marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Four Marriage Killers – Separation

“And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him.”[1]

In the beginning God declared that it is not good for man to be alone. This God-given desire dwells in all of us. The lack of companionship and emotional comfort from others leads to great feelings of loneliness and heartache. It can even lead to depression and lust.

In the beginning of our lives, this feeling causes us to reach out to our parents or other family members for attention and comfort. In our growing years, we reach beyond our immediate family for companions our own age. 

In our adolescent and adult years, feelings blossom beyond just needing a friend and into a mate we can confide in, someone who will validate our most intimate thoughts, feelings and desires and someone we feel we can raise a family with.

A misconception many carry is the belief that after marriage the intense need for an intimate confidant has been completely fulfilled in our spouse, and if they truly loved us then they would never even desire to seek intimate validation from another.

This desire for intimacy never goes away, married or not.

When we are separated from our spouse for any length of time, like dehydration from lack of water, the need for physical as well as emotional intimacy wells up within us and we instinctively seek it out. This can happen unconsciously, and sometimes from inappropriate sources. Our body doesn’t discriminate when it has this need.

This need for intimacy commonly manifests itself in an addiction to porn and masturbation. It also appears through “harmless” flirting with the opposite gender and/or making a friend with the opposite gender who we begin spending time confiding our feelings and dreams and (if allowed to develop) our desires. 

Validation from this new friend causes a chemical reaction in our brain that creates an emotional bond to this person. When this happens, powerful infatuation chemicals are released, making our desires for this new person hard to break.

According to Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. of , this is the point where an affair has taken a foothold in your life and drastic measures must be taken to break its grasp on you.

Infidelity doesn’t happen all at once as a single conscious waking decision. Like flaxen cords, it begins with the subtle basic feeling of loneliness. If those feelings are satiated with someone other than our spouse, momentum builds.

Eventually it may take outside help from a professional to help you control those feelings and heal the damage they can cause…damage such as immorality or adultery, the loss of material possessions or employment, or psychological damage to marriage and family. No one is immune.

How do we prevent damaging types of separation? By cultivating closeness with our spouse.

When I talk of separation, I’m not talking about needing the occasional quiet time away from everyone to meditate or read a book or rest our minds with other activities.

I’m referring to situations spouses face such as overnight business trips, long military deployments, sleeping in separate bedrooms, living as if you and your spouse are roommates, working late frequently, neglecting date nights with your spouse, or nights out with “the guys/girls” that are intended to exclude your spouse.

Consider this statement by Dr. Harley:
One of the most controversial positions I take regarding marriage is that a husband and wife should be together for their favorite recreational activities. Whatever it is they enjoy doing the most, they either do with each other, or they don't do it at all.
Some feel that I am out to destroy marriage with that suggestion, not save it. After all, how can a husband and wife survive each other in life unless they are able to get away once in a while to have some fun?
‘You are meddling, Dr. Harley! I need something to look forward to, and _______ is absolutely essential to my survival,’ is the response I often hear from spouses when first introduced to the idea. ‘There are some things a man and woman simply cannot enjoy together, and yet are essential to their happiness.’
But my advice is not based on ivory tower speculation. It's based on years of observation. Couples who spend their most enjoyable time together tend to have great marriages, and those who do not, tend to divorce. Furthermore, I have witnessed hundreds of couples who have given up activities that only one enjoyed for activities that they both enjoyed. None went crazy, and almost all of them were very happy that they made the change.”[2]
Also think on this counsel from Elder Joe J. Christensen, formerly of the Presidency of the Seventy:

“Keep your courtship alive. Make time to do things together – just the two of you. As important as it is to be with the children as a family, you need regular weekly time alone together. Scheduling it will let your children know that you feel that your marriage is so important that you need to nurture it. That takes commitment, planning, and scheduling.
It doesn’t need to be costly. The time together is the most important element.”[3]  
Essential business trips or military deployment don’t have to be a death knell for our emotional connection to our spouse and our marriage. Away from our spouse, the basic principles of “For the Strength of Youth” still apply. 

Modern technology has made it easier than ever for us to stay connected to our spouse, and (when possible) we should. Planning when and what you will do together to renew your intimate connection when you return in imperative. 

If you find your day at work or couple of hours away at a committee meeting leaves you or your spouse feeling emotionally in need of validation or connection, this renewal time may need to be planned more often.

Our spouse has the responsibility to be there for our emotional intimacy needs. Likewise, we need to support them as well.  Every individual is at their own level of spiritual or emotional development. Our spouse may have a greater or lesser emotional intimacy need than our own. Creating eternal bonds means listening to our spouse to learn what their intimacy needs are and doing what we can to meet those needs.

“A husband [or wife] is to love [their spouse] with all [their] heart and cleave unto [their spouse] and none else….The words ‘none else’ eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.”[4]

Is it worth our efforts to always be close to our spouse? Indeed it is! Emotionally investing in our marriage is a habit we need to develop if the marriage is to become an eternal one. 


[1] Moses 3:18
[3] Christensen, Joe J. “Marriage and the Great Plan of Happiness”. Ensign, May 1995
[4] Hunter, Howard W. “Being a Righteous Husband and Father”, Ensign, Nov. 1994 (quoting President Spencer W. Kimball from The Miracle of Forgiveness)