Young couple on the beach, sitting in wheelchair. How well do you know your spouse?

The intimacy God experiences within Himself–Father, Son, and Spirit–is what He designed husband and wife to experience in marriage. The need, desire, and capacity for intimacy He built within you can only be met through deeply knowing and being known by another. But how well do you really know your spouse? And are you letting your spouse really know you?

We truly want to be known, but we’re also terrified of it. Life has taught you the dangers of being known. And so we find countless ways to hide. We pretend to be who we think the other person wants us to be, certain that the real “us” is too much, not enough, or not acceptable. At least by pretending I feel I’m more likely to get a few crumbs of affirmation or nourishment.

And when it comes to sex in marriage we do the same thing. Duty sex, pity sex, exploited or demanded sex might lead to a physical orgasm but your soul is left even more empty because you are not knowing and being known. You cannot create intimacy by taking the clothes off your body; the coverings must come off your mind, heart, and soul as well.

And doing that feels both impossible and terrifying.

But you still experience the desire to know and be known. So how well do you truly know your spouse? How are you letting yourself be known by them?

Being Known Physically 

This is one of the unique aspects of married sex as God intended it. It’s impossible to get here if you approach sex as an entitlement or as something you do just to check the box. Voluntarily seeking to know each other physically is vulnerable. It’s slow. And it also becomes intensely satisfying.

In Genesis, Adam knew Eve, and they had a baby (Genesis 4:1, 25). That’s the kind of knowing we’re talking about. But the Hebrew word yada (know) does not only signify intercourse; the same word is used of how God knows us intimately. (See Psalm 139:23)

There’s no way to do this without a foundation of faithfulness between you. Faithfulness creates enough safety to risk knowing and being known.

Physically, knowing and being known includes:

  • Seeing each other naked, allowing the sight of your spouse’s body to fill your attention
  • Exploring all of your spouse’s body, the sexual parts and the less sexual parts, noticing how your touch feels to your spouse and how feeling your spouse’s body feels to you
  • Being fully aware of all the factors affecting your spouse’s body both inside and outside the bedroom
  • Experiencing true delight yourself in your spouse’s physical pleasure
  • Letting go of your own inhibitions so that your passion is fully available to and invested in your spouse

This kind of physical knowing is generous, unselfish. Don’t approach your spouse primarily to get your own physical sexual drives satisfied. In deeply intimately physically knowing you focus on your spouse. Your own delight and physical satisfaction is almost a by-product of your focus on the other.

Being Known Emotionally

We are deeply integrated human beings. We’ve already alluded to how intimate physical knowing can’t happen without emotional connection, safety, and knowing. Dr. Juli Slattery talks about this when she says in God, Sex, and Your Marriage, “Sex without intimacy is perhaps the sneakiest counterfeit in marriage.”

How well do you understand and embrace your spouse’s emotions, heart, soul? Are you a safe and inviting space for them to allow you to see their past trauma? Do you understand what they’re afraid of? What excites and fuels them? What drains them? Where they feel loss, sadness, frustration, anxiety, or desire? These words are both sexual and non-sexual. In intimately knowing each other’s whole being sexuality is almost blurred as it becomes integrated into the whole of your relationship.

Each of you have dark places in your soul. Every marriage is the union of two sinners, after all. Are you able to truly look at the broken, sinful, messed up places in your spouse’s soul with honesty and compassion, as Jesus does, and not leave the room? That’s a very tall order. None of us do that perfectly, but it’s one of the most profound ways in which God uses marriage–and married sex–to heal us.

You’re not trying to fix your spouse. You simply truly see them, embrace all their stuff, and offer yourself generously as a space where they can see themselves and seek transformation.

And you allow yourself to be seen emotionally in the same way. The parts of you that you’re ashamed of, that you’re scared for your spouse to see, are the very parts you uncover and allow them to hold. It feels risky, but you do it anyway.

When you are both seeking to know each other this deeply, specific times of sexual intimacy become just that–intimate. All the good things of married sex become possible: care, tenderness, passion, comfort, joy, connection, fruitfulness, validation, fulfillment, satisfaction.

Do I Want to Know and Be Known?

This picture of knowing and being known may well sound both impossible and scary. If your marriage is toxic you won’t be able to pursue knowing and being known in this way. You and your spouse may need to do some hard work to build or rebuild safety in your relationship before growing intimacy becomes possible.

Remember, every marriage is two broken people coming together. It’s often in the very pursuit of knowing and being known that safety becomes possible.

If you and your spouse are both people of good will, ask yourself what parts of you are you keeping hidden and how you will begin to allow your spouse to know that part of you.

And even more, how well do you know your spouse? What part of their being–physical, emotional, or spiritual–will you seek to understand better, not for your own goosebumps but to hold, embrace, see, and truly know? Are there parts of your spouse you haven’t really wanted to see? Will you intentionally pursue being the invitation for your spouse to allow you to see and know them?

I wish for you the joy and intimacy of knowing and being known.

Your Turn: How well do you know your spouse? What next steps will you take to know each other more fully?  Leave a comment below.

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