What Does Intimacy Mean?

~ I ~ N ~ T ~ I ~ M ~ A ~ C ~ Y ~

I hear intimacy talked about all the time when it comes to both marriage and our relationship with Christ. Perhaps that is why the authors of the Bible parallel our relationship with Jesus to the relationship between a husband and a wife. There is something about both of them that requires a great deal of intimacy. So what is it? What is intimacy?

Here are some definitions I have heard:

~ Merriam-Webster: something of a personal or private nature
~ Intimacy = In to me you see
~ Dennis Rainey of Family Life Today: Intimacy means taking the risk to be close to someone and allowing that someone to step inside your personal boundaries.

To be honest I think the dictionary definition is lacking if you ask me. My bank account is of a rather private nature, but my relationship with it isn’t intimate as I understand intimacy. That is too broad a definition to be helpful in understanding why intimacy is important in relationships. “In to me you see” is a play on the word intimacy (broken up into similar sounds) which is a little more helpful if you think about it long enough. You are allowing someone to look inside you to know the real you, but I love the definition that Dennis Rainey offers us. Making the true you available for someone to know is a great risk, and that is an effective and concise way of explaining what intimacy is.


I like to think of intimacy as connecting with someone on every level; physical, emotional and spiritual. Physically, when we become intimate with someone there is some sort of touch involved and to varying degrees depending on the relationship we have with the person. Emotionally, our decision to be intimate with someone becomes a connection of our minds and our hearts. We share the real stuff of who we are and find that we are stronger for it. Spiritually, as we connect to the God-part of another person in prayer and unity of heart for the Kingdom of God, we find that that part of intimacy is marvelously intense.


Obviously the physical, emotional and spiritual way that Jesus effects me and the way my husband effects me and the way my best friend effects me are all different, but there is a connection on all three levels that we have with people once we become intimate with them, once we trust them enough to let them into our personal boundaries.


Can you have intimacy without one of these factors? Maybe, but it might be limited. Let’s take the example of the women who write on this blog with me. I haven’t met most of them in person, but I have been friends with them for over a year. We have shared an intimacy that is of a nature I do not have with any other girlfriends, and yet we have never physically met. So it isn’t that it is impossible to have intimacy without one of those aspects, but the level is limited. I am sure that once I meet these ladies in person, the potential for more intimate friendships is greater.


So how does all this relate to marital intimacy? Why is intimacy with your husband important? So far we have spoken more generally, but a marriage couldn’t thrive in what God planned for it to be, that is a reflection of His relationship with us, without all three aspects of intimacy.


If a husband and wife have walls of mistrust, deception, a lack of forgiveness, and bitterness that keep them from allowing one another into their real presence they can not develop a deep intimacy. Their hurt may not even be toward their spouse, but if they have walls up to protect themselves from people getting close to them, it will damage their relationship with their spouse.


Intimacy is important in marriage because it is the only way to receive the full blessing that God intended marriage to be. God planned for marriage to be intensely wonderful and a lifelong journey filled with passion and deep connection which ends up providing us with the most amazing human relationship we can experience, but it would not be possible without a willingness to pursue intimacy.


Intimacy is risky, especially at the beginning, but it gets easier over the years if you are committed to it. The more you do it, the more you see if your spouse can be trusted with your heart. And then, the more you see that they are trustworthy, the more willing you are to keep on sharing yourself with them.


The real commitment to intimacy is challenged when you have opened yourself up to your spouse and they have not been trustworthy. That is when we start asking ourselves the big questions of whether intimacy is worth the cost when we get hurt. I would submit to you that if you married someone with a desire to live their life in surrender to God and they have hurt you that it is worth the work to push through the season of pain and come out stronger on the other side. I know many couples who have worked through tough issues like infidelity and some who could not. It is not easy and is a long, hard process, but it is possible with the right conditions. Those are, the amazing reconciliation ability of the True Lord Jesus and two people honestly seeking to honor Him. If you have found yourself in such a situation I pray that the grace of God would be upon you and that you would know His presence is near you as you walk through this season.


Overall though, intimacy between a committed husband and wife has the greatest potential for a relationship that is deeply life-giving. Intimacy is worth the effort, worth the risk, worth the vulnerability. Intimacy is just one of the many different ingredients that make a marriage great.

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