How to Keep the Intimacy Alive
It’s odd to me that our culture uses visual ads to sell perfume and cologne. Paul mentioned this to me a few days ago as he was spritzing himself up for the day. Cologne is an entirely olfactory experience, yet we use visuals to promote a feeling that you should associate with that particular smell. And since 99% of these ads use our greatest longing to sell their product, they have a high success rate.
You’ve seen these commercials. A well dressed man in a suit sprays himself with something from a sleek, black bottle. He picks up his date who immediately falls into his arms with a “ravish me” expression on her face (if you can even see her face). The sultry music intensives and some smoky voice says something like “Opaque… for Men.” It works. And we all understand that wearing this cologne has helped this man fulfill all of his intimate desires.
At our core, all of us desire intimacy. But where our culture has led us astray is making us think that intimacy is a function of romance (at it’s classiest) or sex (at it’s basest) rather than the reverse. True intimacy - the kind our souls long for because God made us for it - comes from a deep, abiding, trusting friendship. That closeness and vulnerability leads to intimacy quickly, and intimacy can turn into romance and sexual fulfillment if we let it.
This idea gets muddied in our minds because most relationships start from a place of romance and chemistry. And at first glance, chemistry looks like intimacy. We are more wiling to engage physically, to share emotionally, and connect spiritually when that chemical connection turns off the inhibitors in our brain. But if that walls-down-openness never leads to a deepening of friendship, intimacy won’t grow. It will be a quick burst of flame that has no oxygen to sustain its burn.
Sometimes, marriages start during that high flame moment. Even more often, work, children, stress suck up all the oxygen that was keeping that well developed fire burning. So in those moments when you find yourself low on intimacy, what do you do?
Here are just a few suggestions to get you started:
1) Refocus on the friendship. What brought you and your spouse together in the first place? What did you enjoy doing together? Talking about? Experiencing? Plan a few dates (even at home) that will help you re-engage that part of your relationship, and plan enough time for a meaningful conversation. If you find yourself with nothing to talk about, choose an activity that will promote conversation. Go see a movie, and then go to dinner after so you can discuss it. Try something new together that will foster conversation, even if it’s as simple as baking something new together at home, or trying a new type of cuisine for dinner.
2) Re-engage the heart. What do you most want your spouse to know about you? What question could they ask you that would make you feel seen? What could you ask that would do the same thing for them? Write it down on a slip of paper and commit to asking that question every day for a month. For a time, Paul and I asked each other “how did you feel about your day?” every night before bed. This was an open enough question to let us discuss whatever was most on our heart, and we knew the other was committed to hearing it and responding empathetically to it. Sometimes it was a two-minute conversation, sometimes it opened up more and led to longer discussions. But it was touchpoint where we aligned our hearts every night when we most needed it.
3) Get naked. Do this with no agenda. Just take your clothes off, get in bed, and snuggle. This type of physical communication will help your brain pursue intimacy. When we’ve been busy and there hasn’t been much time to engage each other, I’ll tell Paul I need his skin. I just need to feel his skin on mine and let that draw our spirits together. Sometimes it leads to sex, sometimes it doesn’t. But it always leaves us feeling more connected.
4) Pray together. Again, without an agenda, just eavesdrop on your spouse’s communication with Jesus. Often Paul and I will curl up in bed together and just pour our hearts out in prayer. I get to hear what he’s most worried about but hasn’t voiced, and he gets to hear me make sense of all the little thoughts I’ve been spitting out all day in random order. It helps us see where the other is truly living. And should you happen to do this without clothes on, you get all the benefits of the spiritual, emotional, physical connection.
How do you restore the intimacy with your spouse when the fire seems to be waning? Drop your ideas in the comments and let us learn from you!
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