two, or going out to eat together more often. It requires a complete evaluation of the dynamics in the marital relationship and a willingness to modify and/or adopt some core values that foster this intimacy rather than fight against it. I hope the above will give you a decent start on doing just that.