Whether you thought of it this way or not, you undoubtedly got married hoping for intimacy. And if you hope to be married, that’s certainly something you desire. Yet intimacy gone wrong has led to more pain than almost any other relationship factor. If you know what intimacy in marriage looks like you’ll be in a much better position to work toward the real thing.
God’s design for marriage includes intimacy at its core. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are so closely united they are One God, so God designed a husband and wife to be so closely united in marriage they would be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) Experiencing intimacy in marriage means we are becoming like God in a very deep way.
Confusion about intimacy can lead to deep disappointment and serious soul wounds. You can’t get there without the investment of time and commitment. Yet with all the possible landmines, I and others who have experienced true intimacy in marriage can affirm that it’s worth the effort.
Consider what intimacy in marriage is and is not. Here’s what intimacy in marriage looks like.
Intimacy is Not:
Intimacy does not equal sex. Here are some other things intimacy is not.
- Eliminating all differences between you. Intimacy means closeness but not sameness. Although God is One, the members of the Godhead maintain their distinctive personalities and roles. So it is in marriage. You and your spouse will not see the world identically, always enjoy the same things, or make the same choices. What’s important to you will be somewhat unique, and you will always relate to God first as an individual.
- Never having any conflict. Because you are still two individuals there will be times where your differences conflict with each other. The only way to avoid conflict is to live separate lives – and that’s not intimacy! (One of you could become completely passive and the other control everything, but that’s not a marriage.) God didn’t make your spouse a copy of you, or vice versa. Learning to handle conflict in a healthy way is part of learning to love well.
- Always knowing each other’s thoughts. Your spouse is not a mind-reader, and neither are you. Yes, the more time you spend with each other the better you will likely anticipate each other’s thoughts and feelings. But there will always be the need for open communication verbally and nonverbally. Nurture that communication, and your intimacy will increase.
- Having all your needs automatically met. God did not create any human being to withstand the burden of having to meet all of someone else’s needs; that’s God’s role. Many needs will be met, but the more you learn to look to God first and then focus on serving your spouse, the more harmony, understanding, and intimacy become possible.
If that’s what intimacy is not, then what can you expect intimacy in marriage to be like?
- No barriers between you. True intimacy means you know everything about the other – warts, vulnerabilities, hopes, dreams, strengths, and more. And you accept each other anyway. Maintaining and growing intimacy means you regularly attend to the ground between you, and keep it clean. When something comes that could divide you, you resolutely deal with it until intimacy is restored. This means no barriers physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, spiritually.
- Physically becoming one flesh. When a man rises to the occasion to expend himself in service to his wife, and a wife opens herself vulnerably to receive and serve her husband – sure, sex happens. But it’s so much more than that! The mystery is profound. Coming together physically is both a means of furthering and a physical demonstration of the unity in soul and spirit. That’s why sex outside the godly covenant of marriage can never equal intimacy.
- Growing closer over time. Fireworks and desire notwithstanding, intimacy is not the greatest on your wedding night. True intimacy, including sexual intimacy, grows deeper and more meaningful over time. The ups and downs of life, going through challenges together, coming to understand God’s purpose for your union – those make your connection stronger with the passage of time.
- Understanding each other. Intimacy means investing the effort to understand your spouse through observation and communication. You care enough to study your spouse, ask questions, and learn much about what it’s like to see the world through your spouse’s eyes. Sometimes you agree and sometimes you don’t, but you come to know what makes your spouse tick. You understand their motivations, fears, desires, and hopes.
- Sharing life together. You’re on the same road going in the same direction working for the same basic goals. You spend time together, and enjoy doing so. You experience each other’s successes and challenges as your own, and rejoice and weep together.
- Being together “naked” before God. Learning and experiencing no barriers between the two of you can help you learn about no barriers between you and God. Although marriage doesn’t begin by feeling this way, over time it becomes safe, affirming, healing, transforming. Occasionally try praying together when you’re naked together, before or after sex. That may sound “out there,” but that level of three-fold intimacy can provide a level of “fireworks” almost beyond description.
How to Get There
Reaching that kind of intimacy in marriage takes intentional investment over time, and God’s grace. Not all marriages get there, but it is possible.
We’ll explore more about achieving intimacy in marriage in the weeks ahead, but for now know this;
- Commit to growing intimacy. That means committing to honesty, vulnerability, acceptance, change, forgiveness, communication, and time. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it.
- Seek God’s continued intervention. You can’t do this on your own. Who does God need you to be to your spouse in this season? What is His purpose for your union? Keep seeking Him at every point along the way.
May you come to know the joy of intimacy that God designed for your marriage.
Your turn: What aspect of intimacy in your marriage is working well? How does understanding what intimacy is and isn’t help you know where to put your efforts in your own marriage? Leave a comment below.
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