Building a Closer Marriage

What’s the key to a “happily ever after” marriage, or is it even achievable? All marriages face challenges, and the feelings of being “in love” can easily fade. Our culture emphasizes the importance of personal happiness in marriage, but God has a higher purpose that leads to true intimacy and fulfillment. Understanding His design is the key to a marriage that rises above the ordinary and becomes stronger through the years.

In Genesis, we find our first and best model of a perfect, sacrificial, intimate relationship. It’s here that we are introduced to the Trinity.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:26-27

Notice the words “Our” image and “Our” likeness. God is revealing the existence of His eternal relationship with the Son and with the Holy Spirit in this perfect union of the Trinity. He is letting us know that He has always existed in community, and He invites us into this community by making us in His image and His likeness. I’m not sure I stop often enough to reflect on the miracle that God made me in His image. And I’m not sure I stop often enough to remember that my wife is made in His image, too.

Like the relationship of the Trinity, our marriage relationship is meant to be intimate and life-giving. The components of that true intimacy can be represented by the three sides of an equilateral triangle – a physical side, a relational side, and an emotional side.

The physical side of true intimacy in marriage is our sexual relationship as husband and wife. We fill our relational needs in marriage through shared investment in mutual interests. Our emotional intimacy is a connection of our souls—when we feel deep, bonded connections to one another.

It’s critical not to lose sight of the importance of this “intimacy triangle” being equilateral. Each area of intimacy is as important as the others—and the sides of the triangle must all be the same length. When the nurturing of these three sides is balanced, our intimacy triangle is kept stable. If we shorten any one side, our relationship will feel unsteady and we will feel less intimacy with our spouse.

In the more than four decades that Gail and I have been married, we can easily recall the seasons when our “triangle” has been unstable. Those were rough seasons when our marriage struggled without the wholeness it was meant to have. It took some time, effort, and lots of communication to determine which of our “sides” needed nurturing to get back into that equilateral sweet spot.

It was also helpful for us to remember that while God’s love in the Trinity is perfect, our human love will often fall short. Trinity love represents a love that is “the commitment of my will to your needs and best interest, regardless of the cost to me.” Contrast that perfect love with our fallen, human version which is, in its natural state, more like “the commitment of my will to my needs and best interest regardless of the cost to you.” It’s easy to see how our marriage relationship doesn’t always reflect the example we were given.

However, as we grow in Christ, we can grow in reflecting His manifestation of love in our marriage – a love that’s spouse-centered and not self-centered.A spouse-centered love will be mindful to maintain all sides of the equilateral triangle of intimacy that we were meant to have as husbands and wives made in the image and likeness of the perfect members of the Trinity.

It has taken Gail and me some time to get “good” at righting our triangle. We still get off balance—our tricky fallen natures will do that in a marriage. But we’re so much better at quickly noticing, doing the work to right ourselves again, and committing ourselves to the other’s best interest instead of our own. We know that God loves our marriage, and He is with us in our efforts. He loves your marriage and He is with you in your efforts, too.

To learn more about ways to strengthen your marriage, visit