It takes courage to proceed in the direction of “two becoming one,” for it takes determination to keep the best interest of one’s spouse and the relationship in the forefront. The human tendency is to protect oneself from the vulnerability it takes to become emotionally and sexually inter- dependent. In fact, it is easy to become discouraged and hopeless about the marital relationship.
In chapter four we presented a biblical basis for understanding how one is to be a sexual being in relationship. In this chapter we build upon the theological foundation presented there, suggesting that the relationality found in the Holy Trinity is meant to be mirrored in marriage.
Ray Anderson (2004) has suggested that in Adam and Eve’s human encounter as man and women, as well as in their distinctive task of being a man or a woman of God, they affirm the divine image. A similar sugges- tion is given by Stanley Grenz (1990:47) when he states that “the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 provide a hint that the plurality of human- ity as male and female is to be viewed as an expression of a foundational plurality within the unity of the divine reality.”
Colin Gunton observes that “Adam can find no true fellow creature among the animals, none that will enable him truly to be himself. It is only when he can rejoice in the fellowship with one who is a true other- in-relation that he is able to transcend the merely individual state that is a denial of human fullness” (1993:216).
For a couple to reflect the image of God means to become part of a re- lationship unity, without giving up unique identity. Unity does not mean one spouse is absorbed by the other. Marriage is a sanctifying process where each spouse strives for unity in the presence of the unique dif- ferences of each. The ideal for each marriage relationship is that it joins together two persons as one, yet respects the uniqueness of each person as a separate being.
The trinitarian model for marriage comports well with David Schnarch’s description of martial sexuality in his book The Passionate Marriage (1997). Schnarch believes that a deep sexual encounter is pos- sible only between two fully differentiated mature persons. Sex is not for the young, he asserts, because youth rarely possess a mature differentiated sense of who they are. Without a solid differentiated self, a person has dif-
ficulty engaging with a partner without either trying to engulf the other or staying distant out of a fear of being engulfed by the other. Thus, he reasons, most people settle for much less in their sexual relationships.
The less that most people settle for is body-centered sex rather than person-centered sex. In person-centered sex, one is intimately and emo- tionally engaged with the other in a way that creates a deep connection and interdependence. In contrast to this, body-centered sex involves be- ing engaged with the other for the mere pleasure one gains from the encounter. Though passion and pleasure are important aspects of a sexual engagement, vital sex is so much more than a bodily release expressed through an orgasm.
Schnarch (1997) asks challenging questions: Do persons really see each other during the sexual encounter? Or are they simply going through the motions that bring bodily pleasure? Person-centered sex is the ability to see and respond to the other person in mutually engaging ways. It is an en- counter “eye to eye,” and “I” to “I,” and “I-Thou.” Unfortunately, according to Schnarch, most people lack the mature differentiation to engage in this meaningful personal-centered sex.
In the giving and receiving of two whole selves, spouses reach the deep- est levels of knowing and being known. They are vulnerable as they open themselves up to each other during the sexual engagement. Differentiated persons have the capacity to lose themselves in each other’s embrace— without fear of being absorbed by the other. Here they find a mysterious one-flesh unity of body, spirit and soul.
nO mOre luSter in Our lOve liFe Not long ago a married couple in their forties came to talk to us at the close of a marital sexuality workshop. They were rather hesitant at first, but then the wife blurted out their frustration: “Sex for us is like drink- ing day-old soda with the fizz gone out of it. Can you help us get the passion back into our marriage that we once had?” Unfortunately, this is a common complaint about the sex life of more than a few mar ried cou- ples. Ironically, when you ask married couples about their courting days, you often hear about the struggles they went through trying to control the fiery passion they felt for each other. But ten, twenty or thirty years later, the fire seems to have fizzled away.