How many times in your marriage have you thought, “I just wish we could be more intimate,”? It’s a great idea. Getting there proves to be the challenge. The thing is, intimacy in marriage isn’t as hard as you think. It’s really about changing your perspective, and understanding your spouse’s point of view, too.
The first (and perhaps most important) thing to remember, is that intimacy doesn’t always mean sex. In fact, do you know what the actual definition of intimacy is? The Oxford Dictionary defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship; closeness”. In this particular definition, it has nothing to do with sex, but rather the building of a relationship. It’s important for you to define what intimacy means for your marriage. And it’s equally important to realize your partner may a different definition for intimacy than your own.
Ask a large number of people what they believe intimacy means, and you’ll get a large variety of answers. A lot of them will probably say intimacy is deep emotional sharing and deep, satisfying conversation. Others automatically equate intimacy as good sex. Ironically, these two types of people are often married to each other. So what ends up happening is one partner will say, “We’d have better sex if we were more intimate,” and the other will say, “We’d be more intimate if we had better sex.” Sound familiar?
It’s important for you to define what intimacy means for your marriage.
So, if intimacy ins’t just about sex, then what the heck is it? While there are several more than could ever be mentioned here, let’s focus on some of the ones most often discussed (or most often overlooked).
- Parenting intimacy – develops through the relationship of parenting your children together
- Spiritual intimacy – develops as a result of serving and worshipping together
- Recreational intimacy – develops through shared interests
- Esthetic intimacy – develops through physical attraction with your spouse
- Crisis intimacy – develops as a result of experiencing hard times together
- Emotional intimacy – develops as a result deep connection, via shared experiences, feelings, emotions, etc.
- Sexual intimacy – develops as you deepen your sexual relationship with your spouse
One thing I hope you notice here from each of these examples is that intimacy develops over time. It’s not immediate. It’s kind of like learning to drive for the first time. You have a general idea of how a car works, but if you’ve never been behind the wheel, it’s unlikely you’re going to instantly know how to drive perfectly. Intimacy is really no different. It takes practice, and learning what works for you and your partner, and being willing to meet the other person’s needs in addition to your own.
From the examples above, in what ways are you failing to connect with your spouse? If you sole focus is sex or a deep emotional connection, there are areas where you may not be connecting at all. This is in no way saying you’ve having to be just like your spouse, or enjoy exactly the same things. In fact, some of the most successful marriages involve couples who are very different or have separate interests in addition to their shared interests. The point is to find the common ground where it exists, and to use those connections to grow closer to your partner.
Consider the closeness that Paul teaches about in Ephesians. He shares what’s supposed to happen in marriage when we find intimacy with our spouse:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” – Ephesians 5:31
Again, it’s not talking just about sex, but deep emotional, spiritual, physical and practical connections as well.
Drs. David Olsen and Douglas Stephens said it best: “The best road to deep intimacy doesn’t come through a series of clever techniques. It comes from staying on the long-term path of self-definition or differentiation. Only a self that is defined can provide genuine caring, empathy and healing.”
How can you improve intimacy in your own marriage?