Intimacy means closeness on the inside, not just on the outside. If you’re going to have true closeness in your marriage, you have to be able to know each other and have unhindered access without fear.
I think of intimacy in terms of the acronym INVEST: Intimacy Necessitates Value, Energy, Sacrifice, and Trust.
Value is essential to intimacy. It says, “I value your thoughts. The things that are important to you are also important to me.” I once counseled a man who was constantly belittling his wife by telling her she was “goofy.” The things she loved? “Goofy.” Her feelings and emotions? “Goofy.”
Their three sons picked up on this, and they began treating her the same. Everyone in the family was condescending to her. The husband wondered why the wife never wanted to have sex. If you don’t value your spouse—what she says, what she thinks, what she does—don’t expect there to be any intimacy in your marriage.
Energy is essential to intimacy. It says, “I will work hard to listen and understand what you’re saying, because I know we are different and come from different perspectives.”
This means really applying yourself when your spouse is sharing with you. Even though you might not see things the same way, don’t roll your eyes. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t interrupt. Seek to understand. Work at it.
Sacrifice is essential to intimacy. It says, “I am going to give up my need to be right or to be judgmental.” Some people seem to have the need to always be right, but that reminds me of an old saying: You can either be right or be happy.
If you are one of those people who is never at a loss for words, then there will be times you have to sacrifice your need to respond. Sometimes you have to bite your tongue and compromise. Sometimes you must withhold judgment. Even if you’re right.
Finally, trust is essential to intimacy. It says, “I will be my spouse’s safe place.” You have to create a consistent, caring atmosphere in your marriage, where each of you are free to share any thought.
When something fantastic happens or when something really terrible happens, you always tell the safest person first. In my marriage, I was not the safest person. Karen never shared anything with me in the first several years of our marriage. She didn’t trust me. I hadn’t earned that trust.
It was only after I hung up my golf clubs and began to take care of Karen and meet her needs that she opened up to me.
In Genesis 2:25, the Bible says the man and his wife were both naked and unashamed. That’s intimacy. It will only happen in an atmosphere of purity, where you take responsibility for your mistakes and your spouse feels safe.
Sexual intimacy is a vital part of marriage, but so is mental and emotional intimacy. When you’re sharing with each other, you don’t want to be judged, scolded, or shamed. You just want your spouse to say, “Yes, I understand.”
This intimacy requires value, energy, sacrifice, and trust.