During the early days of your relationship, it may have seemed you couldn't get any closer. The emotional highs made bumps in the road almost invisible and provided plenty of fuel to build and enjoy intimacy physically and otherwise. But when the emotional intensity subsides, every couple has to learn that intimacy is not automatic; intimacy is a choice.
Remember that intimacy is not sex. Those two things may and should be related when it comes to marriage, but true intimacy means being close in every dimension—physically, emotionally and spiritually. No walls between you. Although intense feelings, when present, help that along, such intimacy only develops over time and on purpose.
God created human beings with the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy. "They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed" (Gen. 2:25). And that wasn't only physical nakedness; it meant nothing covering them anywhere—body, soul and spirit. That need, desire and capacity for intimacy is still in your own heart today.
What happened? Thousands of years after Adam and Eve, Rod Stewart can sing, "And sometimes when we touch/ The honesty's too much/ And I have to close my eyes and hide."
How far we have fallen! How completely we try to hide.
Part of the redemption God offers us is the restoration of intimacy. And as with every aspect of salvation, that intimacy is a choice. Here are some practical ways to choose to move toward intimacy.
Choose to Move Closer
Remaining in isolation feels easier and safer. You've been wounded or rejected either in your past and/or in relationship with your spouse. Coming closer can seem risky, even terrifying. If intimacy scares you, choose first to do some intentional work of healing.
Some relationships are truly unsafe. More often, however, two people connect because of the emotional intensity and then move apart once the feelings subside. Intimacy does not just happen; it takes intentional investment. (If your marriage is abusive, get some help.)
Consciously choose to move closer to your spouse. Choose to show true interest in something they care about and actively listen to what they say. Choose to not take slights personally and to learn healthy forgiveness. Choose to focus on meeting your spouse's needs more than your own. Choose to offer your spouse affirmation, respect, and loving care. Choose to look longer, touch tenderly, kiss and hold hands and embrace. Choosing those actions will allow your feelings to follow.
Be a Place of Safety
No one wants to feel forced to come closer; it can't be done. Even if you might be able to bring someone closer physically through manipulation or control, you cannot force intimacy on an emotional/spiritual level. You can only invite.
The thing about intimacy is that your invitation might be rejected. Your spouse has walls too. Your part is to do what you can to make letting their walls down both safe and appealing. Imagine yourself in your spouse's shoes. How safe would you feel with you? What might you do to make them want to come closer? Do you come across as needy, controlling or prickly? Do something about it!
Intimacy is not only a choice for you; it's a choice for your spouse as well. Consciously do all you can to help your spouse make that choice in the affirmative. If your wife enjoys conversation, stretch yourself to give her undivided attention as she talks. If your husband likes sports, get involved and show honest interest. Does your spouse desire more sex? (I hear this from both men and women!) Make the mental decision to connect physically. Work on becoming the person your spouse loves to be close to.
Make It Three
This isn't just a spiritual add-on. Remember that sin was what first brought shame into the world and disrupted the intimacy between Adam and Eve and between them and God (Gen. 3:7-10). It's what led them to hide, and to cover themselves. Our brokenness is what blocks intimacy, and the only way to get it back is to invite God into the middle of it all.
Your desire for intimacy is God-given. It's what you were created for. The way to begin breaking down walls between you and your spouse is to cooperate with God in breaking down the walls in your own heart. As you embrace God's acceptance and transformation of you, you're able to accept and affirm your spouse. As you receive God's forgiveness you're able to extend healthy forgiveness to your spouse. As your soul gets filled up with what He offers you have something to offer that's attractive to your spouse.
There's a truly supernatural quality to the glue God brings into your marriage. You can't do this on your own. Invite Him into the middle of your marriage over and over again. He can change your spouse's heart when you can't; He brings to bear the most persuasive force in the universe, the Holy Spirit. He can make your own heart willing and able to come closer. You will not experience perfect intimacy in this world, but you can come so much closer together than you are now.
As Jesus brings the two of you closer to Himself, you will come closer to each other.
Choose intimacy. It's worth the risk and the effort.
Your Turn: How have you been hiding from your spouse? How are you going to choose intimacy going forward? Leave a comment below.
Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley is both a board-certified OB-GYN physician and an ordained doctor of ministry. As an author and speaker, she loves helping people discover the Fully Alive kind of life that Jesus came to bring us. Visit her website at drcarolministries.com.
This article originally appeared at drcarolministries.com.
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