Intimacy between the husband and wife is one of the characteristics of a healthy marriage. One of the problems is that we have different ideas as to what it means to have intimacy. For some husbands "intimacy" means "sex". For most wives intimacy is something far more emotional. In fact, without emotional closeness, sex may be meaningless.
What is intimacy? It is that sense of closeness that comes when we share our lives deeply with each other. We spend time together. We share our opinions, desires, and feelings. We do things together socially. We let each other in on our spiritual journey. We pray together. And yes, we have sex together. Intimacy involves sharing all of life. That is what marriage is all about.
Intellectual Intimacy: We Tell Our Thoughts
From the moment we awake, our minds are active. All day long we think, we interpret, we decide-all in the secret realm of our mind. We all have desires. For some, desire will motivate them to walk to Starbucks for a Tall Double Skinny Iced Mocha with a shot of almond. For others, just my mention of coffee got their mind in a tizzy. The truth is that everyone's mind is active with thoughts, whether sitting next to someone or miles apart.
Intellectual intimacy begins the moment we share these thoughts with someone. Obviously, we need to be somewhat selective-it would take a more than a lifetime to share every single thought we process. When spouses share their thoughts, desires, and perspectives on what they have experienced with one another on a regular basis, you can be sure that their level of intellectual intimacy is rich and deep. On the other hand, those that choose to reveal none of their thoughts will see the death of intellectual intimacy in their marriage.
Emotional Intimacy: We Discuss Our Feelings
We often hear couples talk about emotional intimacy; but what does that mean? Essentially, it is the sharing of emotions in an accepting atmosphere. All day long, life is filled with feelings. You put your dollar in the drink machine and receive no drink (and no change). You have feelings. You are informed that the company is going to "downsize." You have feelings.
Emotional intimacy is that sense of closeness that comes when you choose to share your emotions with each other in an effort to know each other more deeply. For this to happen, we must create an atmosphere of acceptance. "I can see how you might feel hurt by that. Is there anything I can do to help?" Such a response encourages emotional intimacy.
Social Intimacy: We Spend Time Together Discuss Time Spent Apart
In a healthy marriage there will be "social intimacy" between husband and wife. Social intimacy has to do with spending time together; going to a movie or attending an athletic event. Or, we may go bowling, or plant a tree, or go shopping together. Much of life involves "doing". When we do things together, we are enhancing our sense of intimacy.
On the other hand, most couples spend several hours each day apart. While apart they each have various social encounters. At the end of the day, if they share some of these encounters, they are building social intimacy. Letting each other in on their time apart. On a scale of 1 to 10 how much social intimacy do you feel in your marriage?
Spiritual Intimacy: We Open Our Souls to Each Other
One of the most common complaints I hear from Christian wives is that they want to have a deeper level of "spiritual intimacy" with their husbands. I believe there are two ways to build spiritual intimacy. One is by shared experience. Attending worship together and holding hands while the minister prays. Making time to pray together daily - even if it is silent prayer; or attending a couples bible study.
Another approach is to discuss with each other some of your thoughts about spiritual realities. It may be as simple as sharing what you read in your quiet time this morning, while your spouse listens attentively and affirms your insights. Spiritual intimacy is an important part of marriage.
Sexual Intimacy: We Share Our Bodies
Why is sexual intimacy so illusive for many couples? I believe it is because we have separated it from intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual intimacy. Intimacy is that sense of closeness that comes when we share life deeply with each other. But it cannot be limited to the sharing of our bodies. When we are critical, demanding, and verbally abusive, and then try to have sex we will not experience intimacy.
Sexual intimacy flows naturally from a loving marital relationship. If you want greater sexual intimacy then focus on building closeness in the other areas of life. Spend time together, give affirming words, pray together, and apologize for your failures. This is the road to sexual intimacy.
Adapted from The Family You've Always Wanted by Dr. Gary Chapman.