Exclusive Entanglement

Written by Dr. Dave Currie and Glen Hoos

I have two clematis vines along my front walkway. As they climb up the posts they weave together, intertwining so thoroughly that it becomes impossible to distinguish them from one another. I am constantly cutting them back. It’s hard work, because once you’ve allowed the vines to grow together for awhile, it becomes one solid bit of growth to cut through. In fact, as they overlap, they actually start growing together – becoming one. The vines just grab on to each other, and the whole interconnection becomes incredibly strong.

Then there are the blackberry bushes that we enjoy in our area so much each summer, especially when they line the fairways of a golf course. The fruit is so good, but the thorns… oh my. Talk about impenetrable. With long, sharp barbs every inch or two along each branch, these blackberries create a thicket. When a rabbit or other small animal wants safety, he need only duck underneath the thicket, where no predator will dare poke his nose. If your golf ball goes in here (of course I’ve never experienced this), forget about it. The blackberries create a hedge of protection to protect whatever is underneath or inside them.

Together, the clematis vine and the blackberry bush form a powerful metaphor for what marriage at its best should be. When a couple cultivates exclusive entanglement, they will become strong and intertwined like the clematis, while creating a blackberry-like hedge of protection that repels all outside threats.

In a world that knows a lot more about outside entanglements (like affairs, chat rooms and porn), what does exclusive entanglement look like? Let’s break down the concept.

To be exclusive is to be unique to one; faithful to one; loyal to one. It means that when a person says “I do,” it really is until death do us part. There is a sense of faithfulness to the core.

Entanglement, meanwhile, involves the ongoing interconnectedness of two lives. People today value independence, but entanglement entails interdependence: a deep reliance on the other person. It is continuing to reengage in a deliberate, intentional way.

Marriage should be the process of growing towards ever-increasing exclusive entanglement – a process that includes four key elements:

Interlocking Wills

Marriage starts with a commitment: a promise to be exclusive to one person for life. Far beyond a one-time vow, it’s a decision that has to be affirmed in the way we live each day. It is interlocking in the sense that the couple is locked up tight, bound together by their commitment to one another. They have chosen to submit themselves to an iron-clad covenant, and the key has been thrown away. They are in it for life.

It’s about faithfulness, not just in body but in spirit as well. Remember, your commitment is seen not in what you feel like doing or intend to do; it comes out in what you actually end up doing. That means giving your spouse the security of knowing that you will be faithful for life – a security that grows as you protect your marriage by establishing boundaries to guard against anything that could compromise your commitment. When husband and wife both live this out, the interlocking of their wills creates a firm foundation for a marriage that will stand the test of time.

Interconnected Lives

I often hear couples lament that they feel as though they are living separate lives. They may be living under the same roof, but they’re like two ships passing in the night. It’s tragic, because none of us gets married to live alone. We want someone to do life with – someone that will experience the ups and downs of life right alongside us; someone to share our history.

This is where companionship becomes so important. A good marriage relationship is built through time spent together – not just working together on household projects, or driving, or watching the kids in their sports, but actually having fun together. You need regular time alone to date, talk, flirt, and grow in love. If you’re too busy for regular date nights, you’re too busy. Life is too short to cut out the fun and laughter. Make the time, and enjoy becoming increasingly entangled with one another.

Interwoven Passions

Sexual connection is a powerful glue that bonds a couple together. It doesn’t just start in the bedroom though. For true passion to develop, sexual love must be preceded by emotional gestures of love: intentional thoughtfulness, clear acts of kindness and planned moments of romance that say to the other person, “you matter to me.” It includes things like cards, notes phone calls, teasing and flirting. Putting in the time and effort to do things to make your spouse feel loved creates a context where passion can grow, opening the door to complete sexual celebration.

Couples must be committed to grow in their sexual journey: to talk freely, to work through issues as they arise, and to gain new freedoms. Every marriage goes through stages, and each new stage brings with it the need for new understandings so new plateaus can be reached with regard to sexual fulfillment. At least every two-to-three years or so there has to be a reassessment of what healthy sexual interaction looks like. How is it going in the bedroom? You’ve got to be open, willing to share from the heart your changing sexual needs and expectations.

By the way, give yourself a break during those busy years when your kids are toddlers, right through to the middle teen years. You’re tired and under a lot of pressure, so not every sexual encounter is going to be a homerun. Just stay committed to growing together and keep engaging. Your perpetual sexual interaction will create remarkable strength at the core of your marriage.

Intertwined Hearts

Love is much more than just a feeling. It’s a choice to respond to another person in a way that is love. That being said, there is nothing like the connection that comes when you and your spouse are truly of one heart.

It starts with communicating to your spouse that you love them enough to want to know them fully. By your words, attitudes and actions you’ve got to convey a desire to understand them in their innermost being; to feel what they feel. It’s about becoming soulmates , in the best sense of the term.

Getting to this point requires that you ask probing questions of one another and really listen to the answers. In most relationships there is one partner that likes to talk a lot more than the other. The talker in particular needs to be patient to let their spouse develop and share their thoughts. As this sharing continues the relationship deepens, trust builds, and intimacy reaches new heights.

When two people’s hearts become fully intertwined, it creates a position of safety. Each of us should be a safe harbour for our spouse – a place where they are able to be most fully themselves, completely vulnerable, without fear of judgment or condemnation. It means having an unconditionally positive regard for them, always assuming the best about them. It spills over in encouragement – no one should be a bigger fan of your husband or wife than you.

For years Donalyn and I have said that the two primary needs in marriage are support for the man and sensitivity for the woman. What a woman wants is for her man to grow to be sensitive to her, to really show gestures of loving tenderness. On the other hand, what a man needs is a sense that his wife respects him. To a man, respect is love. As you focus on providing these two primary things, support and sensitivity, it will go a long way towards binding your hearts together.

When you and your spouse align your wills, your lives, your passions and your hearts, it will create an exclusive entanglement from the inside out – an entanglement as strong as the clematis and as protective as the blackberry bush. You will never regret making the effort to build this kind of a marriage.

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