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What Went Wrong? Barriers to Intimacy, Part 2

From the series Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage

We all long to experience real intimacy in our marriage. But, according to scripture, if we’re ever going to get there, we’ll need to overcome four barriers. These four barriers are common to everyone and they can block our attempts to develop intimacy with our mate if we don’t recognize and understand them. Chip reveals how to define and defeat the barriers to intimacy in your marriage.

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Message Transcript

The second barrier is psychological barrier. And as you listen to that, these are personality differences. But as you listen to this, I just want you to remember, this spiritual barrier so colors everything that, boy, I’ll tell you. It makes all these others, it just taints them.

Psychological barrier is our personality differences. Men, women. They’re different but just people are different, aren’t they?

Example: there are introverts and extroverts. Some people go to a party and want to meet everybody and someone goes to a party, finds a corner with one or two other people and they spend four hours there, and they come home, “Oh that was an awesome party.”

And if you’re an extrovert, you’re going, how could it be an awesome party? You sat in the corner with two other people. What a bummer. You know, you’re high-fiving everybody. “Hey Jim! Bobby! Hey! Good to see you! Good to…” Right?

Now, that’s not a good or a bad. You know, an extrovert needs to get around people to get refreshed. “Oh, man, I need to get with my friends,” and an introvert goes, “Give me two days alone. Turn off the voicemail. Turn off the email. Unplug the phone. I just need to be…” And then the energy comes back.

But you know what? Some weird thing, we kind of marry the opposites, don’t we? And it causes conflict.

Or, the difference between assertive and easy-going. Some people are loving and kind but they’re just, they’re assertive, right? There’s just a little edge, “Hey, let’s get this done.” And other people are kind of laid back, right? You know?

And she’s going, “Hey! Let’s do this!” She’s assertive. And he’s going, “Well, maybe we’ll cut that yard tomorrow. You know? You know? Let’s enjoy one another, baby!” You know?

And so you have conflict. Is there, there’s not a wrong person, is there? But it’s different. Or the difference between factual and abstract. Some people are just by the book. Factual, factual, factual, factual. “You know, Chip, excuse me, it says fifty-five miles an hour.” “I know that means like, fifty-five to sixty, sixty-two. Because…” “Honey, I believe the laws of the land are very clearly written. It’s fifty…” “Got you, hon.” You know?

I want real factual people flying the planes that I am on. “Hey, this airport’s close enough.” Or when you get your teeth drilled? “Eh, is it this one, that one? Yeah, it’s close enough.” [Drilling noises] Right?

I mean, it’s not bad or wrong. You want factual people doing things that are meticulous. But people that are going to dream dreams and paint paintings. You know, I don’t want, like, “Okay, let’s do a masterpiece of art. Okay, the number one goes here, blue. Number two goes here.” Right? You want people that are abstract and dreamy and conceptual.

God made us different. But when you got the barrier of sin and then you throw these kind of differences. Some people are very systematic. I married one. Some are very spontaneous. She married one.

You know, I just think. Oh, let’s do that. She says, “Is that on the schedule or not?” You know?

And about after thirty years, I’m learning to be a lot more systematic and she has grown to be much more spontaneous.

There’s all kind of tests whether it’s Myers-Briggs, MMPI, DiSC Test. You can discover what these are but the answer is understanding. The answer is understanding. It’s getting, oh! We’re different. Let’s understand it. The differences aren’t bad but you need to figure out that you really are different.

And you know what? It takes time. As many of you know, Theresa and I came from alcoholic families. And so, if you know about systems, that creates not really good systems.

And so my first couple years of marriage, oh boy, that was wild. And so, I had a fellow named Paul Meier who was a, he was actually teaching at the seminary, the Meier-Minirth Clinics and at the same time was getting some more Bible education himself.

And so he was giving this lecture. And as he gave this lecture, he was describing our marriage and we were having all this conflict. We just flat out could not communicate.

And he described it. So I went up after class and I said, “Where did you learn all those secrets?” And he looked at me and said, “Chip, this is just normal stuff.”

But I had made all the differences of who we are a wrong and a right. Instead of understanding, oh, I guess I need to live in a world understanding she needs time alone and she needs to learn I need some time with people that it’s going to be way over the top for her.

I guess she needs to understand that if we’re not real conceptual and lay out where we want to be ten, fifteen years, we’ll never get there because life is more than just doing the task and the list the next seventy-two hours.

But did you ever think maybe that’s why God put you together? Did you ever think it was to complement and to help one another? There’s multiple areas that are different because of your personalities magnified by the spiritual barriers.

And then third, we’ve got gender barriers. Despite many of the movements of the past twenty or thirty years, physiologically, emotionally, spiritually – men and women are different.

I love the quote by a famous theologian who said, “Our sexuality penetrates to the deepest metaphysical grounds of our personality. As a result, the physical differences between the man and the woman are a parable of the psychic and spiritual differences of a more ultimate nature.” His point’s saying when you look at the physiology of a man and a woman, it’s like a parable. And that God, we are very different at all levels. We don’t process information the same.

Now, I’m going to give you some differences out of a book called Understanding Each Other by Paul Tournier. It’s an older book, he was a Swiss psychologist who’s a believer.

And don’t go away to someone and say, “Men are always like this and women are always like this and this Chip Ingram guy said this.” I didn’t say that.

I’m going to give you tendencies. There are multiple exceptions of women who are more like this and men who are like that.

So, but there are certain tendencies that are verifiable. Males tend to be more achievement focused; women tend to be more relationally focused. Men tend to be, tend to be, more theoretical and generalist; women tend to be more specific and detail oriented.

I have a grandchild. Someone asked me, “So, tell me about your brand new grandchild.” “It’s healthy. Doing great. Name’s Nola.” We got it. We’re done. Someone calls Theresa, “What’s your grandchild?” “Twenty-one inches. Seven point nine seven three point one ounces. Was born at one point four a.m. I mean it’s drrrrrrr.

I’m just thinking. We got a healthy baby. It’s great. She’s fine. You know. Right? Don’t sweat the details. Well that’s the important stuff to her. That’s not wrong or right. But we’re different.

More information oriented in communication, men tend to be. Women tend to be more emotionally oriented. It’s not an either/or. And by the way, in the marketplace, I think one of the reasons we’re seeing women as great team builders is they don’t just look at the facts. They have that sixth sense about what’s happening in the lives and the hearts of people.

Men tend to be more action oriented. Women tend to be more verbal oriented. In fact, research that I read was a woman speaks, on average, about a third to fifty percent more than the average man. And some of you men would say, “That’s true in my home.” And for others it wouldn’t be.

But that’s not bad or good. It’s how we’re wired.

Men tend to be more facts oriented. Women tend to be more intuitively oriented. Men tend to be more goal oriented and women tend to be more supportive and nurturing oriented.

It’s interesting if you have kids, as they grow up, ask yourself: who do they go to for certain situations?

Now, I think we both have something to give and there’s a lot of women and a lot of men that have a lot of cross-over. But these are some general tendencies. Here’s the point, though. The point is, you’re a man. Your wife’s a woman. Okay? Think very clearly on this.

How he thinks, how he behaves, how he processes information. If there wasn’t a Fall, if there was no sin, you would have some struggles. At least big misunderstandings.

But when you take sin, then you take personality differences, then you take the differences between men and women. You know what? It’s amazing anybody stays married. Right?

But what are we believing? We’re believing, we love one another. We should have ooey-gooey feelings and never have any struggles. If you’ve got to work through gender issues, personality issues, and sin issues, you’re going to have big struggles and big struggles are normal.

Fourth, the answer here is appreciation.

I am glad my wife is not like me. Right? And you are glad your husband is not like you. In many, many, many ways. But it’s appreciating that instead of making them, again, areas of conflict.

The final barrier is historical barriers. Our baggage from the past. Some have more than others. Family upbringing. You know, you come from different families that have different values. Different geography. Someone was born in the country. Someone in the city. Someone in the suburbs.

Communication styles. In my home, everyone talked at the same time and no one listened. At her home, no one talked.

I can still remember, we were early dating. And I just thought, I’m going be in love with this gal and we had this forty-five minute drive and I thought, Wow, this is going to be great. And to me, my love language is meaningful conversation.

And so, we’re going to have this great talk and we’re driving through the country. And I noticed she was quiet now and then. And she has now, by God’s grace, changed a lot to not make me crazy.

But this was probably almost thirty years ago. So, we’re driving in the car and I just thought to myself, I tend to start the conversations. I’m going to let her start this time.

So, I’m driving. And this is how men are. This is so crazy. Been five minutes, no one’s said anything. And she’s, looks at me and smiles. Looks out and there’s cows on the hills and, that I didn’t notice. And a blue sky and trees and…

What’s the deal here? She must be mad at me. Insecurity, right? Okay, so now it’s ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes. Thirty-five minutes. Thirty-five minutes. I’ll tell you what, the moment she opens her mouth…

Man, I thought we were going to have this good…man, I tell you what. She I bet she doesn’t like me, she doesn’t… there’s a big problem. Why? She’s stone-walling me. I can’t figure…

Forty-five minutes. And we round this bend. Get out of the car and I’m thinking, This is the worst forty-five minutes of my life. I’m going to give her a piece of my mind. I’m going to tell her, if you treat me like this, I thought, you were the right one and now I kind of have my doubts.

She gets out of the car, turns to me, and she goes, “Chip, wasn’t this a great time?” You know, I’m biting my lip. “Wasn’t this a great time?”
And she goes, “You know, it’s just so good, nature so refreshes my soul. Thanks for just being understanding and giving me some room on this trip.”

She goes, “Did you notice the cows and look at those trees and the wildflowers as we came.” She goes, “This was such a neat time together.”

Ahhhhh! You know? I’m thinking, Are you kidding me? My blood pressure’s up to, way up to here. I’m just waiting for one little move so I can pound her for being so insensitive.

And then the little light went on. And I realized, you know what? We’re really different. Okay? Now, we don’t have forty-five minute drives anymore. But I have learned when to give her room. And she’s learned to initiate conversation.

Now, as you laugh, you know why you’re laughing? Because it’s you too, isn’t it? And so, you got sin, you got gender issues, personality issues. You got background issues.

The number of children. You know, one person came from a family of six or seven and the other was an only child. I got news. You think differently about family.

One comes from a family that the mom got up and cooked breakfast every morning. The other is get cereal on your own or we don’t even eat breakfast. What is that? Those aren’t wrong or righters but they cause conflict.

You also have traumatic events. Deaths, divorce, abuse. There are indelible imprints in people’s psyches and souls of big difficult pains they’ve been through. And as they start to unzip their heart and you grow toward intimacy.

“Ooh, I didn’t mean, ooh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hit that.” Well, what happened? Well, that’s where I got rejected before. My ex-husband. I’ve never told anyone my older step-brother abused me when I was fourteen.

And then lights go off and you treat this person like this and…You’ve got to understand. As a part of the Fall, you are married to someone that’s damaged goods. And you are probably more damaged than you think. And it will take incredible grace and sensitivity and understanding of their history and their baggage.

Our first two years, a lot of it was like this until I sat down with a counselor and I listened to my wife’s childhood and I listened to where she’d been and how she thought.

And you know what? My anger turned to compassion. I realized why she was so sensitive. I realized why she prayed for hours on end like no one I’ve ever met.

I realized why every time we would ever meet someone that was down and out or been abused or been hurt or every church I’ve ever been in. Man, if you were, like, totally dysfunctional my wife’s going to end up your best friend.

She’s the mercy woman who just cares for these people that no one likes. If you go to a party and someone looks lonely and out of it, she’s going to find that person.

Why? It’s a part – God redeems our hurts and our pasts and often gives us a heart to love those who are in the same situation where we’ve been. You know? And so, but if all the barriers are up and if it’s: fix me and come through for me.

If you don’t know how to communicate, if you can’t get these things on the table without, like, shooting one another, then you come to these silly conclusions like, they’re not the right person for me and we’re at this barrier and it’s an impasse and psychological differences and we’re never going to fulfill one another. That’s a bunch of baloney.

You just don’t understand, you got a big sin problem. You got different personalities. One of you is a man and one of you is a woman. And you got different backgrounds, it’s going to take a tender, gracious God and an amazing commitment on your part to take little steps of faith and grace to let Him forgive and nurture and restore and love and bring together and it’s going to be a bunch of hard work. A bunch of hard work. And it’s worth it. And it’s worth it.

And so, you have false beliefs and games that you’ve learned to play to protect yourself, right? We all do. Well guess what. Your wife came from a different family, or your husband, so they have different games. So, you’re playing this game, she’s playing that game. Right?

And then we have rejection and past relationships. The answer here is knowledge. Knowledge.

You’ve got to get inside of what’s been going on a get a picture of the background of the person that you love so that the knowledge can bring understanding. And the understanding can develop appreciation.

And the appreciation can cause you to be, do you realize the person that’s going to bring the most healing in your mate? It’s not some counselor somewhere.

You know the person with a face and with hands that touch and with arms that hold and feet that go places and do things. You know the person that’s going to be the agent of grace to bring the deepest, most significant, sanctifying healing in your mate is you.

But it requires you to see yourself: God I’m desperate in need for You to remove this barrier. I’m desperate for Your power to just get off of me long enough and my insecurities and how rejected I feel and how unsatisfied I am and how unfulfilled in this season to say, What does he need?

And that means, I get up every morning and I’m sure, like you all, I miss a morning here and there. But I have to meet with God. I’m not trying to be disciplined. I’m not trying to read my Bible to keep the devil away or pray so long so I can check something off.

I need God. I need grace. I need Him to fill me up and say, “I have covered your shame, Chip. I love you. I’ve forgiven you. I have put the Spirit of God that will manifest the presence and the power of Christ. I have given you promises that, no matter what it is, you can trust. I’ll put people around your life. Because I want you filled up so you can give and be an agent of grace to help Theresa be the woman that reflects My glory.”

And so, that’s what I’ve got to do. And that’s what she has to do. And that’s why it’s so important. That it’s not about techniques. It’s not about figuring out, let’s see, if we go three weekends away and we do this book and fill out these blanks.

We’re going to talk about communication and good techniques. But I want you to know, it starts with seeing the model and the blueprint.

And then it’s understanding the barriers. And then it’s signing up to be an agent of grace. Getting it first and then giving it.

The final page, you’ll notice, a quick summary. It says, “The result is we knowingly and unknowingly put up protective walls that keep us from being deeply touched and loved in ways we’re desperate to experience.” Isn’t that what we do? That’s what these barriers do, isn’t it?

And you might underline the word “unknowingly.” That’s where it gets tricky. I know when I’m putting up the walls, don’t you? But there’s times, I put up walls, I don’t know I’m doing it. We knowingly and unknowingly put up walls.

And then Larry Crabb has written a couple excellent books and the summary of a couple excellent books about how men and women respond are in these next lines.

Women focus on, write the word “relationships” and struggle with loneliness and the fear of abandonment. You know, just getting that. That’s going to, for all your life, ladies.

A woman’s wrong strategy centers around controlling. You want to control your husband, your world. You want everything to be in place. You want to control so you don’t get abandoned.

A man focuses on impact and struggle with futility and the fear of failure. Shows up everywhere. Impact. A man’s wrong strategy centers around compensating. Compensating.

And you say, what do I mean by that? You know what? You can be the tiger on the softball field, the football field. You can make “x” dollars. You can come into the office. You can be a construction worker and make something out here.

“Hey, hey, hey,” with the guys and get a couple beers and man aren’t we tough? And ho, ho. And put my jersey on that says whatever team as I vicariously live my life through other athletes.

And we can, as men, compensate with hobbies and work because out there what happens? You get the strokes. And yet sit around a table and realize, “I know I’m supposed to be the spiritual leader. I don’t know how to pray out loud and I don’t want to open this big book because my wife knows ten times more than me.

“And I don’t want to say something like, ‘Hey, how’d school go?’ because my kids roll their eyes. And so, because I feel inadequate and incompetent, I go compensate. And I tell them it’s because I want more money for the family and I’m building the house.

“And no, no. It’s because I’m scared to death, that I’m insecure, and I’ve got these barriers. And I don’t know where to go and I don’t know how to get help. But at least out there, I’m a somebody.”

God’s solution is honest, grace-filled understanding, communication to lovingly pull down the walls, risk vulnerability, and restore intimacy.

And I would just say, because you never know, kind of, who you’re talking to. I would just say this. The greatest application of all of this, of getting grace-filled understanding and communication and to pull those walls is, first and foremost, if there’s by any chance, someone, that you’re listening to me and the part of you that is going, “Wow. This guy is describing my life.”

And then if the next thought is, “I don’t know this God he’s talking about. I don’t have a personal relationship with Christ. I don’t have the power he’s talking about. I get the barrier part. How do you break through the barrier?”

I want you to know that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin. He, fully God, fully man, He left heaven and all the glory of heaven to live a perfect life to reveal what God the Father is like, full of grace and truth.

And He lived this perfect life and He modeled it. And then He was sinless and He died. That blood that we talked about was shed. And it was shed to atone or cover your sin and forgive you.

And then He rose from the dead the third day and He’s seated at the right hand of God and His invitation to every human being on the face of the earth is this: whoever would believe on Me, whoever would trust, I so love the world that if you believe on Me, you can have a gift of eternal life. And God wants you to know that’s the starting point.

And for many, maybe you know, I have, I’ve prayed, I’ve honestly repented and I’ve asked him to come into my life and forgive me of my sins. But you realize that your priorities in your relationship with God are really out of kilter.

God may have brought you here, first and foremost, for you to realize: I’ve got to get right with God.

Because I got news for you. You will never get right with your mate until there is a vitality and a power in your relationship with Christ.

And if you’ve never received Christ  just sitting right where you’re at, you can just say we don’t need to have a prayer or you can just say, “Oh God. God, as I listen to this, I want this to work. And I desperately need You. I believe You died for me. Would You forgive me? I repent. Come into my life right now.” And He’ll meet you. He’ll just meet you right where you’re at.