08/06/2020 – Today’s Question of the Day
Well, a married couple can have sex without intimacy, but will they have intimacy without sex? Barring any health problems and that kind of thing, of course.
During the lowest years of our marriage, the sex we had was wonderful, if you only took the physical aspect into consideration. Otherwise, there were many nights where I either cried myself to sleep, or was furiously angry afterwards. DH didn’t know it at that point, nor understand. I doubt I understood it, myself. Yet, I felt something was missing. It was the intimacy and the emotional part that wasn’t there, which I only more fully understood after coming to TMB.
Today, sex itself, is no different than back than. But the intimacy is there. Do I cry myself to sleep after? No. Never. And maybe thats why the afterglow is so precious to me, because I well remember the heartache of those other years. Intimacy is something that we will always have to work on, though.
Other than this, I can’t really describe intimacy, but the above is what always comes to mind when I think of sex and intimacy.
Intimacy is to know and be known. “In-to-me-you-see”. This is applicable to every single relationship, with others and with God.
Sex can be a part of initimacy. It can easily be a very vulnerable part of intimacy, and that’s why trust is critical to “fully knowing and being fully known.” When we lack the intimacy in sex, we know it.
I feel like sex is just the physical act. It is really easy. I’ve said it before, but just “getting laid” could be as easy as finding someone drunk enough at a bar or whatever. I like what SC said, “into-me-you-see” above. Intimacy, to me, is all about becoming one flesh and exercising that oneness. Sex is of course a piece of intimacy, but so are hand holding and kissing, laughing and crying.
@Scott love your point about vibrators when used because you know each other and your needs well enough. One of the main places I find myself disagreeing with Christian sex bloggers and podcasters is in this regard. For those who can consistently bring DW to O without a vibe, I can certainly see where that is more intimate than with one. For those of us who cannot, in spite of years of sincere efforts, continuing to be frustrated blocks intimacy. OTOH, having a solution we mutually agree to and that is a part of (but not replacement for) our physical interactions in bed, allows us to be more intimate with each other. Being vulnerable enough to accept that you need that help to O (or to bring your spouse to O) is a humbling and intimate place to be.
Sex is a collection of physical actions, where intimacy includes the relational components. True intimacy requires emotional and physical vulnerability, allowing yourself to truly be known by the other person. We’ve found that the deeper our intimate bond is, the more passionate and fulfilling sex is. Sex can happen on a moments whim, where intimacy develops throughout the life of the relationship.
When sex and emotional intimacy intersect, it is a complete and powerful union. I would submit that, barring physical or aging disabilities, sexual union in a marriage completes intimacy for a couple because it represents complete sacrifice, submission and service to each other; and therefore, wouldn’t the opposite would also be true, that full emotional intimacy for a couple will not be realized if a couple isn’t regularly in sexual union?
When my wife and I get sideways for any length of time (usually beyond a 3 days), it’s usually because she’s not feeling emotional intimacy (connected) and/or I’m not experiencing sex intimacy.
They typically differ in the minds/experience of women and men. For many women, feelings of intimacy are paramount in order to enjoy sex. For many men, sex is seen as a way to experience/enjoy intimacy. Where the approach differs within a marriage, mutual understanding of the other’s view is important.
So, how do they overlap?
I’m not completely sure, but I would suggest that they should not be separated. In fact, it seems to me that sex without intimacy is contrary to God’s way of doing life. Gen. 4:1 tells us that Adam “knew” his wife. He knew her experientially, in relationship, in a unitive manner. Even though they were post-fall and expelled from the garden, they had intimacy. The “one-fleshness” of chapter 2 is still binding 😉
In 2 Cor. 6, Paul is talking about intimacy (v. 4 we commend ourselves to you; v. 11 opened wide our hearts to you; v.12. sharing affection; v13. open wide your hearts to us also. In verses 14-16 he speaks about how antitheses do not mix if we follow God’s way. In 16b he quotes a covenantal expression of commitment to intimacy and fidelity, a promise that God extends to us. I would argue it is that kind of covenant that God also has in mind for marriage and the marriage bed. In v17 he moves then into an injunction about purity, fidelity, and exclusive commitment. This reminds me of Heb.13:4-5.
This of course leads us back to what Paul said in his earlier letter (1 Cor 6:12-20), where he tells his readers that our bodies (he doesn’t say souls) are members of Christ. He speaks of both sexual intimacy and spiritual intimacy in the same context. It is for that reason we are to fee sexual immorality and remember that our bodies are the temple of the HS and as a result honor God with our bodies! This leads directly into 1 Cor. 7:2-7, where we find clear teaching on prioritizing mutual, sexual generosity in our intimacy – only to be paused for prayer! (1 Cor 7:5 says, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”)
That’s why I think God would want the DH to work hard at not separating sex from the intimacy his DW wants and the DW to work hard at not separating intimacy from the sex her husband wants. That’s what they would look like when the overlap.
As the others have said, sex is a physical act, whereas intimacy is a sharing of each other for mutual closeness. Sex does not have to have any overlap with intimacy (even physical intimacy), as seen in the extreme cases of rape and molestation. Likewise, intimacy does not have to have a sexual component at all (for instance, I can/should have intimacy with my siblings and children).
When they do overlap, however, sparks can really fly, and I believe that is what God really intended for the MB. I actually believe that is one purpose for the confusing and sometimes-difficult-to-understand female arousal path. I really have to focus on my DW, in some ways experiencing what she’s experiencing in my mind, in order to give her the pleasure she deserves. It’s a “knowing” of her, and she has to be willing to open/share herself to allow that. Very bonding and satisfying for both. It’s funny, because she describes our encounters as sex being “always for her”, but I see it as “always for us” because the level of knowing required is so high that it’s naturally mutual. I have seen people make this (or a similar) argument for why vibrators or other marital aids should be avoided–because of the loss of intimacy. But for us, we’re still taking longer and needing more sharing/communication to bring DW to O with a vibe than most couples do without a vibe…seriously, it’s still very intimate.
I think data supporting the importance of intimacy for best sexual experiences can be seen in female orgasm rates for married vs. non-married couples, especially when the non-married couple is in a short-term relationship.
Also, the power of intertwining intimacy and sex can be seen in things like make-up sex and sex while in mourning. It can be crazy intense in a non-physical way even though the physical pleasure is still there.
Stereotypes would have us believe that men want sex and women want intimacy. While there’s some truth to that, deep down most people want some combination of both and sit on a spectrum. It was me finally figuring out that what I was craving was intimacy (not just sex) that helped turn around our marriage starting 13-14 months ago.
@luvabug – part of the key you shared in there is that you co-created an answer which shows intimacy. Too many unilaterally decide what will or will not happen in the marriage bed or just the frequency with which things can happen, hardly intimate.
We enjoy sex and intimacy together. But we have intimacy without sex as well. And yes on rare occasion we have sex just based on desire and lust that lacks intimacy. As physically pleasing as it can be for one of us, it rarely is completely satisfying for both.
I find the comment about the use of a vibrator interesting. Can sex still be intimate while a vibe is humming?