It would be nice if intimacy were a more straightforward concept. It is instead very complex and deserves care and respect, as each individual defines it differently.
A lack of sexual intercourse killed no one ever. Lack of intimacy, however, can be detrimental to mental and (sometimes) physical health. It affects the health of the marriage and when intimacy is lacking, the recipe for the best possible sex is seriously disrupted.
What is Intimacy?
“As we Brethren travel about the world, sometimes we see worrisome scenes. On a recent flight, I sat behind a husband and wife. She obviously loved her husband. As she stroked the back of his neck I could see her wedding ring. She would nestle close to him and rest her head upon his shoulder, seeking his companionship.
In contrast, he seemed totally oblivious to her presence. He was focused solely upon an electronic game player. During the entire flight, his attention was riveted upon that device. Not once did he look at her, speak to her, or acknowledge her yearning for affection.His inattention made me feel like shouting: “Open your eyes, man! Can’t you see? Pay attention! Your wife loves you! She needs you!”[i] ~ Russell M. Nelson
Intimacy is more than intercourse; in fact, sometimes sexual intercourse can be anything but intimate.
It’s found in a smile, a caress of the hand, a kind word, an encouraging note. Intimacy allows everyone around you to be more themselves, and know they’ll be accepted and loved through the good moments, as well as the less-than-our-best moments. Intimacy approaches a Christ-like kind of love. When mixed into a special, exclusive relationship such as marriage, sex brings an added dimension of great joy and satisfaction to intimacy.
Can a Lack of Intimacy Affect Your Health or the Health of Your Spouse?
“Intimacy, I have come to believe, is not just a psychological fad,
a rallying cry of contemporary couples. It is based on a deep biological
need. … It is only in the last 20 years that we recognize that infants need
to be held and touched.
We know that they cannot grow--they literally
fail to thrive--unless they experience physical and emotional closeness
with another human being.
What we often don't realize is that that need
for connection never goes away. It goes on throughout life. And in its
absence, symptoms develop--from the angry acting out… to depression, addiction, and illness. In fact, researchers are just at the very beginning of understanding the relationship of widespread depression among women to problems in their marriages.”[ii] ~ Lori H. Gordon
Human beings need intimacy like they need food and water. All relationships need it, and particularly marriage and sexuality suffers when it is lacking.
Can a Lack of Intimacy Affect the Health of Our Marriage?
“…a sex-starved marriage is more about the fallout that occurs when one spouse is deeply unhappy with his or her sexual relationship and this unhappiness is ignored, minimized, or dismissed. The resulting disintegration of the relationship encapsulates the real meaning of a sex-starved marriage.”[iii]~ Michele Weiner-Davis
We have a lot of activities calling for our attention in this life. Our work is demanding and takes long hours. Church callings are a heavy responsibility. The temptation to renew ourselves in outside interests and special projects that seem all-important can be strong.
Anyway, we’ve been sealed in the temple, so that part of our lives we don’t have to worry about anymore, right? The love that we feel, and our temple marriages will always be there for us, no matter what happens, right?
This belief couldn’t be more wrong.
“If her husband places other things first and is unable to find time to develop intimacy in other parts of his relationship with his wife, she will probably not be very interested in sexual intimacy.” ~ Brent Barlow [iv]
Your Definition Vs. Your Spouse’s Definition of Intimacy
Our spouse is not us, nor is our spouse the same as every man or every woman. What makes us feel loved does not necessarily translate to our spouse, so it’s important to discuss and observe them to find out what makes them melt.
Dr. Harley has a couple’s test for their “affection/intimacy” definition.
On two separate pieces of paper, write down the following. Each of you take a copy into a separate room and (numbering them from 1 – 10), each of you prioritize these terms. No peeking.
When you’re both done, come together and exchange pages. Observe and acknowledge what each spouse put at a priority.
Each of these are forms of affection or intimacy. What your spouse puts as the top three is what they most closely associate with comfort, affection and intimacy. Don’t be shocked if they are different from yours. For most couples, they are different. By acknowledging and putting aside your feelings about what they consider to be “intimacy”, we allow marriage to teach us to be selfless.
2. Sexual fulfillment
4. Recreational companionship
5. Honesty and openness
6. Physical attractiveness
7. Family Commitment
8. Domestic support
9. Financial support
Another great tool for helping you both learn your spouse’s definition of intimacy is Dr. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages.[vi]
Taking the time to encourage intimacy in our marriages is a small investment that pays huge dividends in the bedroom, and across the eternities. If you want your spouse to be passionate about your intimacy, feed their intimacy need.
Join us next time as we consider how the loss of the Spirit affects the formula for the best possible sex.
[i] Nelson, Russell M. Nurturing Marriage. Ensign. April 2016: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/nurturing-marriage?lang=eng
[ii] Gordon, Lori H., Family Therapist, Intimacy: The Art of Relationships, Psychology Today (2016,1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/196912/intimacy-the-art-relationships
[iii] Weiner-Davis, Michele, The Sex Starved Marriage, Simon & Schuster, NY (2004,8)
[iv] Bar low, Brent. They Twain Shall Be One: Thoughts on Intimacy in Marriage. Ensign. September 1986. (I highly recommend this entire article – lots of good information here): https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/09/they-twain-shall-be-one-thoughts-on-intimacy-in-marriage?lang=eng
[v] Harley, Dr. W.F., Ph.D. His Needs Vs. Her Needs. 21 July 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGjriUcN39Q