Young couples are so in love they shouldn’t struggle being intimate with one another, right? According to Dr. Josh Straub, one of the biggest obstacles for newly married couples is a fear of intimacy. This emotional disconnection early on can be a precursor to divorce later.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
What is one of the most common obstacles that young couples face early on in their marriage? This is a question that we deal with on a regular basis with other couples, with other families.
I’m going to say something outside the box based upon what I see. But I believe that if we don’t address it early on, it can become something down the road that leads to the most common predictor of divorce.
I’m going to say that the greatest obstacle that young couples face today is the fear of intimacy.
Now you might say, “Oh my goodness. How could they fear intimacy? They’re just newly married. They’re more in love than they probably ever will be.” But the reality is that for a lot of us, we can go so intimate, we go as intimate as we want to in our relationships with one another.
Let me go the Bible for this, just for a brief example. Look at the book of Hosea. Gomer is Hosea’s wife and Hosea is called by God. As a reflection of God loving the Church, God loving Israel, and we being Israel or the Church being a reflection of who Gomer is. Gomer is a prostitute and she starts to find her worth in other men along the journey. And Hosea is called to constantly go back and pursue her to the point that he even buys her back, physically, with monetary possessions. Buys her back into his loving arms.
I think there’s so many times in our own relationship with God that we fear intimacy with Him, that we turn to things that self-medicate us. We turn to idols in our lives that prevent us from really, truly pressing into God. Because if God really knew the real me, if He really knew my sin, if He really knew my shame that I carry He might not really actually love me.
The same holds true in marital relationships. We turn to these things. One of the very first questions that I ask young couples as I meet with them in pre-marital counseling is, “Are you looking at pornography?” Point-blank. Because these are the questions that I think we need to ask young couples because these patterns will be carried into the marriage early-on. The single greatest predictor of divorce is emotional disconnection. It’s over-time, there’s a disconnection in the emotional relationship.
Not only did Hosea pay a physical price for Gomer, he also paid an emotional price for her. He had to buy her back, but emotionally imagine the pain that he went through over and over and over again as she constantly betrayed him.
You see why it’s so easy to turn to work or to turn to pornography or to turn to other things to calm and soothe us when we’re not really doing well. This goes as subtle as watching Netflix at night or before we go to bed or when we really could be spending intimate time together. Or turning to our phones and scrolling through social media. Those are self-medicators. Those are ways we emotionally distance ourselves from our spouse.
And I don’t think young couples would say, “Well, I fear intimacy.” Because they look like they’re growing in intimacy more than ever. But over time, our hearts can become hardened.
So I would just really encourage that if you work with young couples or if you are a young couple early on in your marriage, press into those intimate moments. Begin to talk about emotions with your spouse and step into that place where you say, “You know what, I am going to accept my spouse for who he or she is. I don’t care what sin he or she has right now, I’m going to love, I’m going to show grace, and I’m going to show mercy. Yes, I’m going to show some truth. But I’m going to receive, as Peter writes, to be stewards of God’s good grace. I’m going to receive my spouse in all the grace and love and mercy that I possibly can.” Because it’s there that we begin to change and we grow more intimate with one another over time. And, by the way, we then therefore have no secrets to hide.