intimacy in marriage

How would you define intimacy in marriage? Friendship? Connection? Spiritual closeness? Sex? All true. All good things. And yet…I think I can define it simply.

Intimacy is knowing.

A facebook friend posted a comment recently that made me smile. She was bragging on her husband for buying her lavender and vanilla scented trashbags. She went on to say that it may not seem like a big deal, but that he knows her. And it feels good to be known.

Ah yes, it feels good to be known.

Sadly, I would argue that this seems to be one of the fundamental things missing from so many marriages. Couples barely like each other, let alone take the time to know one another.

What turns her on? Makes him laugh? What is stressing him out right now? Who are her best friends? How does she act when she’s nervous? Lonely? Hungry? What was his childhood like? Her biggest fear?How often do we take the time to enter each other’s worlds? To really know each other with our bodies? To really see each other? How often do we say the words, “what can I do to help?”

Unfortunately, many men and women don’t experience this kind of intimacy in marriage.

So then we begin to withhold our love from each other. We don’t offer because we feel we aren’t receiving. Our unmet needs and hurt feelings leave us violated, sad, and vulnerable to more pain. So we use anger as a defense to protect ourselves.

Anger can take many forms: impatience, a quick temper, depression, jealousy, or suspicion. Or passive aggressive forms: procrastination, silence, sarcasm, or avoidance. Our unmet needs make us feel fearful and rejected. The fear can take several forms: perfectionism, control and addictions (from the book, Intimate Encounters).

“What’s on the inside is what comes out when we’re squeezed.” – Dave Lewis

Steps toward healing and greater intimacy:

  1. Accept responsibility for your part in causing the hurts as well as your part in the healing.
  2. Show understanding. Your partner feels hurt. Do you care?
  3. Confess and repent. If you are a Christian this means agreeing with God. What does God say about being selfish, critical, dishonest, disrespectful, etc.?
  4. Talk to each other! Reconnect. Seek to know each other. This often requires making sacrifices to have time together, taking time to check in, and being honest about your feelings.

Ultimately, healthy couples will fight. They will get their feelings hurt. They will take out frustration on each other. I believe that a couple is in a good place when they can give each other the benefit of the doubt and seek to build each other up. I want couples to be in a relationship that is safe enough for both partners to feel free enough to be “naked and unashamed.”

So that they can be known, because it feels good to be known.

happy marriage!

10 Rules to Live by…*

1. I will communicate my expectations and not take it for granted that my spouse    understands what I need or want.

2. I will verify my assumptions so that I have accurate information and feedback.

3.  I will strive toward understanding my spouse’s feelings and thoughts on a matter     first, without criticism, before attempting to resist and fight or even negotiate and compromise.

4.  I will focus on resolving the issues and not attempt to make my spouse or our   relationship the problem.

5.  I will give myself and my spouse permission to take a “time-out” from the discussion when it’s requested or needed, as long as I give a specific time frame when we will resume problem solving.

6.  I will take ownership of, and be completely accountable for my own feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors first, without shifting blame toward my spouse.

7.  I will not attempt to control my spouse with sarcasm, rage, threats, manipulation, shame, jealousy, or silence.

8.  I will be responsive and not reactive when discussing issues or receiving feedback about my behavior from my spouse.

9.  I will actively seek the forgiveness of my spouse when I am aware of any wrongdoing on my part, and I will extend forgiveness when it’s asked for.

10.  I will have a passionate marriage, one comprised of emotional and physical intimacy.


*adapted from “Well Done: the Rules for Creating a Win-Win Process in Marriage” by Eric Scalise