Marital Intimacy Is More Than Sex

"We just don't feel connected." Both of them felt the same way. Somewhere in the timeline of their relationship they had begun to drift apart and now they felt as if they were living lives that were running on a parallel track rather than living lives intimately connected. But how do you solve the problem of "connectedness"? Usually when people begin to feel disconnected from one another, the root issue of the problem is intimacy. There are a number of reasons that intimacy may decline. Some of them are subtle, yet insidious, like the ever-increasing busyness of family life. Other reasons are overt and intentional like trying to use the lack of intimacy as payback. Whatever the reason, once intimacy begins to wane it can become hard to get back on track. One of the keys to reconnecting is understanding that intimacy is a multi-faceted thing. In fact, there are five different types of intimacy and it is when we keep all five functioning can we have marriages that feel profoundly connected.

1. Spiritual Intimacy

The first — and most foundational — type of intimacy is spiritual intimacy. Spiritual intimacy can be seen as the hub from which all other intimacy types protrude. If spiritual intimacy is high, then the other types of intimacy, though they will have seasons of greater or lesser intensity, will have a certain level of natural resiliency. Spiritual intimacy comes from being in the word together, praying for one another, and worshiping together. The Word of God is the nourishment of our souls (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). When we are on the same spiritual diet, we can expect to grow in similar ways and therefore grow together — not separately.

The old adage that the family that prays together stays together, while not infallible, is generally true. At the same time this doesn’t just mean praying in each other's presence but actually making each other a central part of your prayers privately (and not just asking the Lord to fix all the things that annoy you about your spouse). Worship is an incredibly intimate act that knits the souls of the Lord's people closer to each other and himself. There are legitimate reasons that spouses may not be worshiping next to each other (helping out with nurseries or choir, etc.), but if connectedness is an issue, it may be time to put those activities aside for a season while you focus on the spiritual intimacy between you and your spouse.

2. Recreational Intimacy

The second type of intimacy is recreational intimacy. Recreational intimacy is the bond that is created and strengthened by doing activities together. These activities can range vastly from the mild (doing a crossword together) to the extreme (hang-gliding), but it is the mutual enjoyment of them that fuels a couple’s connection. This sort of intimacy tends to be its highest early in the relationship when both partners are willing to do and try things outside of their comfort zone just to have the opportunity to be in each other's presence. As presence becomes more the norm than the exception, motivation to be engaged in activities that are uninteresting to one partner may dwindle. Furthermore, as life gets more complicated with jobs, kids, house, and much more, the opportunities to engage in recreational activity plummet and the cost can skyrocket. Nonetheless, God has made us to be those who enjoy life’s activities — especially with our spouses (Ecclesiastes 9:9) — and our marriages need the ability to laugh and play together if they are to endure the times of tears and toil.

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