What is Intimacy?
We were built with a need for connection, to bond, to belong. It is something God instilled in us when He created us. We have within us a need for another to know us and a need to experience safety in our strengths and in our weaknesses. We have been created to have this closeness with other humans.
As we talk of intimacy in this chapter we will be addressing intimacy within the boundaries of marriage. This is the deepest form of intimacy that a human being has the potential to experience while here on earth because it encompasses the heart, the soul, the intellect, the emotions, and unlike other intimate relationships, the physical-sexual part.
Merriam-Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines intimate as, “belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature, marked by very close association, contact or familiarity, of a very personal or private nature.”
Intimacy is an aspect of marriage that evolves over time. We must view intimacy as something we work toward as an artist paints with painstaking strokes of the brush to create a beautiful piece of art. Most of us do not understand this developmental process, and we get frustrated with how tedious it can be to go the distance to become intimate.
Intimacy is good for marriage! Like a beautiful flower garden, intimacy is something that has to be cultivated, attended to, watered and cared for. Without proper care, it will be stunted, the color will be dull, the bud may never open or never start to grow, or it will die prematurely.
There are different expressions of intimacy. Sometimes we just need our spouse to know what we are thinking. Walking through cancer as Gary and I each have, we get scared at times and we need to share those scary thoughts. Gary loves to dream, and even though I prefer the present day of my life, he feels very close to me when he can talk about what he dreams for the future. I don’t have to have the same dream; I only need to listen to his and encourage him.
Intimacy often requires that we do activities together. There are many types of recreational activities to share, but one dear couple in our community group is sharing time together right now that is a big sacrifice on the husband’s part. His wife has class many nights out of the week after they work all day. She is finishing her master’s degree. He joins her for the one-hour drive from their home to her class. While this might not be his favorite recreational activity, they are together and their intimacy is building. We delight as a group to watch their intimacy grow!
Intimacy is expressed in how we share our emotions. I let Gary know me better when I name my feelings and tell him about them, and I know him better when he can do some of the same. Some couples can really get stuck here if they are unaware of their emotions, and that is why we devote so much of this book to understanding emotions and how to express them.
The experience of sharing the sexual relationship is truly God’s great gift in marriage. It is not only the expression of intimacy, but it is an ingredient to creating intimacy, and it requires intimacy to experience it to its fullest capacity.
In addition, things like acceptance, affection, vulnerability, safety, communication, nurturing, kindness, empathy, listening, quality time, dating, romance, etc., all contribute to intimacy. But there are a few other key components to intimacy within a relationship. What are the brushstrokes that create on this canvas of marriage a beautiful piece of art called intimacy? A sense of self, trust, honesty, forgiveness and boundaries.
Dr. Gary Oliver has over 30 years experience in individual, premarital, marital and family counseling and for the past 20 years he has had an extensive nationwide teaching ministry.