I can admit that fear holds a special place in my life, but not because I want it there. In a moment’s notice, fear can take over an innocent conversation with my husband and turn it into a battleground. We have a strange relationship, fear and I. And my guess is that you do too. Fear is one of the biggest threats to intimacy in marriage. I have seen fear convince men and women that vulnerability is weakness and weakness equals failure. Finding its beginning in our childhood, imagination, or experiences we have witnessed, fear brings with it the intense desire to protect self. With real danger, this is incredibly helpful. To choose “me” by running away or fighting off the threat in front of me, I survive and go on to live another day. The physical pain heals and scars become a sign of courage and strength. Emotional pain is an altogether different experience. The pain of rejection, hurt, and betrayal does not heal as quickly. In fact, as soon as we think it is resolved, it resurfaces to tell us the risk is not worth the pain. Yet it is rarely the event that we fear after we have been emotionally wounded, it is the intensity of emotional pain. Paulo Coelho said, “the fear of suffering is worse than suffering itself.”
Marriage is hard because it requires a daily commitment towards selflessness rather than selfishness. Love by its very definition involves sacrificing our own wants and desires for someone else’s needs, and marriage is exactly that. When you talk with service members who courageously risked their life for their fellow soldier, you often hear “because I know he would have done the same for me.” Was fear there? Of course. To love someone does not mean that there is no fear. In fact, Ambrose Redmoon said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
Fear is a self-protective choice just as trust (it’s opposite) is also a choice. Fear tempts us away from intimacy with our spouse whispering “He’s only going to reject you”, “She will think you are weak” or “he won’t understand.” It will tempt you to choose you every time- protect yourself, the pain of getting hurt will be too unbearable. Fear weakens bonds, introduces doubt, and plants seeds of discontentment.
I heard once that marriage is not meant to make you happy, it is meant to make you better and I believe that is true. It is the daily choice to courageously serve your spouse with trust, forgiveness and grace while learning how to be vulnerable. When fear threatens the security of marital intimacy, choosing your spouse by maturely meeting their needs is communicating that they are more important than whatever it is that you are afraid of. It is saying, instead of protecting me right now by fighting, withdrawing, or doing nothing, I choose you. I choose to believe that you are not out to hurt me, destroy me, or even make my life difficult. And by choosing you, I in essence, choose us.