Intimacy in Marriage

October 21st, 2011

My husband and I 2009

Today I want to talk about intimacy. Not sex, intimacy. Intimacy is the close, loving, and very personal connection you have with your partner. Dr. David Schnarch, a marriage and family therapist that implemented the Sexual Crucible program, said real intimacy is achieving a unity of heart, mind, and body.

There are three parts to intimacy: physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, and intellectual intimacy. Emotional intimacy is the connection of our hearts and sharing feelings of sympathy, empathy, and charity towards our partners. Intellectual intimacy is the connection of our minds and being able to have deep and intimate conversations with our partner. And physical intimacy includes sex but also includes the love and compassion connected to having sex.

I think sometimes when people talk about intimacy they immediately assume they are talking about physical intimacy, or sex. But we too often forget that real intimacy is affected by our every day interactions and how well we take care of each other.

We need to cultivate our relationship every day to encourage real intimacy. It is really hard for me to open up to my husband and trust him with my innermost thoughts if we are fighting. And the same goes for my husband. But when we are more aware of what we can do to show love daily, intimacy, in any form, will naturally follow.

The other day my husband and I were both stressed, tired, and grumpy. This carried on for a few days both of us avoiding one another and having to walk on eggshells to not make the other angry. Then just last night we both realized we needed to make a bigger effort and change. I tried to clean the house while my husband was at school and have dinner prepared earlier than our usual 8:00pm dinner time. We also compromised on who would give the baby a bath while the other did the dishes (I gave the bath, my husband did the dishes). Then my husband also went the extra mile and cleaned some old food dishes that needed to be taken care of. He even dished us both some ice cream while I was getting our son ready for bed. We then talked and laughed the rest of night and were able to reconnect. That night we were able to open up about our troubles and stresses that had been bothering us that week that we didn’t feel comfortable enough to open up about earlier.

It is also important to remember that all three types of intimacy (emotional, intellectual, physical) go hand in hand and a lack in one area will lead to a lack in the other areas. For example, like most women, it is really hard for me to want physical intimacy with my husband unless I feel the emotional intimacy first. If we had even a little fight or I feel like we haven’t spent enough time together recently, I need to feel that connection with him before we are physically intimate.

This can also go in any direction. Some people use physical intimacy to prime the pump for emotional intimacy. Or maybe some need to feel connected emotionally before they can feel safe enough to open up intellectually. Whichever way, they are all intertwined and it is our job to figure out how each plays a role in our relationships. Maybe your partner needs emotional intimacy more than intellectual intimacy but you need that intellectual closeness first. Find a way to work together to help one another so you can draw closer to each other.

What are some ways that you and your partner cultivate intimacy in your relationship? How has that affected your relationship?