Marriage is meant to be the most intimate, fulfilling relationship that two people can experience. God’s Word describes marriage as a man and woman uniting to become one flesh.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
After marriage, there are no longer simply two single individuals, but now the two make one unit, one couple. This is not to say that God’s joining of two people means that either one of them lose their individuality. They are of course two separate people with distinct personalities, and with individual needs and desires. However, when we choose to join with another in marriage, we focus on the “we” and “ours”, rather than on “me” and “mine”. Our spouse is now a part of us, so just as we would protect and care for ourselves; we do the same for our spouse. It would not be wise to take care of only part of your body and neglect the rest. Eventually, the neglected part would suffer and cause the entire body to suffer. If we neglect the needs of our spouse and only take care of ourselves, then we are not protecting our marriage and eventually it will suffer.
Symbolically, a couple becomes one during their wedding ceremony, but learning to actually live as one does not happen instantly through the simple exchange of vows. Because of the fall of mankind in to sin, man became selfish, so as humans, we tend to be more concerned with our own comfort and happiness than with that of others. This is why we hear it said often that “marriage takes work”. It takes intentional effort to put our spouse above ourselves and to put the marriage relationship above everything else.
God designed marriage to be the most intimate relationship that two people can have. It is through that intimacy that the two become one. Intimacy can be shared in different ways. Below are some the most important areas of intimacy within marriage.
- Physical intimacy: There is nothing more intimate that sexual intercourse. Through sexual intimacy, a couple becomes physically one, just as God designed. Couples should express physical intimacy outside the bedroom as well. Holding hands, hugging, kissing, and even just being playful are all forms of intimacy. A simple touch can communicate love, concern, compassion, appreciation, support, or understanding.
- Emotional intimacy: Be willing to expose yourself emotionally to one another. Be vulnerable and allow your spouse to see the fragile areas of your emotions. Never take advantage of emotional intimacy by attacking your spouse’s vulnerable areas. Protect your spouse’s emotions. The marriage relationship should be a place where each partner feels safe enough to be open about feelings.
- Spiritual intimacy: We may not think about intimacy being spiritual but in marriage, couples are meant to become one in all areas, even spiritually. They should each put Christ in the center of their marriage. Prayer, Bible study, and worship are the methods used to have an intimate relationship with Christ, so when two people share these things, they are drawn closer together. Couples need to pray for one another and spend time in prayer together. Taking time each day for a couple’s devotion or Bible study is a great way to join together and to join with God in an intimate way.
- Intimacy outside of marriage
Of course we all understand that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is wrong, but what about making emotional attachments with friends or co-workers of the opposite sex? Many times we may feel the need to talk with a close friend about marital issues and there is nothing wrong with getting emotional support and feedback from a trusted friend. However, it is best to look to same-sex friends, rather than depending on someone of the opposite sex for support.
Sharing our problems or even our dreams and ambitions with someone means that we have developed a level of trust with that person. Placing trust in another person and opening up to them emotionally also makes us vulnerable. This is why it is important to be cautious about developing emotional connections with someone of the opposite sex. This level of intimacy can lead to a deeper emotional connection and ultimately cause problems in the marriage relationship. It is too easy to begin to see this other person as someone who is more supportive and understanding than your spouse, which can only lead to relationship issues. Developing an emotional relationship with someone is a two-way street. It is not a good idea to be on the receiving end either. We all want to be supportive and compassionate to others, but allowing someone of the opposite sex to “cry on your shoulder” could communicate the wrong message to that person, as well as to your spouse.
Although, intentions may be innocent when emotional relationships are developed between opposite sex friends, it is best to be cautious. Emotional intimacy can be a much deeper connection than sexual intimacy. Sadly, sexual relationships do not always lead to emotional intimacy, but connecting with someone emotionally first, often leads to sex.
Remember that intimacy on all levels should be reserved for your spouse. If you need the support of someone else, then confide in a family member, a trusted friend of the same-sex, or seek the counsel of a pastor or counselor. Becoming one with your spouse means that you put them and the marriage relationship above all else, so honor your spouse and the marriage.