What 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.

Keith and Sheila wedding

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.

Real Intimacy in Marriage--Keith and Sheila

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 really enough.

In marriage, real intimacy should also involves making love. I think sometimes we 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. So sex is only about pleasure–and often only about his 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, when it works the way that God designed it, truly should be intimate.

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

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, 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.

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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 pretences. 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. This is why I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex–to show everything that sex was supposed to be, and help people experience real intimacy in the bedroom in every way (emotionally, spiritually, AND physically).

Maybe you don’t have that kind of real intimacy.

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. Maybe your marriage has underlying problems where you can’t feel safe–and it’s emotionally dangerous (and honestly–this needs to be dealt with first!). Or maybe you just feel really distant from your husband in general.

I’m not saying that getting your sex life right will fix all of these problems (and it certainly can’t fix emotionally destructive marriages). 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.

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

But can I make a suggestion?

Understand that it can also work the other way. If your spouse is the one with the higher libido, then they likely see sex as a way of checking in on the relationship. Having sex is their way of knowing, “everything’s okay. We’re close. We’re good.”  If they feel close and secure, then the rest of these issues become much easier to deal with.

Many (not all) women need to feel loved in order to make love. And many (not all) men make love to feel loved. If you’re waiting to feel loved to make love, you could be waiting a long time.

But if you can tell yourself all the benefits of sex for you and for the relationship–and jump in–you may find that your needs get met, too. Plus you get to feel awesome!

After all, sex tends to make you sleep better. Have sex lots, and you tend to get fewer colds and fewer forms of some mental illnesses. You feel more relaxed. You feel closer. You laugh more. It’s all good!

What if sex doesn’t feel very good for you, though? That’s okay. It takes a while for many women. But you can make it into a great research project you do with your husband, because you were meant to feel awesome. Don’t give up!


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Today is Valentine’s Day.

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.

Anniversary Trip to Ireland

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.

So 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!


Want to figure out more how to experience this kind of intimacy in your marriage?

GGG Square 3D - What Is Real Intimacy? And What Does Sex Have to Do With It?If you’re really struggling, please pick up The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. It will help change your attitude towards sex, so that it won’t be an obligation or something tedious, but will instead become something wonderful that you were meant to enjoy.

Or if you understand this, but things have gotten stale, or you want something special for Valentine’s Day, check out my 24 Sexy Dares! They’re only $6.99, and they’re a great present that any high-drive spouse is bound to love! The dares where he takes the lead are focused on helping her feel confident, and discovering new ways to make her aroused. The dares that she takes the lead on help him feel like the center of attention, and really help spice things up! And then the 8 dares that you do together–well, they’re awfully fun, too.

Real Intimacy in Marriage - What Is Real Intimacy? And What Does Sex Have to Do With It?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! 

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SheilaSidebarAboutMe - What Is Real Intimacy? And What Does Sex Have to Do With It? Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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