This week I am joined by my wife to talk about sex and intimacy. I wanted to share a woman’s perspective and what better way than to get a woman to share what she knows from talking to other women. Let’s face it, this is a topic we can’t discuss with just anyone of the opposite sex.
Are they the same thing? Are they mutually exclusive, or can you have one without the other?
We will start off by asking the worst possible resource, Google. A quick google search gives us these 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.
For a lot of men, sex tends to be a primal act that releases pent up hormones. That is not to say that we don’t get emotional benefits from it with our 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.
Sex for us 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. Today we are going to unpack those things and hear from a woman’s point of view on the subject.
I guess the best place to start is the beginning. The average age of initial pornography exposure in the US is 8 years old. Often times that pornography exposure comes from a friend or an older brothers stash, or even from his dad or an uncle. In this day and age, it is easier than ever to find pornography with the advent of the smartphone the most degenerate pornography that we only heard stories about 20 years ago is available to anyone. You might be one of the parents that don’t feel like your kid is ready for the responsibility of a smartphone but he has a half dozen friends whose parents don’t think the same way, and yes they are going to show your kid what his friend showed him. As you can plainly see we are fighting this fight at younger and younger ages with fewer tools at our disposal to combat the problem. So now we have young men driven by hormones and misinformation. It isn’t hard to understand why 17 times more search results for sex over intimacy.
So how do we get from just sex to intimate sex? How do we re-wire our brains to seek a connection over a physical release? The first step is understanding where our individual beliefs come from. Where did we get our ideas of sex and intimacy? How did our sexual development come about? Are you one of the many who were exposed at a young age to mind-warping pornography or did you grow up sheltered or taught that sexuality was something to be ashamed of and hidden?
The best way to work through these issues is to discuss it with someone close to whom you can trust, someone like myself, or a licensed therapist. It really all depends on how deeply seeded your beliefs are and how they are ultimately affecting you. For pornography use, I have found the most useful tool at my disposal is an accountability group. A good accountability group will help you with the tools you need to overcome the trap that is pornography. I have a group of several men that I check in with daily. When we do slip up we dig into the why and how of what happened leading up to it. Pornography kills 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. My wife and I have regular conversations about where we are sexual. 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 on either of us and 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.
It is important to know what makes your partner tick. If you know that she likes to have the house picked up in the evening so when she starts the next day her workspace isn’t a wreck then you can’t expect her to be in the mood when there is something that is distracting or causing stress. If it takes 30 minutes of tidying up to ease her mind then consider it 30 minutes of foreplay and pick up the toys, put away the dishes, and sweep the floors. Being conscious of where your partner is at in their headspace or hormonal cycles will help out quite a bit.
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 I use to keep intimacy in my marriage is blocking out 15 minutes an evening to just sit with my wife and talk to her about her day, what is going on with her, what is she looking forward to doing or accomplishing. Unfortunately, I am not as consistent at it as I 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.
What is intimacy for a woman?
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.
It was once explained to me that men and women, especially married, have an emotional connection during 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 they 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.
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 throughout 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.
Sex and intimacy are such a deep subject that entire books have been written on so it would be impossible for me to cover the whole spectrum in 1500 words. 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 a society in our formative years. If sex or intimacy is something you struggle with I strongly encourage you to reach out to me or a licensed professional to work through your hurts, habits, hang-ups, and beliefs in order to achieve a healthier sense of sexuality.
Stay in the fight men. Stay in the fight for your wife, your children, your sovereignty. Standing Shoulder to Shoulder through the trials and triumphs of life. See you next time men.