Understanding Intimacy

God created us with a desire to give and experience the wholeness of others. God did not intend for man to be alone. Humans have an insatiable desire to be connected in multiple ways with others. God “hardwired” us to be in common union with others, and most particularly a mate, a spouse.


Genesis 1:18 (NRSVCE) “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’”

Genesis 2:24 (NRSVCE) “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”


Physical sex is only part of that need. We inherently desire to be known and to know others. Uniquely, we desire to give of ourselves to others. 

In short, God wired us for intimacy.

But what is intimacy? In our society, most of us have learned that intimacy is sex, but in fact, sex is merely the “icing on the cake.” It’s the ultimate culmination of several other levels for those in a marital bond. True, authentic intimacy goes much deeper. We can experience authentic intimacy in all relationships—and it is healthy to do so. This includes our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, sports and recreational partners, and so on. 

God wired us to be interconnected; He wired us for intimacy. We are made in His image and we have a continual desire, or craving, to exist in this state of being. God hardwired us to be in common union with others and with Him.

Mankind is created in the image of God, created with a core foundation of love, mercy, and sacrifice.


1 John 4:8 (NRSVCE) “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NRSVCE) “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”

Romans 5:8 (NRSVCE) “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”


All of these require true, authentic intimacy.

Father, son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit: The three persons of the Blessed Trinity are the ultimate example of intimacy. They are bonded as the three persons of God; each separate person gives or empties themselves to each other to such an extent that they manifest as one God. Gift of self is the ultimate experience of intimacy.

As I said, intimacy is not just about sex. Various components of intimacy (or building blocks) can be achieved in any phase of life, even without being married.


Building Blocks of Intimacy

There are eight essential building blocks of intimacy.

1. Physical (nonsexual)

2. Proximal

3. Emotional

4. Intellectual

5. Professional

6. Recreational

7. Spiritual

8. Physical (sex)

 
Let’s look at them in a little more detail

1. Physical (nonsexual)

This can be a gentle touch, massage, neck or foot rub, a hug, holding hands, placing an arm on someone’s shoulder. Basically, this is a form of loving presence without sexual advance or innuendo—and can even be a “man hug” between close friends.


2. Proximal

This is about being near to someone but not touching. It includes sitting next to spouse or walking next to someone instead of in front or behind. Even sitting with a friend, listening intently as the person shares a life struggle, is a form of this aspect of intimacy.


3. Emotional

This is about sharing all feelings, both superficial and deep. What we feel about the other person, what is affecting our moods throughout the day or period of time, how we feel right now; fears, anxieties, compassion, empathy—all of these feelings and more are part of emotional intimacy.


4. Intellectual

This form of intimacy involves sharing what is going on in our heads, what we are thinking about—personally, work, world affairs, and so on. We tell others about our thoughts of these events, our opinions, and solutions to problems; what are we processing in our heads; the “heady” stuff.


5. Professional

Sharing our work, our spouse’s work, professional desires, fears, and challenges occurs with this type of intimacy. This is possible whether we are stay-at-home parents, corporate employees, or business owners. We open up about how we process this part of our lives.


6. Recreational

With recreational intimacy, we have fun together; this is about play time.


7. Spiritual

We experience spiritual intimacy when we share our faith, beliefs, and philosophies; pray or read scripture together; attend church together; or discuss faith with children. In all of these ways, we are talking about how God is affecting or involved in our lives. We can be spiritually intimate with a range of people, including our spouse, friends, or members of our Bible study group.


8. Physical (sex)

This, of course, refers to sexual intimacy (in the sanctity of marriage).

Many of the building blocks of intimacy can be achieved in several areas of life outside of marriage.

Any stage of intimacy requires connecting with another person. Again, God did not intend for man (or woman) to be alone.

When it comes to porn use or sex addiction, the bottom line is that we are seeking intimacy. All of the building blocks of intimacy involve some level of transparency—some level of sharing of oneself. But often, in the process of life, childhood events, and the world, we have been taught to seek false intimacy. False intimacy is something that we “get” not “share.” However, what’s ironic is that in the act of true intimacy, or giving or sharing of oneself, we end up in gettingintimacy as well, thus, the connection God intended. This cannot be achieved from a screen. 

Consuming pornography is an “alone” experience. It does not involve any level of transparency with anyone—no intimacy. Video sex chats, phone sex, prostitutes, and so on all involve “using” another person for self-satisfaction. Yet this sexual satisfaction is what God designed for us to experience with a spouse, a divine partner, and ideally we would achieve this satisfaction afterthe other building blocks have been experienced. Ever wonder why women always want to talk first? Intimacy! They crave the other blocks as well as sexual intimacy, and in many cases more than that level of intimacy. They desire the connection with their spouse before engaging in the physical intimacy stage. They don’t just want the “icing”—they want the cake too! 


Personal note: In reference to the cake and icing example for intimacy, I see the cake like brownies. If you have a really good brownie, you don’t even need icing. True intimacy is more fulfilling than the sex. Additionally, when true, authentic intimacy is experienced, then the urge to give (not take) is at its peak and the “icing” is at its best. 


And you know what, guys? We want true intimacy too. It’s just that most of us don’t know it (I know I didn’t). Yes, God did wire men to be the leader, the conqueror, and the one to build the family, societies, and so on. Society has taught us, though, that sexual conquest is the marker of our manhood. That is completely the opposite of who we authentically are. Conquering and taking a woman is just that, taking! There is no giving, no sharing, no transparency, no intimacy! This ultimately results in an emptiness that we can’t seem to fill—thus leading to more and more sexual conquest. We’re missing the intimacy and we don’t even recognize it.  

Women typically have affairs because they crave the deep relationship—the intimacy—and when they don’t get it in their marriage, they are starving and look elsewhere. Men have affairs because their wives don’t give them the sex they want. The man doesn’t feel fulfilled, but because of society’s teaching and hormones, he’s only looking for the icing. And even if he gets all the icing he wants, he is still missing the cake! Typically, if married women were experiencing all the other building blocks of intimacy, their sexual desires—their desire to bond—would be much greater. Both sides stray for seemingly different reasons, but it’s all really the same reason: intimacy. 

Think about it, when you look at porn, you truly, deep down, want the woman in the scene to want you, accept you, and choose you as you really are. YOU’RE SEEKING INTIMACY! But it’s never gonna happen this way. 

Authentic love = True intimacy

We can experience authentic love with God, our spouse, close friends, brothers (or sisters) in Christ, and so on. Essentially, there are a multitude of possibilities where we can be transparent and share our deepest feelings without judgment or ridicule.


False Intimacy

Really, false intimacy happens with more than just porn. It can also occur with alcohol, drugs, food, even actions that seem positive like doing “good works.” Yes, even people pleasers can be seeking false intimacy if done for the wrong reasons.

With false intimacy, we seek something outside ourselves for fulfillment because we believe that inside we are flawed or defective. In a nutshell, false intimacy seeks to "take" to fulfill the need of acceptance, desire, and self-worth. It, in many cases, drives us to want "things"—things like nice cars, the best and newest electronic devices, or the best clothes. False intimacy is also at work at other times. For example, when our true needs are not met, the lure of false intimacy leads us to be open to the lies that more drastic behaviors will make us happy and, as a result, we turn to drugs, sex, alcohol, overeating, and other unhealthy or sinful activities. In reality, deep inside we are choosing false intimacy to escape our inadequate selves or to fill the emptiness we feel in our soul. We desire to escape ourselves because we are not happy or, for one reason or another, we do not love ourselves.

This exercise and behavior of seeking false intimacy always leads to emptiness, decreasing self-worth, and frequently addictive behaviors.

If we stop listening to the lies that drive us to false intimacy, we see that we are truly called to be intimate with God and His creation in true, authentic intimacy. Using the building blocks discussed above, we can begin to fulfill our true needs by sharing these parts of our lives with others. When we do this, we begin to connect and have compassion, empathy, and even mercy for others. And we receive it too!


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