Intimacy is More than Sex

Intimacy is More than Sex

I’ve learned in 23 years of marriage that there are all kinds of ways to be close as a couple. Some couples have strengths in certain areas, but a lot of us were taught to think of intimacy in a narrow and only sexual way. Yes, sex is part of staying close with your spouse, but I want you to see and be encouraged about your relationship by celebrating other ways your relationship is thriving. Having a fuller picture of intimacy will also help you grow into the future!

I’ve come to believe there are actually six different kinds of intimacy, and not many of us are great at them all. Here are the different types!

❤️ Physical – Connect in snuggles, small touches, affection, holding hands, and sex.⠀
❤️ Recreational – Connect in being active, like-minded in activities, hobbies, and interests that give you both life.⠀
❤️ Partnership/Work – Connect in teamwork; tackling tasks, work, kids, calendars, chores, both all-in at 100%. ⠀
❤️ Spiritual – Connect in prayer, reading scripture, church community, and caring for others. ⠀
❤️ Intellectual – Connect in discussing and investigating the thoughts, concepts, and curiosities of their partner’s brain. ⠀
❤️ Emotional – Connect in sharing feelings well, giving and receiving care, compassion, understanding, and affirmation.

Every relationship is unique and puts on display a different aspect of the types of connection that we get to enjoy with God Himself. Marriage is a picture of our connection with God. Any kind of intimacy can be grown and developed. In the book of Ephesians Paul writes that we should “Follow God’s example…and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” (Eph 5:1). We all want to love our spouses. Intimate relationship is what we were made for – with one another and God. God created marriage to be a living example of the kind of intimacies that we can have with him, through Jesus.

Here’s my best advice as you consider what you’re great at and where you’d love to grow:

1- Play to your strengths. Do what you’re great at with intention and regularity. Celebrate it. Recognize it in your relationship and be proud of yourselves for it. It’s probably what makes your marriage/partnership so good. Lean on this hard.

2- Don’t beat yourself up in weak areas. We all have them! Marriage is a journey with so many opportunities to build intimacy. If you don’t have one area, no need to panic. It actually could be a fun way to continue building your connection during the next phase of your relationship. Sometimes we all hit upon an area where we have barriers to some sort of intimacy, so don’t be afraid to reach out for the help of another couple or a counselor to help. We aren’t in perfect relationships because we aren’t perfect people. Journey on, friends.

3- Decide on one simple way to keep growing intimacy.
For us, it usually comes back to emotional intimacy. You probably have a pattern, too. We tend not to take the time and energy it requires to share deeper feelings on a regular basis. There are lots of reasons for that: some practical, some personality, some are that stem from past hurts. We don’t have time to get into all those here (and I’m not lying down on a therapist’s couch), but it continually trips us up.

God is a fan of your marriage. And more than that, He’s the X-Factor in your success as a couple. Your marriage is designed to be an example in the flesh of his love and commitment to his people, so it’s personal to Him. Pray! And expect his help. We’ve experienced over and over just how willing He is to help when we seek Him. Here’s my prayer for my marriage and yours:

Father – You are the only one who can help us make marriage work for a lifetime. You have everything we need. Show us how to come to you for help. You’re invited in to help us keep getting closer to one another and to you. Amen.

Love: Am I actually doing it?

Love: Am I actually doing it?

Since it’s near Valentine’s Day I thought it would be worth reading about love in scripture and actually putting the Biblical definition of love to work in my closest relationships this month. Join me in my little experiments to actually LOVE the way God defines it. (And hint: it doesn’t involved champagne or chocolate. But for the record…I am PRO-champagne-and-chocolate!)

We talk about love as if its just a feeling, but the Bible says love isn’t defined by our emotions at all. I know – gasp! We can love without “feeling it” all the time. We can love without the perfect relationship or the perfect circumstances or the perfect spouse (good luck with that one). I’m convinced our definition of love has gotten mixed up much more with our culture than it is with our Bible.
It’s easy to read about love. It’s easy to watch Netflix shows about love. It’s harder to actually DO love to those around us. If we want to love someone according to the Biblical view on love, it’s going to take 3 things that are much easier read than done.

Love, according to God….
SEES others.
GIVES things up.
DOES real stuff.

We get a pretty straight-up definition of love-according-to-God in the New Testament, but you can see this definition of love at work all over the pages of the Bible – especially in the life of Jesus.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:16-18

Love is not about us having the right feelings for someone else. If we actually love someone according to the Biblical definition then it may actually have the consequence of changing feelings! This is kind of a mind-blowing shift, y’all. It really is.

Let me tell you about how love was done to me a few weeks ago. My husband, Bill, is the one who did it and refreshed my memory about what God’s kind of love looks like. Here’s what went down:

He sent me to a hotel room by myself for a night to work. He saw I was stressed about finishing two major projects. He noticed I couldn’t get stuff done as effectively working at home with four kids in and out of quarantines and online school. So he booked a hotel room for me, packed me a snack bag and did Dad-duty until the next day at noon.

He saw me. Really saw me. He didn’t focus on the fact that I hadn’t cooked dinner in 5 nights or the extra stuff that wasn’t getting done for him or around the house…but instead he really saw what I was going through.
He gave things up for me. He took time to figure out what to do. He worked from home the next morning (which as I well-know is VERY hard and inefficient with all the kids there for “virtual Wednesdays.” He gave up his evening to do all the kid-stuff. He skipped his workout and drove around the city instead. He sacrificed to give to me.

He took action. He had to actually DO something you could see. There was a reservation in my email inbox. There was a snack bag. You can see the actions of real love. It doesn’t stay “in my heart” or as a “good intention.” Something gets done that can be observed with your eyes! Love does.

And wow did my feelings become involved on the backside of those actions. I felt so loved. My husband’s random, Tuesday-night act of love wasn’t “romantic:” it was much better. It was love. And the impact? Well besides serving me and my work, it also softened my heart in a way that roses don’t (though I admit I love roses too). And it motivated me to want to love him like that, too.
If we want to feel the emotions of love, we have to do the actions of love. And the good news is that we can love like God loves no matter how we feel at the beginning of it!

This is not just for our marriages and romantic relationships. What if we dared to love people like this who believed in different political candidates or policies? What if we took a few minutes at work to love the guy who actually sorta drives us completely nuts? What if love wasn’t about US or our emotions at all? What if it was a weapon that God has given us to change our hearts and the hearts of others? 

So let’s do this. I’m making a post-it note right now for my desk. I’m putting my husband, kids and a couple others on it (that I’m not especially excited to love). I wrote the words SEE/GIVE/DO on the top to remind me to watch for something they need, be prepared to GIVE UP something of my own and actually follow through with a plan – no matter how small – to love them in a tangible way. 

I’m going to practice loving better. I suspect it might be easier read than done.
But let’s go try.

How to be a Great Date

How to be a Great Date

How in the world are you supposed to date right now? Pandemic or not, dating isn’t easy. Join Alli with the author of “Beyond Awkward Side Hugs” for a frank conversation about what makes a great date and how you can navigate dating with integrity in a sex-crazed culture.