Because of how sexuality is portrayed in media and how we are socialized to perceive it in our culture, I think there’s this perception that arousal is just something you flip the switch on to get things warmed up for sex. In reality though, what happens in the marriage bed starts much earlier, and much differently!
This week, we really want to challenge you to push the idea of intimacy out past the bedroom and to think about it as part of the fabric of your daily lives.
We have this simplistic idea that intimacy equals sex and sex equals intimacy. We need to move away from this to a broader definition of intimacy that includes a connection between the two spouses in marriage on every level: body, soul, and spirit (or physical, emotional, and spiritual).
In particular, look at the emotional and spiritual as being precursors or even prerequisites to the physical!
Did you know that “we are most emotionally invested in a relationship when we depend alone on that relationship for sexual intimacy” (Hill, 2002)? That commitment to sexual fidelity should cause us to try to nurture and deepen our emotional intimacy.
Intimacy-killers such as affairs, pornography and mommy porn (through books or movies like 50 Shades of Grey) rob marriages of emotional intimacy. Fidelity and loyalty are critical (marital commitment is one of the top 5 predictors of marital success), so make sure you continue to build them into your marriage. Remember, being close emotionally leads to being close physically!
There are a couple of interesting little tidbits in the research about this. 1 – Men are more likely than women to expect sexual behavior in the absence of emotional closeness and 2 – Women are more likely to agree to sex when her husband expresses value for her and provides nurturance and comfort to her.
These facts emphasize our point to husbands – Husband, touch your wife’s heart before you touch her body!
Emotional intimacy is more important as a segue to arousal for woman than it is for men. I don’t know if this is rooted in our DNA or if we’re just so socialized for it that it works out this way, but that’s how it is!
Another study we looked at couples in mid-life. Yes, it’s an older age group than most of you, but this is where you’re heading so it’s worth noting. The couples were asked the question, “What do you think of sex without love?”
The results came in for both men and women, that if their marriage relationship was strong on emotional pleasure, they were far more disapproving of sex without love. These more mature couples realized the overall value and meaning of emotional intimacy as part of their sexual intimacy.
The research also showed that the higher the emotional quality of the relationship, the greater the frequency with which the couple would have sex!
All this information just highlights the fact that intimacy is more than sex. It also highlights the fact that while media and popular thinking is selling cheap, instant gratification sex, what is more satisfying is the making love out of a relationship that has been lovemaking for a long time.
If you focus on emotional intimacy, you receive a wider spectrum of benefits that includes more sexual intimacy.
So, how do we do that?
Establish some basic rituals of emotional connection. An easy one is daily talking and sharing. Try to have some time, even if faced with the challenge of young children or conflicting schedules, when you can just share your days.
We use 5 for 5 – five minutes with five feet of each other within five minutes of getting home from work. We also have breakfast together after the kids get on the school bus. When we don’t do this, we start to feel like strangers and really miss it.
And before you start thinking that Caleb and I are unique somehow and have always had the perfect marriage – we haven’t. In fact, there have been times when I wasn’t sure if our marriage would make it. But we’ve worked at it, and made the time to talk, and learned how to communicate and build emotional intimacy, and are living proof that this stuff works!
It takes commitment, not only to set aside the time to talk but also to learn the skills to communicate effectively.
Emotional intimacy – and even sexual intimacy – is built on the back of being able to talk to each other. If you want help with this, check out Talk To Me 101, a powerful communication course for smart couples.