Six Keys to Building Marital Intimacy

Six Keys to Building Marital Intimacy

The essence of marriage is a man and a woman leaving their previous life and joining together as husband and wife. Marriage means being united together in the one flesh marriage union. The physical joining in marriage is really the seal and expression of the mental, emotional, spiritual union that takes place before God (not just an image of the sexual union).  

And while there is an inherent, one-flesh covenant union that happens in marriage before God, ongoing, daily intimacy in marriage must be proactively built and maintained.  Before the fall, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  Without sin, Adam and Eve had complete intimacy: they were fully exposed, open, vulnerable.  

Marital intimacy is the state of being naked and unashamed.  

Marriage is the only relationship where you are together and naked with another person – this physical nakedness is the fullest expression of intimacy, vulnerability, trust.  You and all of your flaws are fully exposed!  It is only by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit we can be secure enough to pursue this kind of openness and closeness with our spouse.  We are not just talking about physical nakedness but emotional nakedness – fully vulnerable and unashamed.  

“Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were naked, yet unashamed.  Having nothing to hide, they were completely open and intimate with one another; their relational intimacy was totally unhindered…when sin entered the world, its immediate effects were fear, self-focus, and shame…our sin will tempt us to hide, withhold, withdraw, and avoid…a husband and wife can only thrive in relational intimacy when they open themselves up to one another by the means of fellowship and biblical communication.”  – Love that Lasts, Gary & Betsy Ricucci

Marital intimacy is a physical, emotional, and spiritual closeness. This vulnerability must be intentionally developed through humble trust, open communication, and loving sex.  

So, how do we intentionally develop intimacy?  With the Spirit’s help, seek to grow in these six key areas:  

  1. Prioritize your marriage relationship. Marriage is one of our most challenging relationships and aspects of life, but it has the potential to be the most fulfilling. So, invest time and energy into your relationship. You cannot coast your way into a healthy marriage. All good things take effort.  If two people try to just coast through marriage, they’ll usually coast apart. Did you hear about the young married couple that put so much energy into their marriage, they neglected their new baby? No, that has never happened! But the opposite happens all the time, so you may need to overcompensate. Focus on being a husband or wife even before you are a father or mother.
  1. Ground your marriage in Christ. Marriage is ultimately a reflection of Christ and his Bride. Fostering a strong relationship with God is crucial to a strong marriage. You cannot lean on your spouse to meet all of your needs; if you try, you will crush them. Only Christ can handle that task – your identity, security, and purpose must come from him first. If you look to God for the love, value, and respect you crave, you will always have love, value, and respect to give your partner (even when they don’t reciprocate). Seek Christ together in church community, and one-on-one Scripture reading and prayer (keep it simple to start). 
  1. Foster a life-giving friendship.  A healthy marriage is a combination of a strong friendship (walking shoulder-to-shoulder), a vibrant romance (two lovers in face-to-face intimacy), and an effective partnership (picture two warriors fighting back-to-back). Often the partnership (managing the finances, raising kids, running a household, etc.) choke out the friendship and romance. Prioritize building a strong friendship and the romance and partnership will flow from this. Spend time together. Find activities you enjoy doing together (if you don’t have any, learn to enjoy what your spouse does!). Talk. Hold hands. Laugh.    
  1. Communicate openly and engage in healthy conflict.  Nothing will kill marital intimacy quicker than lying, hiding, holding things back, or covering up sin.  Share, be open, be vulnerable, dream together.  Recognize that your spouse likely has a different communication style – understand and appreciate their communication style.  In Love Talk, Les and Leslie Parrot outline various approaches to communication:  Aggressive or Passive?  Feelings or Facts?  Resist Change or Embrace Change?  Cautious or Spontaneous?   Don’t avoid conflict – issues don’t go away, they fester and grow.  When you disagree, argue respectfully.  Remember it is not just what you say that matters, but how you say it and when you say it.  Assume the best of one another.  Give one another the benefit of the doubt.  Forgive as you have been forgiven.  
  1. Give your spouse the affection they crave.  Being intentional to express affection for your spouse will not only display your intimacy, but also build your intimacy.  Don’t give love and affection the way you want it, learn to speak your spouse’s love language!  And, don’t expect your spouse to know how you want to be loved, tell them.  “When you do this, I feel loved and cherished.”  In the Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman, outlines the following ways men and women give and receive affection: 
  • Words of Affirmation – words of gratitude, affirmation, and encouragement.  
  • Quality Time – intentional time spent together doing an activity. 
  • Thoughtful Gifts – making or purchasing gifts, big or small, to show you were thinking of your spouse.  
  • Acts of Service – practical ways to help and serve your spouse’s needs. 
  • Physical Touch – non-sexual touching such as hand-holding and hugging.
  1. Prioritize an active, loving sex life. God has given sex as a gift in marriage. As with affection, sex not only expresses the intimacy of your marriage, but also builds your intimacy. While good sex doesn’t automatically make a good marriage, a good marriage will usually lead to good sex.  While sex is one of the most significant struggles for married couples, Christians don’t often talk about it.  The Bible addresses the issue a lot, and it has huge potential to express and build intimacy in marriage (Gen. 1:28; Pro. 5:18-20; Song of Songs; 1 Cor. 6:18-20, 7:2-5; 1 Thes. 4:3-7; 1 Tim. 4:3-4; Heb. 13:4).  Let me share a few important points from my blog on why and how to Make Sex a Priority
  • Value the many benefits and blessings of regular sex in marriage. 
  • Recognize that sex is just as much an emotional and spiritual act as it is physical.
  • To make sex a priority, you need to plan and set aside time. 
  • The obstacles for a lack of regular sex in marriage must be addressed and can be resolved.  

For more on a healthy marriage, listen to our Marriage Enrichment Workshop and read Six Principles of a Healthy Marriage.

One Comment

  1. Lois Lindrman

    Every newly married could benefit from this information early on and even before . Knowledge is essential. You don’t go into a new relationship knowing all of this. Having opportunities to express these intimate, personal situations saves much time in confusion and hurt or anger. If you are fortunate to have an opportunity to learn the ways to communicate with understanding and love, you will be blessed.
    Nice article.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *