Intimacy! Is it more than just sex? Can you have one without the other? We are all wired differently, so can intimacy be different for each of us?
Yes! Personally, I believe that it depends on the individual. Intimacy is crucial to our emotional, mental, and physical well being. Even our spiritual wellness involves intimacy with what we put our faith in. Intimacy is so much more than sex if you really look at it, but this week we are going to discuss intimacy and sex.
I say we, because my husband, Michael, has helped out this week by giving a man’s perspective on intimacy as well. Michael and I feel like it is important to understand our own intimacy as well as our partner’s. This topic can be a delicate topic and can be difficult to discuss with the opposite sex.
Michael did a search with what he claims is “the worst possible resource” – Google. A quick google search gives the following definitions of sex and intimacy. Searching for “sex” in Google brings up nearly 5 billion results, while a search for “intimacy” pulls up a paltry 298 million in comparison.
Sex – sexual activity, including specifically sexual intercourse.
Intimacy – close familiarity or friendship; closeness.
Sex can be intimate but intimacy isn’t required for sex. Evidence of such is plastered all over in our society today. Sex is everywhere but often intimacy is hard to find.
It was once explained to me that men and women, especially married, have an emotional connection during sex and intimacy. The connection is different for everyone. However, the emotional connection is stronger for the woman than the man as well. Men need intimacy and sex as a physical release more than emotional fulfillment. Most women are the opposite. They crave the emotional fulfillment and not so much the physical release. Sex is for men like shopping is for women, or a good piece of chocolate, or even a professional massage.
Now with that being said. I have met women that feel the same way about sex that men do. They need the physical release of sex as well. If they do not get it, then they feel agitated and upset until they get that need filled.
I have also met women that have neither emotional or physical attachment. They are in a stage of their life that they feel like the can go without sex for a long time. Sex and intimacy just feel like a chore or something that they might enjoy, but don’t have the energy to put into it.
Michael says for a lot of men, sex tends to be a primal act that releases pent up hormones. That is not to say that men don’t get emotional benefits from it with their partners but that isn’t generally the goal. For most men who have not gotten that release, they will start to notice it in their emotions and behavior. For some guys that might be 3 days or for others they can go months at a time. It can depend on age, stage of life, stress, and a number of other external factors.
Women vary just as men do when it comes to intimacy. Intimacy also varies for the different seasons of life that a woman goes through. Hormones, emotions, pregnancy, age, etc. They all change a woman’s level of intimacy.
Sex for men comes with a lot of baggage that is picked up from media, lack of guidance from fathers, ideas from the high school locker room, and the warped perception that pornography gives us.
Michael stated in his blog post that the average age of initial pornography exposure in the US is 8 years old. In this day and age, it is easier than ever to find pornography with the presence of the smartphone. Individuals exposed to pornography are younger and younger as we grow in our technology age. So now we, as a society, have young men and women driven by hormones and misinformation. It isn’t hard to understand why there are 17 times more search results for sex over intimacy.
So what fosters intimacy? What builds romance into sex? It is obviously not something that comes naturally in most relationships. Intimacy in sex has to be cultivated and intentional. Michael and I have regular conversations about where we are at sexually. Sometimes one of us is more interested than the other or we might have additional stress that affects what we need. There are times that it comes regularly without much effort. Then there are times when we have to put it on the calendar to make sure we are intentional about our time together. Scheduled sex sounds incredibly boring but when we know it is coming up we make an extra effort to make it a special time together. When life is going our way and sex is plentiful we still try to make sure it isn’t mundane. When sex does stall, and it does, we will sit down and talk about it and come up with a plan to get it back on track.
I myself have been through several stages. The honeymoon phase when sex and intimacy are very regular. The no connection phase where I could care less if I ever had sex again. The pregnancy and hormonal stage were because my body changed, it affected my sex life. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. The mommy stage where I feel like I have to “schedule” it in so that way my husband and I are getting what we need – some “us” time. I have even been in the physical stage when I need the physical release of sex to feel better or I get upset and angry.
There is no one place that a woman stays through her entire life when it comes to intimacy. Not all women are the same either. Communication in a relationship is very key when it comes to intimacy. A couple has to talk about what they want in an intimate relationship. Every aspect of it and talk about it regularly so that way changes can be addressed. Sorry, but there is not a one size fits all for women or men.
Building intimacy in a relationship is so much more than sex. Getting to know where your spouse is at is a constant effort. One of the tools we use to keep intimacy in our marriage is blocking out 15 minutes an evening to just sit with each other and talk about our day. Unfortunately, we are not as consistent at it as we would like but when we are regularly taking time to just sit and talk about life or plan and dream is when we are closest together. That closeness builds trust and fosters a stronger relationship. Communication is the key to almost any aspect of marriage and sex is no different.
Sex and intimacy is such a deep subject that entire books have been written on so it would be impossible to cover the whole spectrum in a blog post. It varies from person to person, is heavily dictated by what our cultural upbringing has taught us, and what our exposure to it looks like in society in our formative years. If sex or intimacy is something you struggle with I strongly encourage you to reach out to someone to work through your hurts, habits, hang-ups, and beliefs in order to achieve a healthier sense of sexuality.
Do you struggle with intimacy in your life? Or do you have some advice that works for you and your partner that you would not mind sharing? If so, leave us a comment below. We would love to hear from you on intimacy.
Until next time…