What Is Real Intimacy?

What Is Real IntimacyWhat is real intimacy?

Is it friendship? Sex? Or more?

I met my husband while I was in university. We became best friends quite quickly and were soon spending all our time together, telling each other everything. It was wonderful.

About a year and a half into that friendship I realized that I actually liked him “that way”. And soon after we started dating. Again, I told him everything.

We could sit for hours and just talk–about important stuff, about not so important stuff, about anything.

When we got married I believed that’s what intimacy was–that ability to talk about anything, and still feel as if the other person heard you. But somehow over the course of the first few years of our marriage we lost that. When you’re friends, it’s easy to feel intimacy because you don’t have expectations on the person in the same way, and so it’s harder for them to let you down. It’s easier to feel, “we’re total soul mates”.

But in marriage, expectations come to play. Maybe you have different ideas of who will do the dishes, or of how hard both of you will work outside the home, or of how much you’ll make love.

And these things take a long time sorting out when we get married. Quite often couples never do entirely sort them out.

When we’d have a particularly bad time in our marriage, I often would think back to those dating days, and wish that I could get back to “real intimacy”. If only we could just talk for hours again, we’d feel close.

I now realize that I was wrong.

Talking and sharing your heart is a wonderful PART of real intimacy, but it is only a part.

And in marriage, it isn’t enough.

In marriage, real intimacy also involves making love. I think sometimes we women pigeonhole sex into being something that he “needs” biologically, and so we sort of look down on sex, like it’s a baser thing, while talking is a higher thing. But perhaps that comes from a misunderstanding about sex.

We tend to think that sex is all about the physical–it’s about getting release, and doing so in as pleasurable a way as possible. So sex is only about pleasure.

But it’s so much more than that!

The way that God made it requires deeper and deeper levels of intimacy to make it wonderful.

We’re naked together, which is intimate. In order to relax and really let go and feel good, we have to become vulnerable. We have to tell him what we like, and we have to literally and figuratively let him in. Literally because that’s how sex works, and figuratively because for women, sex is mostly in our heads. We can’t get aroused unless we DECIDE that we’re going to enjoy it. For us it’s largely a mental experience. And that means that we need to make the decision to embrace him–that we’re not just going to “lie there”, but we’re actually going to have a good time.

Making love, the way that God designed, truly is intimate.

And when we don’t make love, or when we only make love rarely, intimacy in our marriage is hindered.

We feel more distant. We feel like there’s something wrong. We long to talk, but somehow it never quite brings that heart connection that we want. And when we feel distant, we often start snapping at him, because we don’t want to feel guilty about it. So we tend to frame him as the one in the wrong. It’s a vicious circle.

Intimacy, when you’re married, isn’t only about talking and feeling like best friends.

Real intimacy in marriage is about sharing something with your spouse that you don’t share with anybody else.

It’s letting him in. It’s laughing together. And it’s also feeling that deep hunger for each other. Somewhat ironically, when we feel that way, we’re often more drawn to pray together, because we’ve already become vulnerable with each other. We’ve let down all the pretenses. That’s also why when we pray together first, it often makes sex even more intense.

When we’re married, intimacy encompasses all of that–your body, your heart, your mind. And it’s a truly beautiful thing.

Maybe you don’t have that. Perhaps sex has always been difficult for you because you’re an abuse survivor, or because you did things before you’re married that you’re not proud of. Maybe he’s the one with no libido, and you feel really alone. Maybe sex has just fallen off your radar screen because you’re so busy and so tired and everyone’s hanging off of you all day already. And maybe you just feel really distant from your husband.

I’m not saying that getting your sex life right will fix all of these problems. I know that some things are far more deep seated. But I also know that when we are connecting physically, it makes it so much easier to tackle some of the other problems in our marriage–communication, finances, parenting techniques, whatever.

Often we women think that we need to get those things sorted out first before we can have a great sex life. Those are the things holding us back. Or we figure we need to create this super close friendship again first. That’s natural, because in general, women need to feel loved to want to make love.

But can I make a suggestion?

Understand that it works the other way for him: men need to make love to feel loved. And if you concentrate on loving him that way, and becoming more vulnerable, and more selfless, it’s quite likely that he’ll also feel closer to you in other areas of your marriage, too.

Real Intimacy: What is it?

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I don’t know where you are in your marriage today; maybe you’re angry, or resentful, or just lonely. Maybe you just feel blah. But try to focus on doing what you can to feel more intimate in every way–including in the bedroom. And if you do prioritize the bedroom, you just may find that a lot of these other problems are much more easily solved.

When I started doing that in my marriage, I suddenly got my best friend back again.

And now, whenever we start to feel distant, I often find that before we really talk about why, we need to make love. It increases the goodwill between us so that we can tackle these problems.

31DaysCoverSo don’t think that your marriage would be better if only he’d become your best friend again. Instead, focus on how to be his lover, and you just may find you have your best friend, too.

If you don’t know where to start, try my 31 Days to Great Sex ebook. It’s only $5, and it comes with coupons you can give him to announce it for Valentine’s Day. It’s not like it’s “31 different ways to have sex”–though there is some in there about how to spice things up. Instead, it’s about how to connect more emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and how to talk about this area of your life, so that you become so much closer. Find out more here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


  1. Total, huge, gargantuan, neon, AMEN!
    Most women (at least the ones I know) own a stubborn streak when it comes to getting the ball rolling toward a positive relationship.
    The “Why should I have to be the one?” pops up and there is the first nail in the marriage coffin if you can’t figure out how to get yourself in the right frame of mind and get your marriage back on track.
    In my case, addressing my husband’s needs was automatic. I know that isn’t standard experience — it won’t happen for everyone — but it did for me and I know it’s the only solution when you are mired in grueling issues that won’t go away.
    Anyone out there who feels distant, unwanted/unloved, that your friendship in marriage has dwindled/disappeared, I dare you to MAKE THE FIRST MOVE. It’s the best dare you can take.

    • Correction: In my case, addressing my husband’s needs prompted an automatic response. It took me years to find I was blind and ignorant of his needs — and finally calling on God opened my eyes and showed me where I needed to make changes.

      Certainly, my addressing of his needs wasn’t automatic. I was slow and unseeing. It’s amazing we survived.
      Amy recently posted…Preparing Your Heart for Valentine’s DayMy Profile

  2. That’s exactly how I feel Sheila! My husband & I used to talk for hours when we were dating & it’s taken me 7 years of marriage to figure out that our new love language is sex. It’s really how I feel love from him & how we stay connected now.

  3. Sheila,
    Thank you SO much for your beautiful article. Yes, everything you said about intimacy is so true. I’ve learned much of it the hard way over the 12+ year course of our marriage. But just like you said, it is worth the vulnerability you may have to face in order to help your marriage connect on a deeper level of intimacy. Thank you so much for being a part of our 14 Days of Fulfilling Your Vows series. You are a blessing to the body of Christ and women everywhere! Have a wonderful week!

  4. “Intimacy, when you’re married, isn’t only about talking and feeling like best friends. It’s about sharing something with your spouse that you don’t share with anybody else.”

    LOVE this truth about intimacy–so very well said! Excellent post..!

  5. The weird-but-true thing about intimacy is that when you have it it feels effortless and when you don’t it feels impossible to reach. It is such a lie, however — jumping that hurdle of just doing what you know you need to do yields huge strides.
    Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life recently posted…Parenting for Lazy People: Use Your ResourcesMy Profile

  6. Amen! And the more you practice the better it gets :)
    Natalie recently posted…Art of VirtueMy Profile

  7. workinprogress says:

    Great article Sheila! The best thing I did for my marriage was decide to pursue more sex with my husband. What I have found is that making our sex life a priority has reduced the “unnecessary clutter” in our marriage by 90% (By clutter I mean, irritation, short tempers, hurt feelings, snippy-ness, etc.) True, it doesn’t solve all marital problems, but it sure helps to clean things up so that fights don’t explode over taking out the trash, and other ridiculous petty things.

  8. Gals, this is going to seem harsh or mean spirited. It is not meant to be in the least, just a general observation from a man who may know something and may not, I’ll let you be the judge.

    As we look around the world we seem to have women in general that are “giving it away” and when we look in church we seem to have a great many women who can quote “a man who even looks at a women lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” but seem to forget how many wives the great men of the Bible had, the whole Song of Solomon’s, that the only person who can’t have more than one wife is someone who is in leadership in the church…okay you get the point I hope that men are wired for sex (the majority of us). The biggest complaints I see on here is my man won’t be a “man” (lead, take charge, just sits and watches video games) and pornography. I won’t even get into headship of a marriage. But it seems to me, who again may or may not know something, we’ve stopped letting men be men. We’ve tried to make them into a hairier version of a woman (and even the hair thing is in trouble these days….).

    Now I’m not saying whether it’s culture, government agenda, Satan, women’s lib or men’s laziness that caused this, I’ll let you be the judge but they’ve had a frightening success.

    I will say this as a man who would die for my wife and gives her everything I have every day, whether that be in work ethic, love, sacrificing, etc. that no matter how much I love my wife if she does not have sex with me (I understand it’s intimate, intimacy, making love…it’s all those things but sometimes it’s just sex also) at LEAST every other day, no matter how much I love her I’m distant from her. You add an extra 24 hours onto that and I’m cranky, moody, etc. AT that moment I’d sitll die for her without thinking, my love is not diminished….but it is not a WANT it is a NEED. And it is scary as I look around the church, even view Christian teaching on the web the outlooks of Christian women on sex in marriage. If you want a man, if you want a husband that is close to you, sleep with him please. It’s who he is. He’s not a pervert. He’s not being needy. He’s not being selfish. It took my wife over a decade to finallly realize this and finally realized not just what a husband who loves her is, who is committed to her is but one who is happy and getting HIS needs met is.
    Please take a hard look at more than one verse in the Bible. Take a hard look at what being a man is. Let him be a man and show him you are glad to be his man and jump in the sack with him often…show him you love him.

    • Your point is what exactly? You’re objecting that the language isn’t strong enough to suit you? When there’s a stream of women commenting on here that sex really is a blessing in their marriage and that they’ve learned putting sex ahead of taking out the trash or doing the dishes actually makes their entire marriage better?

      Also, multiple wives in the Bible is never (to my knowledge) displayed as a good idea. When you consider how many men where led into sin because they couldn’t keep it together I think it’s rather silly to argue that polygamy in the Bible supports your point.
      Natalie recently posted…Art of VirtueMy Profile

    • I totally agree that wives need to respect their husbands and let them be men. Absolutely.

      But I want to point out that polygamy is NEVER endorsed in the Bible. It was practiced in the Old Testament, but God spoke against it. In Genesis it was clear that a man would leave his father and mother and be united to his WIFE. One wife. And God told the kings not to have multiple wives.

      Every instance of polygamy in the Bible is portrayed as an absolute disaster.

      In the New Testament, the leaders were instructed to have only one wife, but so was everyone else. The leaders were held to a Christian standard–so what they did was supposed to be emulated. That is God’s design.

      As for Song of Solomon, I’ve always taken it to be an example of God’s revelation. Solomon, in my opinion, never understood real intimacy. He couldn’t have with multiple wives. But God used him anyway to write a love story–a love story that God probably wished Solomon understood, since it was his multiple wives that pulled him astray.

      The Old Testament was not meant to be emulated; it was a story of God speaking to an imperfect people. And if you look at early church history, and even the requirements to be a Pharisee in Jesus’ day, polygamy was shunned.

      So to say that men were created for polygamy is to go against Scripture and God’s design.

      Men have more testosterone than women; thus, they tend to have higher libidos (though in about 30% of marriages the woman has the higher libido, largely because of porn use among men). But that does not mean that men were wired for polygamy; it simply means that we were wired for a beautiful intimate sex life with our spouse, where we learn give and take.

    • “Testament” means covenant. The God of the New Testament/New Covenant IS THE SAME GOD as the God of the Old Testament/Old Covenant. It’s all One Book, inspired and breathed by One God. The two CANNOT and should not be separated.

    • I am in the same boat to an extent. My husband (of 14 yr)s and I do have sex but it is without intimacy. It is almost like a chore on his end not mine. He does it only to get it off his list of things to do. I have prayed and fasted and seem to be at my wits end. It’s a terrible feeling to be undesired by your own husband.

    • Bravo, “Anonymous” Bro!
      It took some courage to tell us this. Thank you for keeping it real, and being a gentleman about it!
      This is a tender subject, and SO important. Truth be told, it is very important to us women, as well….
      and more-so, as we age. ( -Important information here, folks! Don’t give up on what God has blessed, even if you are old, sick,
      overwhelmed, upset, menopausal or just tired.

  9. Can you write, or perhaps have a male guest writer write, a post about men who survived childhood sexual abuse (ongoing rape and such)? And how to overcome the consequences of that – a deep fear of intimacy, low libido, homosexual tendencies/confusion, depression, addictions to alcohol or drugs to escape the memories, anger, etc? I’ve read books on the subject, but nothing I’ve read has really gone into the way it affects a man’s sex life with his wife. They may talk about how he may grow up with confused sexual tendencies, but not really talk about how to overcome it, and it may touch briefly on low libido and fear of intimacy but again, not really talk about specific ways to overcome those specific things. Your review of “The Fantasy Fallacy” went into it a bit, but I would like to see something a little more focused on men. I know this is a website mostly for women, but a lot of us (or some of us, at least) have husbands who were sexually abused as children – it’s more common than people realize – and it creates huge problems for wives as well…..in one of the books I read, I cried a bit because it had a section for wives, where the man (who was a survivor) said that we are victims of the abuse too.

    Childhood sexual abuse endured by the man is a cause of many sex and intimacy problems for many marriages, and I think it would be pertinent to women to have a post on that – because as that author said, we wives are the victims of the abuse too. We also deal with the consequences.

    • I think this is a great request and would also like to see it addressed. Thanks for your ongoing love of this ministry, Sheila! You’re a mentor to so many of us. I liked the statement in an above comment that we are all teammates in this race. You are a great cheerleader. Keep it up, girl! You are doing His work so well.
      Pearl recently posted…Redeemed by 5:21, Grace and NakednessMy Profile

  10. I totally agree with this post. Sometimes I feel distant from my husband and can’t figure out why. I’ll try talking to him a lot, snuggling with him, etc., but the feeling doesn’t go away. Then it will hit me that we haven’t had sex in a while. Once we make love, the distant feeling is gone and I feel so close and intimate with him again. Sex communicates a lot without words.

  11. To anonymous. 1 Corinthians7.2 states that each man is to have his own WIFE ( singular).Ephesians5.31 also says wife and the TWO shall become ONE flesh. Ephesians 5.33 also says to love his own WIFE(singular).

  12. These later posts seem to have got away from the original theme which was a simple question, “What is real intimacy”.
    For what it is worth my view is this.
    I am really trying to put my wife’s needs before my own. This is not easy as we all tend to be selfish if left to our own devices. After almost 40 years of marriage God has finally got His message through to me. Just being with her, whatever we are doing I really feel ‘one flesh’ with her. She is the most important human being in the world to me, before our children and grandchildren, simply put she is God’s gift to me. When I know we are going to make love I pray that I shall meet her needs and that she will be fulfilled. Then when we go to bed I pray again. In the next hour when we are physically intimate in each others’ arms, before during and after the act of marriage I feel totally emotionally and spiritually one with the most wonderful woman in the world. It is an experience so beautiful that mere words cannot express it.
    Real intimacy involves a sexual relationship but also so much more, it involves both of us loving and caring one for the other all the time. Of course we fail from time to time, but those times are becoming much less frequent. I believe that Christian marriage is a wonderful gift from God.

  13. I can’t really answer to much of what you’re saying, since I am the one with the super high sex drive in our marriage (this topic has always been reversed for us, although his drive is getting higher now that he’s working through issues), except that maybe for women who have low sex drives, it’s good to encourage them to realize that when they meet their husband’s needs, their needs will be met as well?
    Jenny recently posted…Valentine’s Day!My Profile

  14. ButterflyWings says:

    I can’t get my husband to talk or have sex. He’s been like this ever since we got married. He used to talk to me, now he doesn’t. The only thing that has changed is getting married, having sex and moving in together.

    I don’t feel he loves me and even when I tell him what my deep needs are, he does the total opposite. I have not felt so alone since being married to my first husband who was a violent adulterer who would only come to beat me and sleep. At least he apologises. My new husband is never sorry no matter how much he hurts my feelings.

  15. My husband has no desire for intimacy any more. He denies pornography use and I believe him but he never seems interested in sex. I’ve been rejected too many times, it makes me so sad. He’s wonderful otherwise but there’s definitely something missing in our marriage.

    • Hi L, I’m so sorry about that! I do have a number of articles on that situation. You can find the first one here, and then follow the links. I hope those help, because you really do need to get to the root of the issue–for both of you.

  16. Candi Sharpe says:

    I am trying to get the intimacy back, or what we never really had. Hubby says he’s on board, but, really doesn’t seem to be making an effort? I feel like a nag(although I have been very gentle in my approaching the subject) and so for the last few weeks, I have just let the subject go. I think a lot of it may be embarrassment because we’ve never *really* talked about about this stuff. Should I send him an email about 31 days to great sex or the 29 day challenge?

    • I think 31 Days can work really well for couples! A lot of the feedback I’ve received is that for the first time they’ve figured out how to really talk about things. So why not try it?

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  1. […] great, but when we’re tired, it can lose its appeal. But one thing that we desperately need is intimacy. We need to feel close to our husbands. We need to feel his love. That’s going to energize […]

  2. […] so pornographic, that often it’s the anonymous woman that holds the most attraction, because intimacy doesn’t seem sexy anymore. We need to talk to him about this, work on our friendship so we […]

  3. […] What is Real Intimacy? I wrote this last Valentine’s Day and I really do like it. Please read it! This is the post I’d write this year, if I hadn’t done it already. It’s all about what I thought intimacy was when I got married, and how I learned I was missing half the picture. 25 Quick Ways to Show Your Husband Love Romantic Radar Guns Make Valentine’s Day a “Let’s Celebrate Our Marriage” Day! Sharing God’s Love on Valentine’s Day–my friend Glynnis Whitwer reminds us that we don’t need to be fancy on Valentine’s Day to show love to those around us. […]

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