“Intimacy wades in the shallow waters of life until spirituality brings it into the deep end.”
Us human folk are complex multidimensional beings. We are physical. We are emotional. We are intellectual. We are social. We are also spiritual.
As such, to neglect the spiritual side of our lives is to neglect a foundational part of who we are at the most fundamental level. To build relationships ignoring that vital part of our natures is to create a relationship that hobbles on one leg.
Relationships are organic things. A spiritual-free relationship is an organism that may have heart, but lacks soul. (<– Tweet this!)
Even if emotionally rewarding, without the spiritual dimension your relationship can’t reach the depth of one built on, around, and as an extension of a shared spiritual context.
Why Spiritual Intimacy Matters
To deepen our relationships then, it’s important to address each facet of the human experience, at least at some level.
In a cynical world of one-click-away porn, a calloused social climate, a dime store popular morality that is as airy as Swiss cheese and as steady as a politician in an election year, it becomes increasingly important to create spiritual moorings in our relationships.
Doing so promises to better hold us together by connecting us at a deeper level, deeper than skin level, even deeper than the heart. Spiritual intimacy can bind us together in ways the mere physical can’t and the emotional is not fully equipped to.
When we are spiritually connected, our expressions of love take on new meaning. Purpose is added to passion; substance to pleasure; beauty to desire; joy to intimacy.
The more spiritually in-tune you and your partner are, the stronger the emotional connection between you will likely be. Greater trust, more passion, more concern, softer communication, shared meaning and purpose all add to the intimacy we hope to have with our permanent love relationships.
So if you’re ready to develop something deeper and more meaningful in your most significant of relationships, try applying the following steps …
7 Ways to build Spiritual Intimacy in your Marriage
1. Serve together
Service is the context and consequence of a spiritual life. (<– Tweet this!) Service is the natural expression of one’s spirituality. If attitudes and behaviors don’t change as spirituality develops, your spirituality has likely been built of more superficial substance.
Love and compassion are natural offshoots of mature spirituality. One follows the other and one leads to the other. Work on one and the other will eventually follow on its heels — so long as it is not a superficial pretense in disguise.
2. Read Spiritual Text Together
Whatever your holy book or spiritual text might be, try reading together as a couple. Build your relationship on the back of shared values, a shared faith and shared quest for spiritual growth, nirvana, enlightenment, the way, at-one-ness or communion with the Holy Spirit.
Reading inspiring literature has a grounding effect. It reminds, prompts and motivates us to live spiritual lives and teaches us spiritual practices that help us connect with the Source of our spirituality.
It helps us eliminate spiritual distractions and strengthens our resolve to live our lives in a way that removes and prevents moral debris that can clog spiritual lines of communication.
3. Pray Together
As the old saying goes, a family that prays together stays together. While not always true, there does seem to be significant correlation. There is an intimacy in prayer when it’s expressed soulfully. When we pour out our hearts to God for our family, asking for protection and blessings and comfort and forgiveness and love, a spiritual bond can start to form.
Anger and resentment can be melted by a spouse praying for help to overcome a problem that exists between them, asking for direction, seeking spiritual confirmation, requesting insight into the needs of the other.
If, however, prayer is used as a means of shaming the other into some desired change, then prayer has become a weapon in the hands of those who misunderstand its purpose.
But when approached humbly, sincerely, open to the divine, to spiritual instruction, presenting yourself “naked” before your Maker, ready to give an accounting, asking for help, praying for blessings on each other, spiritually vulnerable, hard exteriors can crack. Softness can return. Patience, love and forgiveness often start to replace the harsher feelings that sometimes develop between spouses over time.
4. Share Spiritual Experiences
As you work to build the spiritual foundation to your relationship, you will have a growing number of spiritual experiences to talk about. Share them. Share your personal insights and spiritual epiphanies as you have them. Open up and get used to talking about emotional and spiritual things.
Talk about the spiritual experiences you have together as a way to connect soul to soul. Make it a habit to ask each other about their spiritual thoughts and feelings as an expression of a sincere interest in their spiritual experiences and a desire to share and learn together, and bond at a spiritual level.
If you had a particularly spiritual moment in prayer, walking through the woods or while contemplating life, share it. Talk about it. Invite the spiritual into the conversations that become an integral part of your relationship.
Caution: Be patient as you embark on this journey though. Don’t expect the Heavens to open and angels to descend. Look for more subtle spiritual stirrings and impressions that speak to your heart, ratifying eternal truths as you discover them, gently guiding you down the spiritual path, washing over your relationship, soothing and entwining hearts.
5. Visit Spiritual Places Together
Temple, mosque, church, synagogue, monastery, cemetery, holy ground, the Holy Land, Jerusalem, Mecca, wherever. There is something inspiring and connecting about great places of spiritual tradition.
They ground us and lift us and point us down spiritual paths. They inspire rededication and recommitment. The memory of such places can also stay with us for years, continuing to inspire long after the actual visit.
Many religious monuments and places of worship or other spiritual centers are rich in symbolism as well. Connecting with the symbols of our spiritual quests can further add context to our spiritually-based relationships as well.
6. Spend Time in Nature Together
For many of us, nature is a deeply spiritual experience. It has a way of calming and centering and rejuvenating the soul.
Long walks in the woods, on a lonely stretch of beach, through a forest or in the desert, across a field of wildflowers or alongside a stream or the shores of a lake, there is something inside us that connects and reflects those pristine settings. It draws us into deep contemplative thought.
Spending time in nature together can get our hearts beating in sync, allowing us to retool our thoughts and moods to fit a more subdued and spiritual rhythm.
7. Create Spiritual Traditions Together
Traditions are ways of bringing family together in shared meaningful experiences.
The danger is that they can become routine and common, losing their original significance. But that can be guarded against easy enough as long as you are aware of that possibility and are mindful of the way you prepare for and participate in the tradition you create.
Family and couples’ prayer, daily or weekly family devotionals, scripture study, observing religious or spiritually significant holidays can all help anchor us spiritually.
Warning: Go at the Pace of the Person Least Ready to Walk a Spiritual Path
One of the most effective ways to kill the likelihood of building spiritual intimacy with your significant other is to make that person feel inadequate or guilty for not having ascending to the lofty spiritual heights you currently occupy (did you catch the sarcasm?).
Developing spirituality is not a 50 yard dash across a finish line. It’s a life-long lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if you walk or run or jog or crawl. The point is to keep at it. It’s more endurance than speed. If you seem to be running faster than your spouse, that’s okay.
But if you find yourself focusing is on your partner’s speed and spiritual location relative to your own, then maybe the spiritual race you’re running is more ego and less spirit.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of never making your spouse feel like he/she is lacking some essential spiritual gene or isn’t up to par or is otherwise not in your league. That’s the fasted way to kick the spiritual relationship in the gut, perhaps never again to coax your spouse back to the spiritual path.
So don’t demand your spouse perform the same spiritual practices in exactly the same way you do. Don’t require your partner to say the same words or express their individual spirituality as a mirror image of your words and your expressions.
Avoid self-righteousness. Spiritual arrogance chokes true spirituality. (<– Tweet this!) So be patient. Be calm. Be compassionate. Lead by example. Walk the talk.
Let your love and empathy and kindness be the gentle nudge and the quiet sermon of the value of a spiritual life together. And if your spouse is not ready for the walk, let him see the benefits of a spiritual journey in you as you ever so kindly walk that path alongside the path he’s walking instead.
There’s nothing more off-putting than someone who talks the talk of spirituality but doesn’t live it. Your spiritual path should be leading you to more inner peace, kindness, patience, thoughtfulness and love.
If it isn’t, something is not working right. The spiritual path doesn’t require perfection, mind you. Mistakes will be made. Patience will be tested and found wanting. Anger will still surface. People on spiritual journeys still stumble and fall down. But things should be getting better over the course of your spiritual journey together.
The true measure of your spiritual journey is the degree to which your outer life starts to reflect your inner one.
Keep in mind, however, that nothing here will replace other challenges that may stand in the way of a deep kind of intimacy in your marriage or other relationships. But adding a spiritual element can help move you closer to resolving other difficulties that may still be obstacles to richer intimacy.
If your marital life is filled with criticism and complaint, adding a spiritual core can start to return a sort of spiritual equanimity, at least to you and how you approach life and your loved ones. Peace can replace anger and resentment. A soft reply can replace harshness and judgment. Compassion can replace years of built-up resentment.
So even is your spouse is resistant to a spiritual walk, start yourself. Allow your life to be a kind of walking billboard, not in a “watch me” sort of way, but as a humble expression of a life lived spiritually.
As your shared spirituality matures, so will your relationship. It will deepen in unexpected ways. Additional layers of meaning and significance will add to what already exists. Your perspective will broaden and lengthen. How you interpret problems, each other, and the life you’re building around your relationship will take on new colors, shades and hues, adding a texture to life that will be nothing short of profound.
So step up and get down and spiritual.
The journey begins now!
- Have you started down your own spiritual path?
- How have you successfully brought someone along with you?
- How have you added spirituality to your own relationship?
- Anything I missed that would help build spiritual intimacy?
We’re all learning together here and would love your insight. Please share it in the comments below.
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Photo by Liz Grace