Silence: The Great Destroyer of Relational Intimacy in Marriage
Laying the Foundation
We were after all, . . . created for relationship!
There is relationship within the very nature of the Triune God. God is a personal being who exists eternally in a relationship among persons: He is His own community.
Now, when God decided to create a kind of being different from angels, He designed His new creation with a unique ability to respond to His love by choosing to enter into relationship with both Him and other similar beings.
God created us for relationship with Himself and others. We are fundamentally a relational creature. Deep down within each of us is a desire to be connected in relationship, to know and be known, to love and be loved.
We want to be known and accepted unconditionally. We want somebody to say to us "Take Me There!"
Whether it is concerning your past or the activities of your day, we want to be known.
Each of us wants someone to see us exactly as we are, . . . warts and all, and still accept us! We want to relate well with someone and connect in deep and meaningful ways, but we all have one central problem.
Our Major Problem
We are, first and foremost, committed to ourselves!
“Original sin” means we all originate out of a sinful world which taints us from the word go. We all tend to make ourselves the center of the universe. (Frederick Buechner)
Whether it is poor communication, temper problems, anger issues, co-dependent relationships, personal incompatibility, sexual frustration, insensitivity, lack of involvement, or on and on, . . . everything flows out of a cesspool of self-centeredness.
But How Did This Happen?
Let’s go back to the beginning!
God has just created both man and woman. And then, we read these words:
“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)
There was nakedness. Both were totally vulnerable and known physically, emotionally, spiritually, . . . and there was no shame.
But then, only a short time later, these words are used to describe the scene:
And Adam said to the LORD God, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10)
Now, there was a sense of nakedness, and a sense of shame and fear of being known resulting in the desire to cover themselves. And with this sense of nakedness, they each had a commitment to self-preservation.
We are committed first of all to ourselves!
Each of us holds fast to an overriding concern for our own well-being!
So, The Questions Before Us Seem To Be:
● What happened between Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:10?
● What are some of the implications for intimacy in marriage and our other personal relationships?
How did we go from "both naked and not ashamed" (2:25) to "I was afraid because I was naked so I hid myself?" (3:10)
First, the ancient text describes what happened between Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:10 in this way:
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Where Was Adam When The Serpent Tempted Eve?
The Text says that after Eve was deceived by Satan, she took some of the forbidden fruit “ . . . and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, WHO WAS WITH HER (emphasis added), and he ate it” (Gen. 3:6).
Was Adam there the whole time? Was he standing right next to his wife while the serpent tricked her with his cunnings? Was he there listening to every word?
If he was,--and there is good reason to think so,--then a big question must be asked: “WHY DIDN’T HE SAY ANYTHING?”
Before God created Eve, he had already commanded Adam to never eat from a certain tree. Adam was expected to pass on the prohibition to his wife when she appeared on the scene. We would assume that he did so.
But when the serpent struck up a conversation with Eve,--designed to muddle her thinking about God’s goodness,--Adam said nothing. Yet he was listening to every word!
He heard Eve misquote the command of God that he, Adam, had carefully communicated to her. He was watching when she began looking for the forbidden tree. He saw her take a step toward the tree and reach out to pluck some of its fruit. And he didn’t do a thing or say one word to stop her. Adam remained silent! Why?
Remember, Eve was deceived by the snake, but Adam wasn’t (I Tim. 2:14). He knew what was going on. Perhaps he should have said, “Now, wait just one minute here! Honey Buns, this snake is up to no good. I can see right through his devilish cunning. He’s deceiving you into thinking you have more to gain from disobeying God than by remaining faithful to him. That’s a lie!”
“Let me tell you exactly what God said to me before he made you. And look around us. This is Paradise. God made it and gave it all to us. We have no reason to doubt His goodness.”
And then, turning away from Eve: “Snake, this conversation is over. TAKE OFF!”
But Adam said nothing. He stood there, heard and watched the whole thing, and didn’t say a word. He failed his woman. He failed, in his first spiritual struggle, to represent God. He failed as a man!
The silence of Adam was the beginning of every man’s failure,--from the rebellion of Cain to the impatience of Moses, from the weakness of Peter down to my failure yesterday to love my wife well.
Since Adam, every man has had a natural inclination to remain silent when he should speak.
Men’s Natural Inclination To Remain Silent
A man is most comfortable in situations in which he knows exactly what to do. When things get confusing and scary, his insides tighten and he backs away. When life frustrates him with its maddening unpredictability, he feels the anger rise within him. And then, filled with terror and rage, he forgets God’s truth and looks out for himself.
From then on, everything goes wrong. Committed only to himself, he scrambles to make his own life work. The result is what we see every day: sexual passions out of control, uninvolved husbands and fathers, angry men who love to be in the driver’s seat. And it all began when Adam refused to speak.
Yet, men are uniquely created and called to remember what God has said and to speak accordingly, to move into dangerous uncertainty with a confidence and wisdom that comes from listening to God. Instead, like Adam, we forget God and remain silent.
Men are created in God’s image. By design, we are called to uniquely express something of Him by how we live and relate in our world.
In Gen. 1:27, it states explicitly that God created man and woman “in his own image, . . . male and female he created them.”
In this passage, the word male is translated from the Hebrew word zakar, which means “the remembering one.” What a curious word to describe a man. One might have expected a word meaning “the strong one,” “the one who leads,” or “the powerful one.” But instead man is described as the one who remembers.
Adam, before the fall, had something to remember. He knew much about the character of God from witnessing God’s creative work and from his conversations with God.
Adam knew what God had given him to do, what God had provided for him, and what his own limits were. Yet Adam did not act on what he knew to be true. When the serpent tempted Eve, Adam didn’t speak. His memory failed him. More accurately, he refused to remember.
Chaos had entered his perfect world, and he stood dumbfounded in its confusion and darkness. The Scriptures record no instruction from God to Adam about what to say to the serpent. So Adam said nothing.
Adam, then, was a silent man, a passive man. Like many men in history, he was physically present but emotionally absent.
In fact, the text explicitly states, “And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and that it was desirable for wisdom, and she took from its fruit and she ate. And she gave also to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
The Hebrew construction here is very helpful. It is a combination of both a preposition and a feminine pronoun. The preposition indicates not only close association but physical proximity. A good translation of this phrase would be “right there with her.”
Yet, Adam was Silent . . .
Adam was not only silent with the serpent, he was also silent with Eve. He never reminded her of God’s word. He never called her to a larger vision. He never joined his wife in battling wits with the serpent. He was silent!
And Silence is not Golden, it is Deadly!
Adam’s silence was lethal. It brought the severing of intimacy and relationship. And ultimately, it brought death.
Intimacy Killer: Being Physically Present but Emotionally Absent!
Adam’s silence severed intimacy and relationship, and we men, have often opted to replace intimacy with competency!
We strive to live within the boundaries of our competence. We men, like being competent. We resist any situation where we are faced with saying, “I don’t know what to do!”
Competent men may be successful business men, but distant fathers.
We may refuse to let our wives express how lonely, hurt, and misunderstood they feel. Whatever concerns we do hear, we either try to fix or ignore.
We tend to take our sons to ball games, but never take them on long walks.
As competent men, we our natural bent is to neither listen well nor share openly.
Oh, we may have good times with our daughters, . . . lots of laughing, good-natured teasing, and promise to protect, . . . but our tendency is to have few conversations with them, . . .the two-way talk kind of thing!
And we live in a world where a man’s daily routine and justified, addictive activities can become fertile breeding ground for our silence. Things like: the TV, the computer screen, Facebook, the cell phone, the ipad, stress at work, financial burdens, health concerns, the busyness of life, . . . All these things can become factors in men becoming only physically present, but emotionally absent. And the result is the loss of intimacy.
What Are Some of The Implications of Our Silence on Intimacy?
● With Our Wives – We can set the tone and breed an atmosphere of "only cooperation" – where we only keep a safe distance, neither listening well nor sharing openly. We are usually drawn in a relationship for intimacy (to know and be known), but if we don’t keep nurturing intimacy, life can cause the desire to know and be known to fade away.
● With Our Children – If we chose to be known for our silence, our children will rarely learn about our past,--our experiences, our failures, our struggles with faith and life and relationships. They will not know us and we will not know them—and they grow up so fast, and the patterns of relating often breed an atmosphere that intimacy is not worth it. It is a tough thing to overcome.
● With Our Close Friends & Family – Perhaps you are in a chapter of life where the thought of knowing and being known is with a few close friends,--but silence and simply being physically present without engaging emotionally and spiritually can rob you of the intimacy that we were created to experience and enjoy in those special relationships.
Silence destroys intimacy in marriage and in all of our important relationships. Being only physically present while remaining emotionally absent robs us of knowing and being known.
But there is Cause for Hope!
What is the antidote for “being physically present, but emotionally absent?”
“YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN!” (Stay Tuned!)
So men, . . . husbands, . . . dads, . . . what’s it going to be!
More by this Author
Good Friday is a day to remember Christ’s ascent up the Hill of Sacrifice. His ascent up that hill was the very purpose of His life. He had said so Himself. He had come, He said, not “to be served, but to serve,...
There is perhaps no character of the Christmas Story to help us better ponder some of the eternal implications of Christmas than Mary, the Mother of Jesus. And perhaps, there is no greater activity we could engage in...
The dynamics of the small town in rural America are centered upon a unique character grounded in a complex web of interpersonal relationships which sustains its people and offers meaning of life, even in the remotest...