To work on intimacy, begin where you are.

Some of you are hurting in your marriages. Perhaps, like the woman I was for so long, much of your hurt stems from things that you brought into your marriage—trauma, sexual sin, inability to trust, or difficult family relationships. (See this post.) When you begin your marriage on top of a shaky foundation, you may struggle with healthy intimacy of any kind.

My hurt grew because I still had so many raw spots. My husband’s responses to the words and actions that grew out of my rawness were sometimes a constant ripping off of the emotional scabs. I brought hurt into our marriage, and more hurt was heaped on top of it.

Perhaps the hurt in your marriage is the result of your husband’s sin. Maybe it is on-going sin: he berates you, overuses alcohol or drugs, overspends your family’s money, or uses pornography. Or perhaps it is long-ago sin that caused your hurt, such as his premarital sexual activity, a physical or emotional affair, or other sin. Maybe he hasn’t sought your forgiveness, or maybe the sin was so big that you aren’t quite sure it’s over or don’t know how to heal the hurt.

Whatever the cause, if you are hurting in your marriage, the thought of true and full intimacy can be terrifying.

The idea of intimacy used to terrify me—until I realized that I was actually experiencing it. Full intimacy with my husband gives me a joy I thought I didn’t deserve. I wasn’t even sure that kind of joy was possible.

True intimacy is such a beautiful and joyful experience that I want that for you.


What worked in my marriage was to begin by addressing sexual intimacy for the selfish reason of making my life more pleasant by making my husband less depressed.

But that might not work in your marriage.

If you’re in a hurting marriage, begin where you are. Work on one thing you see in front of you.

If you are hurting as a result of what you brought into your marriage, begin by addressing that hurt. (You may find Unbearable Lessons and Trapped by Trauma helpful.)

Work to heal what hurts, whether those wounds are emotional, spiritual, or physical. Heal—not just because it is good for your marriage (and it is good for your marriage) but because it is what your own heart needs.

If you are hurting as a result of your husband’s sin, encourage and support him in addressing that sin while you work to heal yourself. Read Boundaries (affiliate link).

With deep hurt or unrepentant sin, it is a good idea to get yourself some support. Talk with your pastor. See a professional counselor. (The American Association of Christian Counselors is a good place to start looking for one.)  Edited to add: If you are being abused by your husband, get safe and get support. That is more important than working on intimacy.

Then, as you begin your path toward healing, tend to your marriage. Work—preferably with your husband—on different kinds of intimacy. Work on emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy, and sexual intimacy.

Healing happens in layers, and different areas of healing may need attention all at once.

If you lack true intimacy in your marriage, you are likely need to work on emotional, spiritual, and sexual intimacy all at the same time. But you have to take a first step from wherever you are.


My experience was to work on my own sexual issues first. I suspect that if that were all I had done to address the problem, we wouldn’t be where we are now.

Once I had learned to be intentional and generous in my sexual behavior was I able to see some dark places in my heart. I have been working on those places, one by one by one.

As that resulted in some change in my marriage, I dug deeper into my own sexual and spiritual healing. My sexual past had gotten all tangled up in my relationship with God.

I can see now that much of my hurt grew from my own sin and from my spiritual immaturity–but when I started, I wouldn’t have had any idea to work on these things.

As that resulted in more change in my marriage, I continued to dig deeper into my own healing—and that enabled me to work more intentionally on healing our marriage.  I am a better woman and a better wife. My changes created change in my husband’s life that has encouraged his own spiritual and relational growth, so he is a better husband.


True intimacy is so much bigger than sex. It is emotional, spiritual, and, yes, sexual. One flesh is both literal and figurative.

True intimacy is a sum that is greater than its parts.

There have been times when all these kinds of intimacies come together in a way that surpasses any experience I’ve ever had. It isn’t like that all the time, but when it happens, it is awe-inspiring.

It happens most when Big Guy and I are both giving and generous to the other, thinking of the other person’s pleasure more than our own and shutting out everything except the two of us.

I feel so close to my husband and so deeply cherished by him in those moments that I want to crawl inside him and occupy the very same space as he does. Those moments are truly sublime.

And that is what I want for you all.

I want you to know what it is to be one flesh with your husband. Big Guy and I are two flawed children of God. We have hurt each other a lot, and sometimes we still do.

But those moments of ultimate intimacy are when I feel closest not only to him, but also to God.

If you are hurting in your marriage, begin where ever you are—and reach out toward intimacy.

Image courtesy of tungphoto at

7 Thoughts on “Reach for Intimacy

  1. If you are hurt because of abuse, you need to reach out for support and help, not intimacy. There is no real intimacy in an abusive marriage. And as far as encouraging and supporting your abuser, you may need to do that from afar or better yet, let someone else do that.

    Abuse is NOT a marriage issue it is an individual issue which can only be changed by the abuser if he/she chooses to repent and move towards healing.

    • I agree. Encouraging and supporting should be done from a safe place. Only the person doing the abuse can make the decision to change. It is a marriage issue in that the marriage is affected by the abuse. Abuse creates deep wounds and damages trust. Even if the abuse completely ends and the abused spouse believes it has ended, there is still much healing to be done before working on intimacy.

      Update: I’ve removed the inclusion of abuse as one of the sins within the scope of this post (it is very much a sin, but it is beyond what I can address here). I don’t want a woman to read this and think she needs to be working on intimacy when she needs to be getting away from the man who hurts her.

      • I appreciate you removing abuse from your post. Unfortunately, I spent far too many years trying to fix our marriage with advice like this and even forced my ex into couples marriage counseling because that’s what everyone said would work to fix the marriage and make it better. But the fact was, we had a destructive marriage because my ex had a problem, being abusive, in which he never chose to take responsibility for.
        So yes, while abuse is a marriage issue in the sense it obviously affects the marriage, abuse is an individual problem just like an eating disorder, alcohol or gambling problem. You can try all kinds of things to fix the marriage like finding ways to increase intimacy, having more date nights, more sex, or respecting and submitting more, etc. but those will not ultimately work until the individual deals with their issue. It’s kind of like putting the cart before the horse.

        • I am glad that you commented about it. At the time I wrote that, I had intended to take the blog post elsewhere. When I realized that approach wasn’t working, I didn’t review that sentence. If I had, it wouldn’t have been posted.

        • BTW, I like the post and think it is really good… 🙂

  2. Orlia on June 2, 2015 at 8:17 pm said:

    Thank you for this post. I commented elsewhere that it seems we are just told to give sex, sex, sex and somehow this will solve our marriage problems. My pastor has told me I have made the problems worse by giving more sex without requiring that other forms of intimacy are matched as well. So my husband now thinks he gets sex and he doesn’t have to do any of the tough stuff that he doesn’t like. He can just watch TV and then call for me. This is a mistake I made that I now have to backtrack out of. I wish I had read this post earlier and carefully made a better plan that would respect my own needs and my heart.

    Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”.

    • You have a wise pastor to be able to see the issues in your marriage so clearly. In our marriage, the problems resided more in me than in our relationship (I see that in hindsight, but I didn’t at the time), and perhaps that is why it worked for me to start with sex on my own.

      Just start where you are. Have you tried slowing down sex in order to add in some emotional intimacy? How would your husband respond when he calls for you (ugh) if you said, “Okay, I need about fifteen minutes of conversation first, and then I’ll let you ravish me”?

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