Usually when we use the word intimate, we are using it as an adjective to describe a person, an event, an encounter. If we want a noun, we talk of intimacy — the act of being intimate. But intimate itself can be a noun, a person, a thing. Your intimate friend is your intimate. The dictionary defines the noun intimate as “a close friend or confidant.”
Intimacy in marriage includes sex, but is not limited to it. Sex is a symbolic ritual, deepening by action our physical, emotional, and spiritual unity. If that unity and intimacy does not exist in those other layers of our life, then it is going to be and feel incongruous, like a simple sating of an appetite.
So, what are the ways in which we should grow as intimates with our spouses? What is it like to have an intimate relationship? A relationship intimate on all levels?
- Characterized by close personal acquaintance or familiarity.
- Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature.
- Essential; innermost.
- Marked by informality and privacy.
- Very personal; private.
- Of or involved in a sexual relationship.
1. To be intimate is to be familiar.
We should be good friends with our spouse. We should treat them as a friend and not as a business partner or an afterthought. Ask about what’s been going on – and actually care enough to listen and ask questions and remember. We should know what’s going on in our spouses lives and minds, which means we need to ask and talk and listen and remember.
2. To be intimate is to be deep.
Our spouses are those whose lives we share. This relationship goes deeper than any other. With one another we learn to not be afraid to be vulnerable, we learn how to communicate authentically and deeply, and we learn how to extend grace and understanding and forgiveness.
3. To be intimate is to be each other’s core relationship.
Having a deep, familiar relationship built on love means that this relationship is privileged above all others. Whose opinion do you care more about – your husband’s or your girlfriend’s? Whose approval are you trying to win – your wife’s or your coworker’s? The intimate marriage relationship must be the prioritized, privileged human relationship in our lives.
4. To be intimate is to be comfortable alone together.
When alone together, we should be relaxed and free with our spouses. Knowing and accepting each other intimately creates comfort in each other’s presence.
5. To be intimate is to be confidential.
Because we will know intimate, personal, deep things about one another, we must respect the privacy of the marriage relationship. We must be confidential and private for the trust of intimacy to blossom. What is meant for only the two, must stay only between the two.
6. To be intimate is to be sexual together.
In a relationship that is intimate on all these levels, then the sexual union is the culmination of togetherness, of deepness, of privacy, of knowing each other richly.
Intimacy is something that grows and develops over time, that blossoms and matures under careful stewardship. It is not a box to check and be done with. It is not a goal that can be attained and then ignored. No matter how much intimacy your relationship has now, it can be cultivated and grow more and more rich. And even a small speck of intimacy can be carefully fanned into a flame of familiarity, affection, and connection.