Until recently the typical story we read or watched would end up with the man and woman getting married and riding off into the sunset to “live happily ever after.” It got so we actually believed that was what would happen when we got married. Then reality struck! At first we thought it was just us, that everyone else lived happily ever after (except our parents, but we always knew our marriage would be better than theirs anyway). Upon closer examination we realized that we weren’t alone, that no one was “living happily ever after.” Friend after friends announced their divorce. What was happening? What went wrong? More importantly, what could be done? What was the magic secret to being able to live happily ever after?
Some claimed to have the answer so we read their books or went to their seminars. No change, except we felt guilty that their simple solution didn’t work for us. Sermons made it sound so simple: the man leads, the woman submits, and they live happily ever after. The church’s approach often was to hide marriage problems, refer to a secular counselor, or to subtly discourage those with marriage problems from being visible in church. The great cover-up didn’t work, either. Now what? Where to turn? Since God created mankind and marriage, perhaps He has something to say about it. So we turn to the Bible and Bingo!
SOLOMON & SHULAMITH: AFTER THE WEDDING The wedding night was pure utopia and all indications were that it was all improvement from there. They were married and could spend nights as well as days together, they could legally live together and spend all their time with each other. It was what the looked forward to their whole lives! However it didn’t turn out that way. Reality hit them (its nothing new today).
Shulamith was homesick, shell-shocked by culture change, and without friends or duties other than Solomon. He, as she knew before getting married, was gone on business a lot. Naturally she missed him, but instead of realizing she had counted the cost and felt not having him as much as she wanted was better than not having him at all she started feeling sorry for herself and taking his being gone as personal rejection, as if he was purposely avoiding her. An introvert with time on their hands can do all kinds of dangerous things in their minds!
To make things worse, when Solomon did get home late at night after being gone all day he still wanted to have sex, but her self pity and feelings of rejection made her to want to avoid any kind of intimacy with him. This hurting others when we feel they have hurt us is sin. It goes totally against the Golden Rule and all the Bible says about putting others first. Shulamith knew that and felt guilty about her rejection responses but wasn’t able to resolve her conflict by giving up her self-pity (the only cure to her dilemma).
THE DREAM: It seems this unresolved conflict pushed itself to the forefront when she slept and, in the form of a dream, caused her to face her problem. Song of Solomon 5:2-8 records the dream. It was a dream, but so real she wasn’t at first sure (v. 2). Solomon comes to their bedroom late at night (early morning? – dew is forming). For safety purposes the door is locked from the inside and he wants to come in to be close to her. She hears him knock but pretends to be asleep (other ways of avoiding intimacy could have included having a headache, staying up together too late, or picking/allowing an argument before going to bed). I Corinthians 7:35 clearly says the only reason to deny your mate sex is because both of you have agreed to fast and pray that day, but to not even do this long or often.
Of course Shulamith justifies her refusal to let him in (v. 3). She’s have to get up and put a robe on (modesty from not feeling close to Solomon) and then he feet would get dirty from the floor and she’s have to clean them before getting back into her clean bed. Solomon, the way he’d been treating her, just wasn’t worth the trouble!
Solomon tries to reach through and open the door himself (v. 3), but Shulamith had moved the latch-string to the side so he couldn’t reach it or the bar holding the door closed. In her anger/hurt she made sure he couldn’t get in. When she realizes how badly he wants to come in she starts to relent and respond, so she gets up to open for him. By that time however he had given up and only his memory remained (v. 5). By now its totally reversed. Solomon is gone and Shulamith is seeking for him (v. 6). Her wounded pride is replaced by her love, but too late. In her dream she ran looking for him (v. 7) and her guilty conscience punished her severely (watchmen beating her – figuratively not literally). She awakens and realizes what the dream was showing her and is anxious for Solomon to come to her, no matter what time the night, for she has focused on him and her love for him, not on herself and her assumed rejection (v. 8).
REJECTION IN MARRIAGE Marriage is powerful. There is no one who can make you any happier than your mate, nor is there anyone who can hurt you more (or whom you can hurt more) than your mate. Rejection is the most painful way of hurting another. It doesn’t just apply to the woman who subtly withholds sex, it just as strongly applies to the man who withholds love. For a man to withhold what his wife needs (love, attention, sensitivity, touches, romance, communication, time together, etc.) and then criticize her for withholding sex is totally wrong. After all, it is up to the man to set the mood, to bring a loving response from his wife (see article 3). A man withholding love is just as bad as a woman withholding sex. Women withhold sex much quicker than love. For men it is the opposite. There is an old saying that a man gives love to get sex and a woman gives sex to get love. Both are wrong!
WHAT THE SOLUTION? Remember, any kind of intimacy in marriage takes time. When one or both are busy it is much harder for the intimacy to continue, much less grow. Intimacy also takes timing. Each mate must be sensitive to the other’s needs and patterns of the other. The goal is to think only of a mate’s needs and do everything possible to meet them. When we forget our own needs and focus only on the other’s needs we find our needs are met much better than if we tried meeting them ourselves! Hurting another to punish them for perceived hurts to us is totally wrong. Another ingredient for intimacy is talking. That’s important to women, for it is the first stage of connecting and without that deeper stages of closeness don’t come. Its interesting the King James translated our word “intercourse” to refer to communication. Trust also must be present for intimacy to develop. That is a basic need in any relationship. Finally, time away is important: weekly dates and annual vacations without the children are a real MUST for intimacy to grow. Its as simple (and as hard) as that!