We’ve been talking these last few weeks about the journey to what God designed intimacy in marriage to be like. Whether you’re just getting started or rebuilding after things became broken, the road to intimacy begins with honesty, then safety, trust, and connection. When those elements are in place authentic intimacy becomes possible in your marriage.
Intimacy is not sex. For married couples intimacy includes sexual experiences together. But the kind of sustained and life-giving unity that leads to mutual flourishing includes all the aspects of both of you – physical, emotional, and spiritual. The walls are down around your body and your mind and your soul.
That’s what God intended when He created Adam and Eve: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24-25) And it’s what Jesus referred to when He quoted the above passage and commented, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6)
This picture of sustained and life-giving unity we’re talking about, that God desires for your marriage, is based on Scripture – the passages mentioned previously, as well as Song of Solomon, Galatians 5, and others. A Bible study on those passages is for another time. But here are some aspects of what God designed intimacy, whole-person intimacy, to be.
This includes seasons and moments of intense emotional engagement and connection – sexually and otherwise. Those times are only partially under your control, but when both of you invest in each other proactively over time out of a committed covenant love the emotional passion can happen at intervals that are fulfilling.
A passionate intimacy is much more than that, however. It’s more about a choice than a fickle feeling. Both of you fully bring the deepest parts of you to the relationship – fears, dreams, hopes, struggles. You are “all in,” and next to God your spouse is the one who knows you best and deepest. The labels on the feelings change, but you and your spouse consistently display in words and actions that you’re holding nothing back in your relationship.
Intimacy takes being intentional. You talk together about your shared vision for your relationship, including your sex life together. You work together to realize that shared vision, and address roadblocks together when they arise. The two of you are moving together toward a shared and life-giving future.
For followers of Jesus this includes seeking God’s purpose not only for each of you individually, but also for your marriage. Your union is not only about you, but it’s also about something much larger. Together you wrestle with that and live it out.
Intimacy in marriage is also intended to be fun! Yes, that includes playful sexual expression between you. You both bring your creative thought and energy to the way you engage as a couple sexually and otherwise. There’s a certain childlikeness to your relationship (as opposed to childishness) – uninhibited and free.
Your life together, including your sexuality, includes a variety of emotions and activities. Because you are safe together you can be curious and adventurous. Scientific research verifies a lot of truth in the statement, “The couple that plays together, stays together.”
If one of you sees the quality of your relationship at a 9 and the other one sees it as a 4, it’s a 4. Your relationship can get better, but right now it’s as strong as the problems make it that either of you see. You care about something because your partner cares about it.
The formerly mentioned elements of honesty, safety, trust, and connection must remain in place for intimacy to continue. You don’t only deal with the past and then go back to the way things were. If intimacy was broken in the past, a life-giving unity for the future demands you never go back to that.
This requires you continue to be honest. Rhythms of communication continue. Both of you continue to deal with your “stuff” when the Holy Spirit brings it up. When one of you causes hurt to the other you deal with it quickly, and in a way to lessen any chance of your relationship being harmed again in that way. You share power between you, and talk about it.
This kind of intimacy only comes when based on covenant, not contract. You are in it for the long haul. Life challenges that you work through together only bring you closer and solidify your sense of safety together. When any elements of intimacy are challenged, you are both committed to working it through together.
You believe the best about each other, and are each personally committed to your spouse’s flourishing. Generosity, gratitude, resilience, and joy are present between you. You treasure today, and have confidence that you will face tomorrow together.
Is This Possible?
That picture of intimacy may seem rather idealistic. It’s certainly not the experience for many couples. But it is possible.
Developing that kind of intimacy requires the honesty, safety, trust, and connection we’ve been talking about over these past few weeks. And it demands that Christ be at the center of your marriage. Two broken sinners being hitched in marriage is a setup for disaster “unless God build the house.”
This kind of intimacy is also never done. It’s not a momentary destination; it’s a life you continue to nurture and build.
I hope this has provided a picture of the goodness marriage can bring and become. Don’t see this as an impossibility; let it stir you to do these three things:
- Deal with your own stuff so you can become, before God, the kind of spouse who is capable of that kind of intimacy
- Invite your spouse into a journey toward the kind of intimacy you both desire
- Keep daily, hourly inviting God right into the middle of your marriage
And may you value whole-person intimacy enough to continue to nurture it daily.
Your turn: As you look at the level of intimacy between you and your spouse, which of these elements seems strongest? Which needs some intentional effort to shore up? Leave a comment below.
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