Seeking intimacy

If you’re married, chances are good intimacy was high on the list of what you were looking for when you said “I do,” even if you didn’t express it that way. If you’re single and want to be married, chances are good intimacy is one of the biggest things you feel you’re missing out on as a single. Intimacy is one of our deepest needs as human beings, and seeking intimacy is following a drive God put within us.

If you’re single and want to be married, you may fantasize about being forever connected to someone who would understand you, who would fulfill your sexual desires, who you could share the real parts of yourself with and communicate with, who you could “kiss any time I want.” A marriage certificate seems like the necessary and guaranteed key to intimacy.

If you’re married you likely know only too well that sex – or marriage – does not equal intimacy. You may feel cheated; “this certainly isn’t what I signed up for!” You’ve discovered that a less-than-perfect marriage can feel like the loneliest place on earth. Your spouse either wants sex much more than you do, or you can’t seem to get them in the mood. Conversation seems strained or full of fight. You find yourself hiding more now than when you were single.

Intimacy is hard work. Intimacy with another human being is dangerous, fragile, yet deeply satisfying when experienced. Seeking intimacy can make some so desperate that they settle for cheap and unhealthy substitutes, including sex.

God created us to need and desire intimacy. Seeking intimacy is a good thing. When that seeking leads us to faulty substitutes it causes more pain, but the need is real.

Since intimacy doesn’t necessarily correlate with sex or marriage, what can you do? Yes, intimacy is possible whether you’re married or single.

Intimacy as a Married Person

God designed sex within the covenant of marriage to be a means of intimacy, but intimacy is not automatic. Old baggage around sex, other stresses in your relationship, difficulty communicating about sex or anything else, soul issues such as shame and guilt – those are all barriers to intimacy. While many men spell intimacy S-E-X and many women spell intimacy T-A-L-K, neither intercourse nor conversation guarantees intimacy.

Intimacy with your husband or wife takes intentionally nurturing your connection. It takes finding the grace to move past the wounds you each inflict on the other, and changing together. The deep physical oneness of intercourse at its best is both a means of and a byproduct of working on intimacy in the other aspects of your marriage.

Need a Biblical model for this? Read the Song of Solomon. Notice the rich physical-sexual imagery. But also notice the emotional longing, the seeking, the commitment. There is nothing taken for granted between the lover and his beloved. That takes God’s grace and intentional investment, but it’s something you CAN experience in your marriage.

Intimacy as a Single Person

You are a sexual being whether you’ve got a wedding ring on or not. Marriage is not an on-off switch when it comes to sexuality, or the need or capacity for intimacy. Married people will tell you that any sexual struggles don’t magically disappear after the wedding.

While Biblically a single person does not have license to engage in the physical act of intercourse, intimacy is possible in many other ways. Think of the deep heart-to-heart connection Jesus fostered with the woman at the well (John 4), or with His disciples on many occasions. There was deep covenant bonding, real communication, open hearts, vulnerability, honest emotions, and much more.

The church has, I believe, generally failed to help singles nurture healthy intimacy in these ways. Your standard “singles group” doesn’t cut it! Similar elements are needed as in marriage; emotional vulnerability, physical tenderness, safety, time investment, deep acceptance while also fostering real change, and covenant-level commitment. If you’re a single, invest deeply in seeking out and nurturing these kinds of relationships yourself. If you’re a leader, think deeply about what it would take to encourage these types of relationships.

Intimacy as a Christian

Only one Person has ever been able to say, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) All our human commitments pale in comparison. Jesus’ covenant commitment to you forms a foundation in which true intimacy can develop. Don’t discount how meaningful this can be.

If you’re married, think of your marriage as a workshop in which you learn the cost and the benefit of intimacy. See it as an earthly model of the connection Jesus desires to have with us. (Ephesians 13:21-32) As you learn about the cost of intimacy you learn more what it cost Jesus to lay down His life for us, and the radical cost He requires of us as His followers. As you experience the benefits of intimacy you have a small foretaste of the eternal intimacy God invites us into in heaven.

If you’re single, let your desire for intimacy encourage you to develop the parts of your character that intimacy demands – unselfishness, forgiveness, openness, ability to change, trust, and love. If you long to be married to enjoy sex, let that as-of-now unrealized longing teach you about the yet-unfulfilled longing we each carry as believers for the life God has promised us that will only be fully realized in eternity.

The need for and capacity for intimacy is one of the deepest ways in which we are made in the image of God. Let Him guide how you pursue intimacy, and your heart will grow in the process.

Your Turn: How have you been pursuing intimacy? How do you need to adjust your pursuit? Leave a comment below.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • Married or single, pursuing real intimacy is necessary and possible. It’s how God made us.    Tweet that.

Intimacy with your spouse can get better!

If you’re feeling disconnected, there are things you can do to improve the intimacy between you.

I’ve prepared a Resource Guide to help you Re-Connect with your Spouse. I hope you take advantage of this FREE resource right now!