In 2014 I found out Jere was cheating. I found a letter that explained, in excruciating details, the length, depth and breadth of the affair he was involved in.
There was a line in that letter written by his mistress that is so profound. She writes, “You made me feel beautiful and desirable. I always knew that we could walk into a room full of beautiful women – all tens – and you would make me feel like an eleven.”
You may wonder why I would share these obviously painful words. When I first read this, and probably the second and third and tenth time, the sentences were just a couple of many that devastated and shattered my heart. But Jere and I have healed, and we have the most connected, intimate and beautiful marriage I know, now. A marriage of unity and trust and connection and love.
As we have healed, however, and as we have invested in the lives of other couples in training and coaching, those words continued to haunt me. You see, Jere didn’t make me feel that way for most of our marriage. I had been his wife for 27 years when the words were written…and I felt puny and unloved and undesirable. The majority of couples that we coach don’t feel this way either. They don’t know that they are valued and adored and cherished and beautiful. The words became incredibly insightful not only to our healing, but also in our work with broken couples.
We took note that most of us made sure to help our boy/girlfriends feel that way when we were dating. We were careful to give them kudos for the little and big things. We cheered them on, and we boosted them up. We listened to their fears and let them know how we believed in them. I’ve learned, and Jere admits, that affair partners also take great care to listen, to hear, to utter words and create spaces that they pretend are safe as they live in the fantasy of the illicit world.
Not so much married partners, though. Not so much two people who have pledged to care for each other in all circumstances and to love and honor each other in covenant. Over and over we work with couples who are married, yet hurting and hopeless, and unable to get even basic emotional needs met through the relationship. It seems the only thing rational to do is to part. To divorce.
But God tells us what is the most important in relationship. In Psalm 139:1-4, He literally writes out what true intimacy looks like: “You have searched me, Lord,and you know me.You know when I sit and when I rise;you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down;you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongueyou, Lord, know it completely.”
God lovingly painted the picture for what an intimate relationship, a covenant relationship, looks like with those words. As you read them, doesn’t your heart crave this? Crave to be known in every part? No secrets, no walking on egg-shells or wearing a mask – and still being ADORED? My husband’s lover felt that way – even though it was false and just the fantasy speaking – seeing those words in print was the start of us realizing huge gaps in most marriages that allow for anything BUT intimacy and connection and love to develop.
God didn’t stop with the picture. He gave us clues how to achieve this intimacy. His word tells us that He listens. To us. He demonstrates that love is active, and listening/knowing is key. In James 1:19, God says we “should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” In verse 22, He adds “don’t merely listen to the Word…do it.” In Jeremiah 33:3, God adds “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
This is the way we should be within our marriages. We should desperately seek to know each other’s innermost parts and to be intimately connected. Intimacy is impossible unless we are revealed, and as spouses, we learn first through listening. Listening to the heart and the countenance and the responses of our spouse. Then, when we have learned through listening, we can act. We can lean into the things that we have uncovered through supportive compassion, engaging responses and actions that demonstrate we have not just listened…but we have heard. And we know how to respond uniquely and specifically to them – the one we know.
It sounds easy, yet doesn’t come naturally. Listening with no intention to respond is hard work, and goes against our natural human response. Speaking their language, the one they can hear, and to their heart IS the essence of love.
Jere and I demonstrate this to couples, and coach them as they learn how to change the way they communicate. We ask couples to take time, every day, to practice: look at each other in the eyes, face-to-face. Touch or hold hands or somehow physically connect if possible, and share. As they do, we help them learn to stop listening with an intent to respond, but rather with a goal to understand. We help them develop a pattern of ensuring they have heard, affirmed, and validated their spouse and are willing and able to demonstrate empathy.
Great and unsearchable things they didn’t know about each other begin to unfold, and the connection they were always meant to have between them is sparked. Couples learn to listen. They experience being heard, and known.
Healing happens, hope abounds, and love? Love wins.
For information on how you can learn to listen, to bring hope to your hurting marriage in a way that fosters intimacy, passion and connection, please reach out to us:
Jere Pitman – firstname.lastname@example.org or Susan Pitman – email@example.com .
We are passionate about living love without limits. Let everything you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14