If you’ve been with us on Sundays the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about what God has to say about sex and intimacy. As we cap the series, I wanted to give you ten things to keep in mind as you think about how to foster intimacy in your relationships:
1. Think about intimacy holistically. The idea that intimacy is being known and accepted expresses itself in emotional, spiritual and physical ways. Growth in one of these three areas will naturally encourage growth in the other areas. And at the same time, challenges in one area will spill over into others.
2. Lean in and be honest about the places where intimacy is difficult. A profound relational reality to be aware of is that you are actually fostering intimacy when you talk about your struggle with intimacy. Those conversations, even if they’re messy, give space for you to be seen and accepted.
3. Repentance and forgiveness are the height of intimacy. In those moments, you are seen as you are and welcomed with love. Be willing to humbly confess weaknesses or wrongs and respond to weakness in others with forgiveness and grace. A relational climate of grace will allow intimacy to grow.
4. Move forward slowly when there are past wounds or distrust. Where you have been the offender, repent and recognize ways you have broken trust. Be careful not to minimize the pain of others, remembering that feeling safe is a primary component of intimacy. Pray for patience and compassion as you move toward someone who is hurting.
5. Intimacy is fostered when we move beyond simply sharing information and begin to explore the hearts of others. When someone is sharing a story with you, ask questions that allow you to know who they are, not just what happened. Follow the facts with questions like, “How did that make you feel?” or “What has it been like for you since that happened?” Make a habit of asking your spouse or friend what makes them feel loved or ask them for specific ways you can bless or care for them. Asking these kinds of questions on a regular basis (not just once) will help both of you begin to be more aware of each other.
6. Be sure expressing your desire for intimacy comes as an invitation and not an accusation. Shame and blame are the opposite of intimacy (remember the garden). Be mindful of adding to another’s sense of inadequacy. Let them know you want to be close to them, not that you are disappointed in them (think of the way Jesus responds to us). Model for others what you wish you were experiencing in the relationship. And when someone moves toward you, even if it’s clunky or they miss your expectations, take the time to acknowledge that you appreciate their effort and receive it as love toward you.
7. Humbly and lovingly speak up when you see things getting off track or if you experience barriers to intimacy (remember to have an inviting posture, not an accusing one).
8. Make a plan to foster intimacy. What grows naturally for us is often not helpful. You won’t accidentally become more self-aware or more present in your relationships. You won’t drift into intimacy with your spouse. You have to be intentional. Here are some ways you can do that:
9. If you know you are struggling, get help. It’s easy to give in to resentment or apathy and either close yourself off in relationships or just continue to limp along. Resist that temptation. Respond to what God is stirring in you. Allow yourself to be pruned and begin to grow again (John 15). Remember you are planting seeds all the time.
10. Have hope! Remember intimacy is not an all or nothing kind of thing. Take the long view with the goal of gradually increasing your capacity to be intimate over time. Fostering intimacy in your relationships is not a six week project, but rather a lifetime of small steps in vulnerability and grace. Start by doing one thing today and set the trajectory for years to come.
Finally, if you’re looking for further resources on the topic, we made this available at our Series Forum and want to share it here as well.