We’re about to get deep and personal here… if you’re my mom or mother-in-law, this would be a great time for you to check out my Banana Muffins recipe! They’re really popular right now and know you’ll love them. Really, I love you both but this post is not for your eyes.
Okay… seriously… Mom and Julia please stop reading.
Okay, first there’s a difference between sex and intimacy. The definition of sex is well… the same definition you learned in 5th grade maturation class. It’s purely the act of sexual intercourse. Intimacy though is a close, familiar, affectionate, or loving personal relationship with another person. A detailed knowledge or deep understanding of someone. Oh, I LOVE that!
I know several people who have sex not intimacy in their marriage. Their perspective on sex or comments about their spouse quickly tell me whether or not they have intimacy. A little part of my heart breaks when someone makes a negative comment on marriage. There’s nothing better than having someone who deeply understands you and affectionately loves you anyway. We all have potential to achieve this in our marriages.
My husband and I frequently re-evaluate or tweak or change or omit things in order to keep our marriage a primary focus. Work stresses, busy schedules, poopy diapers (sometimes taken off and thrown on the floor), tantrums, illness, and dirty dishes can easily distract us from spending energy or time on our marriages. Even through stresses of life, true intimacy can be found. Here are some ways we have increased intimacy in our own marriage.
***DISCLAIMER*** These are my own opinions established from my own experiences. None of the stories I share are from my current place of employment. They are from years ago. Intimacy takes two committed and humble people. I firmly believe in taking a hard look in the mirror before pointing the finger at your spouse. You and I are not perfect and we both can improve in some way. However if you feel your marriage is unhealthy or abusive, please seek professional counsel and guidance. Okay… here we go!
1) Show your spouse you love them.
Simple enough, right? Not always. You first need to learn how your spouse feels loved. Does she feel loved when you vacuum and clean the toilets? Or does he feel loved when you tell him how much you appreciate his hard work? Or does she feel loved when you hold her hand or place your hand on her knee?
The 5 Love Languages can clear this all up for you. The 5 love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Who knew we all speak different love languages? If you’re not speaking the right love language to each other, it results in resentment, frustration, isolation, decreased affection, and lack of understanding.
While discussing The 5 Love Languages with a group of friends at work, a co-worker chimed in and said whenever he vacuumed or cleaned the kitchen, he knew he was getting lucky that night. Men, can you see the value of reading this book?
It’s a quick read. Read it. Apply it. You’ll see a difference in your marriage and how your spouse responds to you.
2) Be 150% faithful.
When I was first married and working night shifts, I missed being home with my husband. One co-worker would scoff and make comments like, ‘wait until you’ve been married for a year then you’ll only want to work nights’ or ‘you’re just in the newly wed stage. Trust me it changes’. She would remark on her husband’s temper or how she would rather be with friends than him.
She wasn’t my only co-worker who expressed pessimistic views on marriage, but I’ll never forget how she painted an ugly picture of her husband with her comments and remarks. That was… until he was tragically killed. I never met the man, but because of his wife’s criticism I have a negative impression of him. So tragic.
Do your words influence others to think more or less of your spouse? Being faithful means being faithful and loyal with our actions, WORDS, and thoughts. Stop bad mouthing your spouse! You chose your spouse. No one arranged it for you. You decided to commit to this person and put your single life behind you. Be faithful in your words.
If you have an argument, keep it between the two of you. If there’s something that bugs you about him, I’m pretty sure there is something that bugs him about you. Would you want him to be flaunting it to all his family, friends, and co-workers? Would you want him or her freely sharing your weaknesses and faults? Of course not. It would be hurtful. It breaks trust. And it causes other people to lose respect for your spouse.
If you have frustration or hurt or irritation or uncertainty in your marriage, turn to God, each other, your clergyman, or a professional. There are resources to guide, direct, and comfort you. However, bad mouthing your spouse does nothing to solve problems or concerns in your marriage. It only creates more problems.
3) No flirting or checking out others.
This goes hand-in-hand with being 150% faithful. There’s a difference between knowing someone is attractive and being attracted to someone. Knowing someone is attractive does not lead to inappropriate thoughts or actions. Being attracted to someone leads to flirting, crushes, and inappropriate thoughts and actions.
Once again, I have a stellar example from work. During a shift, I was asked by two co-workers (both married) who was my ‘at work’ crush. The disappointing question quickly diminished any remaining respect I had for them. My honest response to that ridiculous question was, “No one. Not one single man is as sexy or as attractive as my husband.” They scoffed and doubted my reply as they went into specific details why they liked their ‘at work’ crushes. I sat back, listened, and thought to myself, “how would their spouses feel about this conversation?”
My husband and I don’t have at-work crushes, celebrity crushes, TV crushes, or crushes that involve anyone other than each other. My husband doesn’t cat call cheerleaders during a football game, and I don’t gasp or sigh over some actor. Not only do we not comment, we don’t allow our minds to drift or fantasize about other people. My husband respectfully looks away when a scantily clad woman flashes on the screen, and I do the same when some shirtless man appears.
Faithfulness begins with your thoughts which influence your words and actions. Learn to have self mastery and self control over your thoughts. We’re not mindless animals. We can train our minds and choose what we do and do not allow our minds to focus on.
4) No pornography and no masturbation.
Pornography is anything that causes sexual arousal in you other than your spouse. It can be images, videos, books, magazines, television or anything else that causes sexual arousal. We often think pornography as only a man’s problem, but there are women who struggle with pornography too. It’s impossible to list all its damaging and negative effects. It causes unrealistic and unhealthy viewpoints on sex, women and men to be objectified, addiction, inability to be aroused by your own spouse, and much more serious actions like infidelity, rape, and murder.
Masturbation turns sex into self-serving. It becomes about your pleasure instead of the unifying, affectionate intimacy it was designed for. It too can result in addiction, inability to be aroused by your spouse, and inappropriate viewpoints on sex. I’m also pretty sure you’re not having faithful thoughts about your spouse if you’re participating in such activities.
Did you notice how both of these can cause you to not be aroused by your own spouse?!?!? Big problem. There is not one positive thing that comes from pornography or masturbation. Their only purpose is to diminish intimacy and portray sex as something meant for self gratification and personal release.
Whether it’s an addiction or a bad habit, you need to eliminate these things from your life. No exception. It will quickly destroy intimacy in your marriage. If you’re struggling with addiction, seek help from your clergyman or professional.
5) Go to bed together at the same time.
It’s important to close the day together. Work, school, kids, technology, and a million of responsibilities pull at our attention. Spend 30 to 45 minutes unwinding together at the end of the day without distraction.
If you are going to bed later than your spouse on a consistent basis, what are you doing? Watching TV? Playing video games? Looking at pornography? Wasting time on social media? Anything productive? Most likely no.
Going to bed together helps build unity. It gives you time to talk and cuddle and be intimate. It also helps each other in establishing and maintaining healthy sleeping habits. We all should be getting at least 6 hours of sleep.
One ironic side effect of chronic sleep deprivation is losing judgement about needing sleep! People who claim not to be tired when it’s late have trained their bodies into believing that horrible lie. Another horrible side effect is lower libidos and decreased interest in sex! Intimacy killer alert!
There are several books, methods, and relaxing techniques (like being intimate with your spouse) that can help you start developing healthy sleeping habits. Also, one of those techniques should be developing the habit of going to bed together with your spouse.
6) No TV in the bedroom.
The bedroom is for sleeping, pillow talk, and sexual relations. Nothing interferes with all three more than a television. Some of my greatest conversations with my husband happen when we’re winding down and about to fall asleep. Communication and intimacy would be limited or non-existent with distractions from a TV. Kick the TV out of the bedroom. It’s not welcomed!
7) If you have young children, have early bedtimes.
I could write a whole post about the health benefits and physiological need our children have for sleep. In fact, I am writing a post about it! Children with sleep deprivation result in fatigue, learning and concentration difficulties, and accidents or clumsiness. They also display behaviors like moodiness, tantrums, hyperactivity, easily provoked, and overly sensitive.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to train our children to have healthy sleeping habits. I understand illness or special events result in late nights every once and a while. However, your child should not be going to bed late on a regular basis. I classify anything later than 9 pm as being too late (although, I still think 9 is way too late).
If your child already has horrible sleeping habits, there is still hope! Healthy Sleeping Habits, Happy Child is a great book with solutions to sleep problems. It provides guidelines for children of all ages (newborns to teenagers). When my daughter’s sleep gets thrown off, I frequently refer back to this book. If you apply the principles in the book, your child can and will develop healthy sleeping habits. It’s amazing a child’s transformation when they’re well rested. Trust me. Life is so much easier!
Not only does your child need and crave sleep when they’re young, your marriage craves time without children. Putting your children to bed early benefits them and your marriage. Win, win! It’s impossible to communicate and intimately connect with your spouse when you’re wrestling tired, exhausted, and emotional children late at night or waking up frequently throughout the night.
Being a parent can be exhausting. It takes constant attention, love, and patience. Even though we would die for our little ones, we need time to recoup, unwind, and take a breather from the demanding responsibilities of being a parent. We also need crucial daily time focusing on the foundation of our families… our marriages. If your children are going to bed at 10:30 or 11 at night, when do you have time to connect with your spouse? How can you discuss your own needs, frustrations, worries, and stresses with them? How on earth would you ever have energy to be intimate?
Early bedtimes. You’re welcome.
8) Get healthy.
A friend from work approached me discouraged one morning. Her husband complained about not having sex more frequently, but she struggled feeling attracted to him. He was really unhealthy and had gained a lot of weight. Time and time again she encouraged and invited him to workout with her or to join her in getting active. He refused. She wanted to change eating habits and get healthier together. He refused. She asked me a really difficult question, “how do I tell my husband I’m not attracted to him because he’s become so unhealthy?”
Unhealthy lifestyles can have strong negative sexual side effects including the risk of experiencing sexual dysfunction in 71 percent of men with “substantially increased waist circumference.” Healthy living, on the other hand, has endless rockin’ benefits for increasing your intimacy. When you eat healthy, exercise, and sleep well, you have more energy, maintain a healthy weight, feel sexier, have more confidence, stronger mental health, increased flexibility, and better endurance. All the ingredients needed for unbelievable intimacy!
Do you need help learning how to live healthy? Check out my eBooks! Do you need an added push, accountability, and motivation to make the changes? Several people have had success playing The Game-On Health Challenge. Come join the next round! People have fallen in love with this game and keep coming back to play. I have full confidence you’ll love it too.
9) Open, honest, and respectful communication on sex.
I’ve had numerous of conversations with women who struggle with sex. They’re not interested or they don’t enjoy it or feel like it’s only for their husbands. Often times, it’s related to a problem already mentioned above. If something is interfering with you feeling emotionally and intimately connected to your spouse, of course you’re disinterested in sex!
Openly and honestly discuss with each other what may be interrupting your intimate connection. Be humble enough to listen to your spouse’s viewpoint without getting angry. Make goals together on what needs to change in order to be more unified and then follow through.
However, sometimes the issue is deeper. Depression, anxiety, and low testosterone levels (yes… women need to have some testosterone too) can cause complete indifference towards sex. Healthy eating and exercise have proved to be very helpful with treating all these complications. Of course consult a physician and/or counselor for further treatment.
Also, there should always be mutual respect during sex. Neither person should ever be forced, pressured, or convinced to do anything they feel uncomfortable with. David O. McKay said, “The marriage covenant does not give the man the right to enslave her, or to abuse her, or to use her merely for the gratification of his passion. Your marriage ceremony does not give you that right.” Intimacy does not mean embarrassing, degrading, belittling, or demeaning each other in anyway.
Be open. Be sensitive. Be kind. Be honest.
“Great passions lie ahead in loving marriages. A truth not generally known to newly married couples is that in virtuous marriages passions increase over the years between the couple” ~ unknown. After 6 years of marriage, all I can say is ‘Amen!’
Intimacy is not just sex. It’s about becoming and having a close, familiar, and affectionate companion. It’s deeply understanding your spouse like no one else and having them deeply understand you. It takes time, sacrifice, dedication, forgiveness, tolerance, and commitment. I didn’t say achieving intimacy would be easy, but it is worth every blood, sweat, and tear. Go and be intimate with your spouses, my friends!