For starters, intimacy is not sex. Our sexualized culture has mostly said “express yourself; anything goes.” But people are lonelier than ever. That place in your heart that needs to be connected, to be seen and known, is what we’re talking about. God created each of us, including you, with the need for intimacy – regardless of relationship status. So what have you done with your need for intimacy?
A need is something you must have in order to live, or at least to thrive. You need air, food, water, and shelter. And you need to be connected. You may have heard of the studies some years ago showing that infants who had their physical needs met but did not receive close human contact did not thrive, and some died. The current loneliness epidemic has truly life-altering, sometimes life-threatening, consequences. Jesus, the most Fully Alive human being ever to walk this earth, did not get married or have sex. Yet He needed, truly needed, intimacy, including intimacy with other human beings.
What have you done with your need for intimacy? In what good, or perhaps not-so-good, ways have you tried to deal with the part of you that longs to be connected to someone, to see and be fully seen, to know and be fully known?
Sabotage and Heartache
Every one of us has experienced intimacy gone wrong in some way. Some of that has been because of things you’ve experienced through no fault of your own. And some of that has been through how you’ve responded. What are the ways in which you’ve been your own worst enemy?
You might have closed yourself off years or even decades ago, consciously or unconsciously concluding that being known was too dangerous. Your need for intimacy made you too vulnerable, so you’ve fallen into a lifestyle of hiding. Human beings have been hiding ever since the garden of Eden (see Genesis 3), and practice makes perfect – for humans in general and for you. It’s lonely behind your walls, but you can’t imagine doing anything else. And after all these years, you don’t even know how to do anything but hide.
You might have a history of running from one relationship or situation to another. Those relationships may or may not have been sexual, but they keep happening. Your internal world feels ravenously empty and you keep seeking for someone or something to fill you up. You quickly become “hooked” when someone seems to have what you’re looking for, but you discard them relatively quickly when they let you down. And they always do.
Or perhaps you’re trying desperately to live “right.” If you’re married, that means no sexual behavior except with your spouse. But you feel doomed. Sex with your spouse isn’t cutting it. Or if single, your only godly choice may seem to be squelching your hunger for intimacy, and that gets exhausting. Is this the best you can hope for?
Maybe you’ve concluded, perhaps unconsciously, that intimacy might work for others, but it isn’t for you. You’ve tried, but you keep running into a brick wall. You might blame others. Or perhaps you’re like a man named David who wrote me; “I’m too broken to hope for any intimacy in my future. I just have to find a way to survive.” You feel incapable of real intimacy, so you fall into some addiction that takes the edge off temporarily.
So, how’s that working for you?
Addiction and Dysfunction
If you have not found healthy ways to address uncomfortable feelings, and particularly your need for intimacy, an addiction seems to offer just the soothing you may crave. Oh, you won’t logically think of it like that. But you’re miserable, you do something, you feel better temporarily, and you naturally do it again – and again and again and again.
Social media, shopping, drugs, alcohol, anger, food – all offer the promise of feeling better for a moment. Some have said that sex is the addiction of choice for Christians. Some point to pornography in particular as the addiction of choice. That’s scary, but it makes sense.
Our sexualized culture has conflated sex and intimacy. So porn addiction, sex and love addiction, relationship addiction, affairs, hookups – the harmful ways we’ve tried to meet those intimacy needs become a big deal. And “just say no” isn’t working!
The ways you’ve dealt with your need for intimacy connect deeply with your sexual story. Here are a few questions to help you reflect on your experience around intimacy.
- Have you even been aware of your deep hunger for intimacy? What emotions come up as you consider this part of your story?
- When you have risked being vulnerable, letting someone see you, how have they responded? Did that experience make you more or less willing to try being vulnerable again?
- Which of your “bad behaviors” might be related to your need for intimacy? Have you tried to drown that desire with substances such as alcohol? Assuage it with illegitimate sex, or porn, or an affair?
- How effective have your attempts at fulfilling your need for intimacy been? How have you felt after such attempts?
- Who do you blame for how your attempts at intimacy have worked out? Yourself? Others? Perhaps even God?
So, if your heart is feeling disrupted, messed-up, frustrated, perhaps ashamed, with those thoughts, welcome to the club. Perhaps you’ve tried to deal with these issues by trying harder or praying more, and you’ve found that hasn’t worked.
The next chapters in your story can be different. Here are a few ways to start addressing the issues and take some next steps:
- Dealing with the Roots of Sexual Stuff
- Tearing Down Inner Walls so You Can Experience Intimacy
- Learning from How Jesus Handled His Need for Intimacy
- Finding Your “People”
- Practical Ways to Pursue Intimacy with God
- Free download: A 5-Part Prescription for Sexual Healing – God’s Way
Your need for intimacy is God-given. If you haven’t handled that well, you can start doing something different now. Go deeper. Look at the matters in your heart. It can get better.
Your Turn: How have you handled your need for intimacy? Has that been helpful? How has it been less-than-good? I’d love to hear from you; leave a comment below.
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- How have you handled your need for intimacy? Has that need turned into an addiction or other dysfunction? You can be more intentional about what to do with that need in your heart. Tweet that.
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