Where do you want to go for dinner?
I don’t care. What do you want?
I’m feeling like Mexican.
That’s fine with me.
I could also go for a hamburger.
Either one sounds good.
Where would you like to go?
I could eat a hamburger. Or, Mexican sounds good, too.
Which would you prefer?
I’m okay either way.
To Be Close You Must Be Defined
To maximize emotional closeness with someone, you must be able to clearly define who you are.
True intimacy is the meeting of two well-defined people. To the degree one or both people are not defined, you lose intimacy. How could you be intimate with someone who never has an opinion or preference?
I took some red play-dough and some grey clay and made three different scenarios as you can see in the post’s image.
The left scenario represents two distinct people with some distance between them. They aren’t making contact, so they can’t experience each other.
The two right scenarios represent couples that have made contact. The top scenario has one color and one shape. This couple thinks they have become one when in reality they’ve lost their individual identities. Exhaustion results when you try to be what the other person wants without defining who you are.
The bottom couple has one shape but retains two distinct colors. This couple can choose to function as a team while still remaining fully aware of their distinct, God-given identities. They have the benefits of togetherness and individuality.
To Be One You Must Remain Two
God’s design for marriage means that a man and a woman become one. One what? One flesh. Not one spirit. Not one identity. Not one soul.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24
and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. -Mark 10:8
Becoming one flesh means a husband and wife are on the same team. There are two people and one team. What happens to one has a significant impact on the other. Yet, both husband and wife retain their individual distinctions (personality, opinions, etc.).
How Two Identities Resolve Conflict
When two people define themselves in a close relationship, they’re bound to stir up some conflict. Conflict in this context is good. Conflict sets the stage for intimacy. Conflict helps two people define where the boundary is between them so that neither loses their self in the process of coming together.
To resolve conflict, you must know your boundaries. You must know yourself and what you want. You must also know and accept the other person’s limitations.
Finally, after you both know what you want, you must communicate this to each other to reach an understanding. You enter into negotiations to determine how to maximize the resolution for the greater good of both of you.
The challenge with this is no one knows themselves perfectly. Once you move closer to another, all kinds of fears can surface.
If relationships are roads, then the fear of intimacy is the potholes.
Next week I’ll discuss the potholes: you can deny their existence (avoid conflict) or accept their existence (embrace conflict).
For now, what’s for dinner?