What is Intimacy?
Intimacy is about a willingness to know and to be known. Some say intimacy could be spelled “into-me-see”–It’s about being seen as you are, and a desire to know your spouse fully. It’s about being really close to someone and loving them in spite of their flaws; warts and all.
Although sex is definitely physical, intimacy is more than just intercourse. A healthy sex life also involves being emotionally close with your spouse and becoming united in your dreams and goals for the future.
All aspects of intimacy are interconnected. As you work to strengthen one area, you’ll find other areas improve also. For instance, working on your relationship outside the bedroom impacts the quality of your sex life inside the bedroom, and vise versa.
When sex is transactional or superficial, it will never create intimacy. When sex is part of loving and accepting the other person for who they are, and giving and receiving of each other’s goodness, sex becomes very intimate…and amazing.
4 Ingredients for Intimacy
- Love and Friendship. Do you love your spouse? Do you also really like your spouse? When you and your spouse are also the best of friends, your intimacy will blossom. This is why regularly dating your spouse after the wedding is so important to keep the love and friendship alive in the relationship.
- Vulnerability. Intimacy requires both people to get naked, physically and emotionally. Getting naked is vulnerable! Asking for sex is vulnerable. The act of sex is vulnerable. A willingness to be naked with each other is key to building deep & lasting intimacy.
- Trust. When spouses can believe in, rely on and depend on each other, trust is deepened. Trust takes a long time to earn. Trust leads to security in feeling vulnerable with each other.
- Commitment. When you know your spouse will be there for you, thick and thin, it feels safer to be vulnerable and intimate with each other. Commitment goes both ways — as one spouse increases his or her commitment, the other usually increases theirs, too.
4 Enemies to Intimacy
- Selfishness. Intimacy is built on caring about your spouse as much as you care about yourself.
- Dishonesty. In order to be willing to be seen and known as you are, you need to be honest with yourself and with others. Dishonesty about your relationship breeds mistrust, and without trust you can’t fully expect intimacy to flourish.
- Entitlement. Entitlement is when you feel like you deserve something, for no other reason than someone should give it to you. Real intimacy is about forgiveness and acceptance for the goodness being offered. No partner is ever entitled to sex; and it should never be used to “barter”.
- Resentment. Resentment is like a poison to a relationship. If the source of the resentment isn’t addressed, criticism, defensiveness, emotional withdrawal, and a lack of investment in the relationship follow. When your spouse does something to hurt you, respect them enough to talk with them and make a path towards forgiveness.
How to Resolve Sex-Related Conflicts
It’s normal to have conflicts around sex. Most conflicts around sex are best resolved when framed as a desire to build a deeper, intimate relationship. For example, Andrew wanted to give his wife Monica oral sex, something she had resisted earlier in their marriage. Conversations about this issue usually led to conflict. However, once Monica understood Andrew’s motivations were about desiring to feel closer to her and a sincere desire to give her pleasure without expectation of return, they were able to discuss ways to deal with their differences productively. It’s also important to be an active listener when your partner is expressing their wants and/or hesitations.
When it really comes down to it, you can either be increasing the intimacy in your relationship or increasing the feelings of sadness, mistrust and insecurity. Of course you know which one you’d rather have. Looking at the Ingredients to Intimacy, start thinking about things you and your partner can do together to become more bonded and increase your trust in each other.
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