Sep 272016 7 Responses

Intimacy Is Far More Than Sex

For the average man, intimacy and sex are synonyms. We can’t separate the two. This often frustrates women. Not understanding how our minds think of the two identically, many women wrongly conclude, “All you want is sex” when in reality what the husband really wants is intimacy.

Most women have a better ability to distinguish between the two. While sex can be intimate, intimacy can happen without sex (and sex can happen in a way that isn’t intimate).

The Hebrew word often used in the Old Testament to describe the word sex is the word “yada.” It means “to know.” The old phrase, “yada, yada, yada,” literally means, “you know, you know, you know.” In the Hebrew mindset, to have sex with someone is to know them. This concept is more apparent in a society where little interaction took place between the sexes and where even the appearance of a woman was greatly veiled from every man except her husband. Sex was the moment in which a woman was fully seen…fully known. (See: 7 Red Flags for Dying Intimacy)

This is the true meaning of intimacy within marriage–to be fully loved and deeply known. I want to say  “fully known,” but to know someone fully is not possible. Our knowledge is always limited and the object of our affection is always changing. We can never know fully, but we can know deeply. And we can always be pursuing to know more.

Why Intimacy Wanes

For many couples, intimacy in their relationship is failing not because of lack of sex, but because of lack of knowledge They don’t know each other. Not through a conscious decision, but through a subtle apathy, they have stopped paying attention to the intricate details of one another.

  • How does she order her salad?
  • What are his busiest seasons of the year?
  • What stresses her out about work?
  • How can I help him in the most meaningful way at home?
  • Where does he like to sit in a restaurant?
  • What are the important days or occasions in each other’s life?
  • What is his favorite TV show?
  • What song cheers her up?

These are the things of intimacy. To know these details and to use that knowledge for the betterment of our spouse is true intimacy. While couples should not expect their spouse to know everything about them, it is a fair expectation that one’s spouse will know us better than anyone else.

For most couples, this knowledge comes naturally in the early stages of a relationship. Many early dates are spent asking and answering questions. Both partners are on high alert to understand the other. They study one another to see who they are and what they like. (See: When Your Marriage Feels Like You Just Co-Exist)

With time, however, the natural interest can fade. Couples can get complacent in their knowledge. Many times they fail to understand that they each continue to change. Slowly, their knowledge turns to ignorance. With it, their intimacy fades.

Hindrances to Intimate Knowledge

It is a base human desire to be known. We want another person to fully see us. We desire to be known and loved. Yet we often fail to know or be known. This happens for two reasons:

1. Fear. While we desire to be known, we are terrified. From our earliest moments, we are taught to conceal our true selves. We hide so our weaknesses are not exploited. For many people, the desire to be known is never greater than the fear of what might happen if someone truly sees who we are. Unwilling to let down our guard and show our true hearts, our spouses have no chance of knowing us. No matter how hard one tries, if the other does not make themselves known, we cannot know them.

2. Laziness. To know another person takes effort. We must make cognitive space for another person. If our brains are like a computer, we must have a folder on our spouse and must continually be putting files into that folder. This is an ongoing process. While most partners begin the process, many grow lazy in the relationship. They stop trying. Unwilling to do the work, their knowledge begins to fade. No matter how courageous one spouse may be in revealing their heart, if the other spouse isn’t paying attention, they will not be known. (See: Appreciation in Marriage)

Fear prevents us from being known; laziness prevents us from knowing.

How to Renew Intimacy

While intimate knowledge is quickly lost, it can be regained. Nearly every couple will go through seasons where they have failed to pay proper attention to what is going on the life of their spouse. Healthy couples recognize the pattern and change. Unhealthy couples apathetically continue down the path of ignorance.

Couples can regain intimate knowledge of one another by:

1. Choosing to care. You won’t learn if you don’t care. It’s a conscious decision to study your spouse in order to love them well. Until you decide this is a valuable pursuit, all other steps will be useless.

2. Paying attention. Much of knowledge just comes from properly seeing our spouse and then doing the work to store what we see. By paying attention to their actions and words, we can grow in our understanding of who they are.

3. Spending a quantity of quality time together. Knowledge can only come with time. When a couple fails to spend meaningful time together, their understanding of each other will diminish. By intentionally choosing to spend important time together, they can better know each other.

4. Be brave. It takes courage to reveal ourselves to another…even our spouse. Yet the willingness is often worth it. If your spouse has proven themselves trustworthy, have the courage to take a step in revealing more about yourself to them.

5. Don’t assume, ask. A great danger for older couples is that we can assume we already know our spouse. Instead of assuming, ask her opinion. Investigate his interests. Test your assumptions to see if they are accurate. We learn about each other the way we learn anything–through questions and answers.

True intimacy is to be fully loved and deeply known. It’s a knowledge which might include sex, but it is a far broader topic than just sex.


7 Responses to Intimacy Is Far More Than Sex
  1. […] 1. Her Stresses. One of the simplest tests to see how connected you are with your spouse is to under...
  2. JP Reply

    Thank you for the post. I respectfully disagree. The only measure of a marriage that indicates its health is frequency of sexual intimacy. Why? Because, as marriage expert Athol Kay says, “Marriage is at its heart, a sexual relationship. Without the sex it’s just a legally binding friendship, which is a needlessly complicated way of having a friend. The basic agreement of being married is to meet each other’s sexual needs and not to run round getting them met anywhere else.”
    All of the other intimacy in the world is no good if the one thing you’re supposed to get in marriage is not coming to you.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I think Athol Kay is wrong. Would Kay say that a couple who can no longer physically have sex no longer has a real marriage? I wouldn’t think so. If a doctor tells a couple they shouldn’t have sex late in pregnancy and soon after childbirth have less of a marriage? As I’ve written before, sex is an appropriate expectation in most circumstances in a marriage, but there are other seasons of life in which sex is not present. That doesn’t diminish the true love of the couple.

  3. Nithya Reply

    Does a wife feel betrayed when her husband after ” knowing” her conveys each of the intricates to his parents who in turn create problems for the girl by bringing it in public( in front of her parents & relatives adding extras).Doesn’t this constitute to her public shaming lowering the trust she has on her partner.If the husband also behaves in a strange way such as suddenly abandoning her with no contact for 8 months,does it mean he is not trustworthy and a cheater?If the wife hasn’t been able to support herself after this financially,does it mean she hasn’t grown in the marriage?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      The in-laws must stay out of the marriage and that is primarily the job of the adult child.

  4. Mikayla Reply

    Thank you for this post. My husband suffers from ED due to his medication so our sex life is non-existent. Intimacy is so important. I’ve stopped asking God why did this have to happen and I’m working on building our intimacy and friendship.

  5. Mike Reply

    Kevin, while I agree that Athol Kay mat be a bit over the top in his attitudes, rarely is one spouse so totally incapable of any sexual activity for extended periods of time. As one commenter on a forum post I read put it: “You have hands don’t you? You have a mouth don’t you?”
    It is not necessarily always about traditional intercourse, but about the desire and effort to attend to your spouse’s needs/wants/desired. There are quadriplegic that at least make the effort, whereas some reasonably healthy spouses that use any excuse in the book to avoid it.

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