Couple drinking coffee, using honesty as a foundation for relationship.

God created you with the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy. That’s a core part of what you were looking for when you said “I do”. If you’re experiencing intimacy – physically, emotionally, spiritually – you are experiencing life. If you’re not, it probably feels more like death. But intimacy doesn’t just happen, and it’s not the same as sex! If you want to get to intimacy, you need to start with honesty as a foundation

Over the next few articles we’re going to talk about the journey to healthy intimacy in marriage. This applies if you’re dating and contemplating possible marriage, if the intimacy you and your spouse had has been shattered by broken trust, or if there’s no intimacy at all between you even after many years of marriage.

A word about intimacy and sex; sex without intimacy is not life-giving. Taking the clothes off your body will not result in intimacy if there are still coverings over your heart. If trust has been broken, pushing for sex may often be counterproductive to intimacy. Regardless of whether you crave sex or hate it, learning about the journey to healthy intimacy will open the door to healing and transformation.

And the journey to intimacy begins with honesty.

We as humans have become so good at hiding and lying that we can become confused about what is real. I’m not talking about propositional truth such as the truth that God is real, but the truth about you and the world around you. David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23) That’s honesty.

True relationship begins with honesty as a foundation – first with yourself, and then with each other.

Honest with Yourself

Most of us struggle to tell ourselves the truth. It feels easier and safer to accept as real what others perceive us to be. Or to ignore the truth about ourselves because it’s painful. But that ends up being very unsatisfying. Something inside you longs for authenticity.

For some, you’ve lived behind a mask, or lived someone else’s life, for so long that you don’t even really know who you are. Your spouse may say things are fine, so maybe things truly are OK. You struggle to even know what you think or feel.

For others, you’ve long blamed someone else (your spouse) for how you feel and never owned your reactions as your own. You’ve never intentionally looked under the surface of your anger or fear or frustration enough to understand your body and emotions.

Being honest with yourself means you’ve examined your personal story with enough honesty and compassion to understand how it’s impacting you today. (Our Sexpectations course helps you do this specifically in relation to your sexual story.) Honesty means you become able to name your feelings without letting them sit in the driver’s seat, and you embrace ownership of your own heart, mind, and body. And it means you can see your partner for who they really are, good, bad, and sometimes partly ugly.

The Holy Spirit will not stop His work in you as long as you give Him opportunity. Regularly through your Christian life He will pull something from your heart up into the light and ask you to allow Him to change you. Being honest with yourself includes allowing Him to show you where you need to change, and to do your own work of growth and healing.

Honest with Your Spouse

If you are only showing a mask to your partner you’re always left wondering, “What would they think of me if they knew the real me?” At some point that kind of relationship will break down.

Once you’re honest with yourself you can start to become honest with your spouse. This is more than the words you say; it’s being truly present when you interact. Your real self is here, aware of where your own heart is and choosing a posture of openness.

Honesty includes being assertive (not aggressive), intentionally and proactively communicating with your spouse where you are, your needs and emotions, and what you are experiencing from them. You refuse to pretend you feel safe when you don’t. This is not demanding your spouse do something; it’s becoming able to tell the truth.

Becoming honest with your spouse usually involves setting healthy boundaries. This has nothing to do with punishment; you’ve let that go. Boundaries are in the service of making further relationship possible. “I shut down inside when you yell, so if you begin to yell I’m going to leave the room.” Or, “I’m willing to answer your questions, but I cannot be honest with you right now in front of the kids. I’m asking that you save your questions until we are alone and I’ll answer you then.”

Intimacy cannot happen without honesty. Being honest with your spouse is not for the purpose of hurting them; it’s for the purpose of making safety, connection, trust, and eventual real intimacy possible.

A Pattern of Honesty

A relationship cannot progress in a healthy way without honesty as a foundation. You and your spouse may not be at the same place right now, but both of you will need to commit to honesty before anything like intimacy can develop. Being honest with yourself and with your partner may be painful in many ways, but you have to start here.

If you’ve developed a long pattern of hiding, avoidance, and conflict, lobbing virtual hand grenades at each other from across the room, growing a new pattern of honesty will feel awkward and difficult. You may need some outside help to do so, and that’s OK. Don’t expect this to be quick or easy.

But the impact of honesty can significantly change things both for you and for your marriage. It’s like the “Your Location” pin on a digital map; it’s a starting place so that you can begin to grow toward the marriage you desire and that God wants for you.

A pattern of honesty is part of developing safety. That’s for next time.

Your Turn: How honest are you with yourself? How honest are you with your spouse? What is your emotional reaction to the idea of becoming honest? Leave a comment below.

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  • Honesty is the foundation for growing a relationship of intimacy. No honesty, no intimacy. It all starts with being honest with yourself, and then with your spouse.  Tweet that.

Intimacy Not Good In Your Marriage?

When you said “I do” you were anticipating things would be good between you. But you may now be thinking, “This isn’t what I signed up for.”

It’s likely nobody ever taught you how to love well. Our online course Fully Alive Marriage shows you how to overcome the issues in your relationship, learn to love well, grow emotional and physical intimacy, and develop a healthy marriage that lasts.