Intimacy includes the realms of emotional, social, mental, spiritual, experiential and sexual closeness. Intimacy is defined as “a close, familiar, and personal relationship with another person; a detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, person, period of history; or an expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like.” While society often focuses on sexual expressions of intimacy, sex is only one kind of a token — a symbol or evidence of — one realm of intimacy, not actual intimacy itself. How then, can a couple fill the deeper need for true intimacy beyond their sexual relationship?
Talk together to God as if he is the Father who cares because he is. Talk to him as if he is the God with power to help because he can. Pray individually, but also pray as a couple and as a family. Praying together will also teach you the concerns and gratitudes important to your spouse. My husband and I have already noticed that praying together softens our hearts and prompts us to positive changes we can make individually and together.
Focus on the other
One couple struggled because neither of them felt any intimacy needs were being met, but realized they spent most of their time brooding internally about feeling neglected by the other. Consciously looking for ways to serve their spouse not only helped them get to know each other better, but also helped them each feel more loved. Small and simple acts of service for each other will go a long way toward melting hard hearts and returning your relationship to a place of tenderness.
Being attentive to someone you love is the best way to learn who he is and how to meet his needs. We learn and grow every day, and so are not the same as we were yesterday — much less 10 or 20 years ago. Listening well to your spouse will help you feel connected to him, understand where he is in personal development struggles, support him in challenges, and discover ways you can help.
There is a lot of “business” in a relationship, from childcare to finances to housekeeping. These are shared responsibilities for both partners, and so it is important to take time to discuss these issues regularly and often. How does your spouse feel about the job? What’s been hard with the kids lately? Where can pennies be pinched, and what are you doing well? What spiritual guidance has each felt that needs to be applied as a family? What has there not been enough time to say, and what are you especially grateful for this week? How do you need help, and what is going well? These are all important things to communicate with your spouse, and the answers from your spouse will give you new pieces to who she is today and who she wants to become.
Spend time together
Couples often forget they are a “couple,” above all else. Work, kids, caring for aging parents, and community responsibilities are all a good part of life, but couples need time together when they are just a couple. Make time for regular date nights and find activities you can do together — apart from the regular “business” meetings together. You can be creative, rekindling your courtship without spending a lot of money or neglecting other duties. Include the Passion Plan as part of your time together!
Encourage instead of criticize
Sex can meet some of our needs for touch and closeness, if shared lovingly as a couple focused on the other. But some of those same needs can also be met by appreciating our spouse, celebrating her successes and engaging in non-sexual touch. When we appreciate, our spouse will recognize success and be motivated to try harder. When we hold hands, touch our spouse’s back as we reach past them for something or even dance together in the kitchen, these communicate closeness and touch in tender ways.
Remember the three T’s
Laura M. Brotherson, the author of “And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment,” points out that women need talk, touch and time to feel loved and to be prepared for physical expressions of that love. Talking will help you feel emotionally connected, time will help you both feel appreciated and understood, and non-sexual touch will help her feel loved without the pressure of expectation. This creates a safe and inviting environment in which she can respond with her own demonstrations of love and affection. It is emotional intimacy that improves physical intimacy.
Intimacy is more than just sex, and sex alone does not fulfill our needs for intimacy. It means to know someone well, and to work hard at loving well. To love someone else means to serve willingly, and with good cheer. It means to forgive, apologize, and appreciate. Increase love by expressing it. Express it internally through positive thoughts and appreciation. Express it outwardly through continued and ongoing courtship. Serving each other will help you see your spouse the way God sees him or her.