If you were asked to recall the most romantic period of your relationship with you spouse, what comes to mind?
Like me, many of us would go back to the courting days in our relationship just before we got married. We were both very exciting – everything felt fresh, new and even alive! Her eyes were the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Erika said my laugh was contagious. I sincerely tried to remember every anniversary you had together (she hardly forgot any). She was (and still is) a great kisser. I was always pursuing her. We spent hours just talking while really getting to know each other. And even after my long seemingly-never-ending10 minute drive home, I would rush upstairs eager to hop in bed, reach for the phone only to call her and talk again for another few hours. I would actually fall asleep with the phone still in my hand!
Ah! So passionate and connected!!
Then we got married; we had a great honeymoon, moved into our home (finally together!), went back to work, eventually got into a ministry, joined a small group, started a diet together and began our married life of order with discipline as we began caring and giving to others. Married life is good ? a sense of belonging, companionship, doing life together while enjoying oneness and intimacy.
Reality is that as the years pass in our marriages, things begin to change. Couples begin to take each other and their intimacy for granted. Other entities can slowly take precedence ? first one child then possibly another, a new home, change in jobs, financial adjustments, illness or even changes is spiritual growth.
That says it all ? the intimate feelings we once had at the start of our marriages marriage can begin to wither and wane over time.
Intimacy is not a subject that comes up too often in marriage preparation. Our parents or friends never discussed the subject with us. It was a very sensitive topic that might cause embarrassment (mostly to our parents), to say the least. Schools certainly never discussed it and even churches shy away from teaching on intimacy in marriage because it might seem too sensual.
Intimacy is not a subject that we really understand well enough to discuss as spouses. We all have different views of what intimacy looks like in our marriages. And actually, married couples rarely discuss intimacy needs because it might cause feelings of inadequacy, guilt, confusion or even mistrust: “if you’re telling me you need more intimacy, I must not be enough for you ? I’m hurt”; or “I feel guilty that I’ve deprived you of sex or attention”; or “now that I know that you need more intimacy, how do I know you haven’t turned to someone else?”
How would you explain what intimacy means to you? Have you really defined it for yourself yet?
Try this exercise with you spouse: individually rate the intimacy level in your marriage on a scale from 1 to 10. Next, share your rating with your spouse discussing some of the factors you used to determine your rating. Lastly, form a join-definition of what intimacy means in your marriage.
Did you base your joint-definition on things like your communication, amount of conflict, time spent together or the amount of physical intimacy in your marriage?
Many men would probably say that the most expressive indication of marital intimacy is sexual intercourse while most wives would feel that just being gently held by (or holding on to) her loving husband is the most intimate act in marriage! Now that doesn’t mean that women do not enjoy sex in marriage. That’s absolutely not true! But, guys, our wives want to feel loved and cherished as part of the physical act of intimacy. Interesting difference, eh?
Les Parrott recently said that women do enjoy sex and usually peak at about age 35. Men, on the other hand, usually peak at about 25, 30, 40 then again at 45, 50 and so on! (Thanks Dr. P, I knew I was OK!!).
The Bible speaks of three unique dimensions of intimacy on marriage:
Spiritual intimacy — our covenant (not contract) with each other before God. For Erika and me that meant that we needed to be equally yoked as described in 2Cor 6:14 and first have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We felt that we could then better understand the concepts of yielding, obedience, submission, accountability, affection and much more within God’s design for marriage.
Emotional intimacy — the bonding of our relationship as a married couple. We feel what our spouse feels because we understand each other so well. We become joyful when our mates are happy and we hurt when the other hurts. When Erika’s mom died recently, I genuinely grieved with her as in Romans 12:15. This close healthy, honoring and respect-filled bond leads to the next dimension of which the Bible speaks;
Physical intimacy — our “celebration” as lovers in marriage. Surprise! God deliberately designed sexual intercourse to be experienced exclusively in marriage. Song of Song’s enthusiastically portrays His endorsement of sex in marriage as a fulfillment of our need for deep romantic intimacy.
This book of the Bible is loaded with hot passion and romantic intimacy between Solomon and his wife. In Song of Songs 5: 10~16 she works her way down his body parts as she describes him as ruddy and dazzling as she says (paraphrased):
His head is like gold, his eyes are like doves bathed in milk, his cheeks are like a bed of balsam and his lips are like lilies “dripping with liquid myrrh”. His appearance is like the choice cedars of Lebanon. His mouth is full of sweetness and wholly desirable. This is my lover and this is my friend!
You go, Girl! Don’t you agree that these God-inspired words are filled with deliberate, enthusiastic and intentional design for the setup of passionate physical intimacy in marriage?
Then her husband responds by working his way up her body parts as he calls her the Prince’s Daughter in Songs 7: 1~9 (again paraphrased):
The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist. You navel is like a goblet that never lacks wine (now there’s an idea for you!), your belly is like a heap of wheat ? fenced in with lilies (hmm, she said his lips were like lilies).
Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. Your neck is like a tower of ivory and your nose is like the tower of Lebanon. Your stature is like a palm tree and your breast are like its clusters. I will climb the palm tree and take hold of its stalks!
Ok, then! Enough said. Solomon sure was the wisest man that ever lived.
They both get it! They understand sexual intimacy in marriage as God design it to be: exciting, pleasurable, desirable, passionate and even poetic while fulfilling His promise of a “celebration” in our marriages.
Obviously, intimacy in marriage is not only made up of the physical aspect as described above. Growthtrac has interviewed many marriage experts such as Gary Chapman, Gary Smalley, Dannah Gresh Les & Leslie Parrott, Dr. John Thompson and many others who have written excellent books and articles regarding intimacy in marriage. A suggested reading list will be available for you at the conclusion of this series.
In subsequent articles we’ll discover some of their suggestions and focus more on the emotional and physical dimensions of intimacy in marriage. We’ll look at how to develop your passion for intimacy, learn how to demonstrate the real passionate you and how to use that passion to reach the “celebration” that God intended us to have in our marriages including some tips for Recharging Your Intimacy Batteries!
Copyright © 2002 Duane Careb, used with permission.
Duane is on staff with Growthtrac and is a regular contributor to our featured article library. He and his wife Erika are voluntary marriage mentors for pre-married couples within their church. They also serve Growthtrac as seminar leaders and teachers of various Bible-based marriage topics custom written upon request. They have five married daughters and seven grandchildren!