When we talk about nakedness in marriage, our natural tendency is to immediately think of sexual intimacy, but nakedness in marriage is about much more than the act of sex.
Rhonda and Jake have been our friends for more than a decade. Our kids have played with their kids. We’ve lived parallel lives constantly bumping into each other at the same ballgames, birthday parties and church events. We’ve liked each other’s family pictures on Instagram. From our perspective, it always seemed like they had a happy marriage.
We were as shocked as anyone when the couple very nonchalantly announced that they were splitting up. They assured everyone that they had worked out all the details and decided that their lives were moving in different directions, but they told everyone not to worry about them or the kids. “This was all for the best,” they would say with a smile.
When we finally had the chance to talk with them in private, their answers to us seemed as rehearsed and nonchalant as their social media posts about the breakup had been. We offered to help or to get them connected to counseling, but they politely turned down our offers. They even put a spiritual spin on their decision by saying, “We’ve prayed about this, and we believe God has released us from the marriage.”
Without preaching at them, we tried to politely but firmly remind them that when there’s been no infidelity or abuse, there’s no scenario where God would “release” someone from their marriage. He’s in the business of restoring marriages. Still, they had firmly made up their minds, and it was clear that we weren’t going to convince them otherwise.
None of us ever really knows what’s going on behind closed doors in someone else’s marriage, but because we know and love these people (and because we do marriage ministry vocationally), we felt compelled to try to figure out what might have gone wrong. While we certainly don’t have all the information (and we also haven’t shared their real names here), we did realize something that began to shed some light on the situation.
In all our years of knowing this couple and calling them “friends,” we’d never really had an in-depth, transparent conversation. We had certainly tried, but there had been a distinct pattern on their part of avoiding any real depth or vulnerability in conversations. They had always kept the conversation on surface level topics that required no real honesty or transparency.
We wondered to ourselves if they had followed this same trend in their own marriage. Perhaps the avoidance of real issues and the effort to keep up appearances had been more important than doing the work to experience real transparency in their relationship. Regardless of the reasons for the split, we pray for our friends (and for others like them) and still believe God can do a miracle to mend their hearts back together someday.
What happened to our friends’ marriage is tragic, but the good news in all this is that what happened to our friends wasn’t random. It was preventable and it doesn’t have to happen in your marriage. There are specific, Biblical steps you can take to ensure that intimacy grows stronger through every season of your marriage. Yes, divorce rates are high, but your marriage has a 100% chance of success if you’ll do it God’s way.
In our years of working with couples within our church and through the ministry of XO Marriage, we’ve come to discover that nearly all healthy couples have one trait in common. You might guess that the most important trait in a healthy marriage is compatibility, but we’ve found that every couple is compatible when they’re committed to Christ and to each other. The common trait in thriving couples isn’t compatibility; it’s transparency. Couples who make it work are honest, vulnerable and transparent about everything. In marriage, the depth of your transparency will determine the depth of your intimacy.
So, how do you prevent your own marriage from being a casualty of divorce? What’s the “secret” to lifelong intimacy in marriage? In a nutshell, it’s to get naked! Don’t worry, you don’t have to join a nudist colony or even walk around your house naked. That would gross out your kids, and if you tried it in public, you’d be arrested. No, we’re talking about a “nakedness” that creates a climate of complete transparency between you and your spouse in all parts of your life.
We can back this up with more than just observational anecdotes. This is a Biblical concept. When you open up the Bible to study God’s design for marriage, you’ll see the very first picture God gives us of marriage in the Book of Genesis depicts the couple as naked. God makes such a deliberate point to highlight their nakedness not just because physical nakedness is an important part of marital intimacy, but because emotional and spiritual nakedness would also be important.
When we talk about nakedness in marriage, our natural tendency is to immediately think of sexual intimacy, but nakedness in marriage is about much more than the act of sex. It’s quite possible to have sex without real intimacy (even animals can do that). While sexual intimacy is a beautiful gift within marriage, it’s only one aspect of a “Naked Marriage.”
Nakedness is a picture of transparency. It’s the essence of vulnerability and honesty. It’s showing that we have nothing to hide from each other. It’s a removal of everything that separates us. It’s taking off anything we’re tempted to hide behind. It’s an invitation to be fully known by each other in the intimate oneness God designed your marriage to possess.
We believe this kind of transparency and “nakedness” is so paramount to healthy marriages, that we’ve made it our ministry’s core marriage. Our podcast is called “The Naked Marriage Podcast” and our first book was titled “The Naked Marriage.” This isn’t just to be a gimmick since the word “naked” does seem to grab attention. This is an intentional refocusing on God’s original plan for marriage in a world that has lost sight of it.
So, to be as practical as possible, here are a few ways to infuse your marriage with more transparency and nakedness:
- Make a “Secret-Free Guarantee” with your spouse. Unless you’re planning a surprise birthday party, don’t keep secrets. Talk about everything.
- Pray together daily. Prayer is one of the most intimate and transparent acts a couple can share together. Plus, it realigns your hearts with the heart of Jesus and reminds you that God is with you in every struggle you’re facing.
- Stay away from the common enemies of intimacy in our culture such as pornography.
- Be quick to apologize for your mistakes and quick to extend grace to each other. A genuine apology is one of the most transparent and intimate acts imaginable, and when your marriage becomes a grace-filled place, your relationship will be at its very best.
- Check in with each other often. When you feel that you might be drifting apart, address it immediately.
- Make fun a priority in your marriage. Laughter is transparency in its most joyful form. Laugh together often.
If you’ll do these things with consistency and transparency, your marriage will grow stronger though every season of life. God has beautiful plans for your marriage. Don’t settle for anything less than His lifelong dreams for your family.