4 Things That Improve Intimacy in Marriage
By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Intimacy is something that each of our souls deeply desires. Intimacy is defined as close familiarity or friendship; closeness. Intimacy in marriage includes physical acts of intimacy, but we yearn for intimacy in every close relationship. Our longing for closeness is a part of our design. Psalm 63 articulated it this way, "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." We long to be close to our maker! We are created for relationships.
Yet, we all know how difficult it is to create safe spaces for true intimacy in our lives. Humans are imperfect, and we so easily hurt each other. Hurt, disappointment, insecurity, and grief lead to walls going up in our hearts. Only God is made of perfect love that we can trust wholeheartedly. Nonetheless, we need each other and can't give up on the work of tearing down the walls and trying again to build safe, long-lasting, and close relationships.
Forgiveness is the key to intimacy in every area of our lives. Forgiveness empowers us to move past bitterness and move toward those we desire to build our lives alongside. Intimacy and forgiveness require wisdom, though. We need to open our hearts and lives to people we know are seeking to keep us safe and love us well. That does not mean they will love us with perfection; it just means that they are not abusive. We can forgive abuse, but it is not wise to welcome it back into our lives without a deep commitment to healing the patterns that led to it.
How do we grow intimacy in this fallen world with our brokenness? Here are a few ideas to consider on this lifelong quest to build meaningful relationships.
1. Seek Unity
1 Corinthians 1:10 instructs, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." God tells us that we are to interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ with a heart that seeks unity. He likens us to a body, each of us different in our skills, gifts, and uses, but we all work together towards one mission: to keep the body alive! We do not have to see eye-to-eye on every issue in our relationships to live in unity, but we do have to be humble enough not to let divisions grow among us.
In marriage, this gets hard over time. Even if you are very similar to your partner, you will inevitably approach issues very differently. Remembering not to let these differences become divisions takes intentional humility and so much grace. We must remember, though, different isn't necessarily wrong. Our differences are actually what makes our world so beautiful. I love that the first tells us to share the 'same mind and judgment.' In other words, when it comes down to it, remember you are on the same team! We must be willing to move past our differences and stay focused on our shared goals. In marriage, the goal is shared love. No minor dispute is worth sacrificing the love you are called to have for each other.
2. Embrace Radical Forgiveness
There are so many times I've thought in my heart that I could not endure the same feelings of hurt from my husband, not even one more time! What a selfish thought this is. And when I start thinking this way, my relationship with my husband starts to implode. The reality is that I made a vow to love this man for a lifetime, and over a lifetime, we must be willing to accept a million and one apologies in order for our relationship to endure.
Again, barring abuse or infidelity, which can be forgiven as well but require wisdom and counseling to navigate, forgiveness is a daily requirement to remain close to another very flawed human. Guess what? You need to be forgiven that much, too, because you bring just as much selfishness and brokenness to your home each day too! It is easy to see how my husband lacks empathy, love, and kindness, but while I'm worried about pointing out his failures, what plank am I missing that is in my own eye? I have to lay down my right to be right if I want to feel close to this man and embrace a life of radical forgiveness.
3. Be Together
This probably sounds stupidly obvious, but in real life, it's so hard! If you want to have close friendships, a connected marriage, or know who your children are, you have to be committed to being with them. This is a struggle my husband and I face constantly. We literally have to hide to get a moment to converse before 9 pm, and while hiding, there is always a good chance a fight will break out or a toddler will destroy something. Then at 9 pm, we are so dead tired from work, kids, friends, church, or you name it - we barely have the energy to speak.
We can go on like this for a while, but without investing in each other, we start to forget that we are unified and on the same team. We stop practicing radical forgiveness and start harboring hurts in our hearts. Then soon, one wrong word comes out of one of our mouths, and all hell breaks loose. We are learning it's vital for us to be together. Even if it means spending money or leaving the kids in front of a screen for a bit, our kids are depending on us to stay together, and if that is going to happen, we have to make sure we spend time being together.
Building intimacy requires time spent sharing the same space with open ears and having an open heart ready to connect. One tip for time together is to commit to making some of this time screen-free time. My husband and I love to cuddle in bed to watch our favorite shows until we drift off to sleep, but before the TV turns on, we've begun to make a point to talk and pray, even if it's just for 5 minutes. Those short prayers and time spent checking in make all the difference.
Generally speaking, women like to talk! My husband is amazed at the large number of texts me and my close girlfriends share daily. We chat about everything from silly shows we are watching, verses we love, things we need prayer over, and even the more ridiculous moments of motherhood with one another. I explain to my incredulous husband that this constant communication keeps us close.
When trying to build intimacy, there is nothing too big or too small worth sharing with one another. This is the absolute rule for parenthood. To be close to my 10-year-old son, I have to be willing to hear about Minecraft, Diary of a Wimpy kid, and Dude Perfect for long stretches at a time. These are things that I have no actual interest in, but because I want to be close to my son, I engage with him on these topics.
Now my husband is working on beefing up his one-group text feed with the men he is friends with. He sees that if he wants to build lasting friendships, communication is vital. Love is built through a shared life.
When it comes to physical intimacy in marriage, all of these ideas help to improve the bedroom too. When we are present, offer grace, are unified, and are willing to freely share our needs, our physical intimacy improves. God made us heart, mind, soul, and body. Each part of our beings want to be engaged by our partners. Find ways to remain connected in each of these areas, and intimacy will build in your relationship.