Sex and intimacy are the same, right? Wrong. That is the message we keep hearing, but sex is not intimacy. Sex within marriage may be a result of intimacy, but we can be intimate with a lot of people. Hillerstrom lists five levels of intimacy in his chapter The Search for Intimacy. The first few levels are fairly safe. We don’t have to expose are true selves much at those levels. But once we get to the higher levels, that is when we begin to open up and share our real selves.
Intimacy and the Premature Physical Relationship
Becoming sexually involved prior to marriage can feel like intimacy because you’re looking into each other’s eyes, passionately kissing, and then sharing an experience that was created by God to be a representation of oneness. However, this false intimacy (remember, Satan loves to pervert those gifts God gives us) takes away from building true intimacy.
New couples may begin by talking about themselves. Maybe on the first date they talked about where they went to high school, what kind of food they enjoy, and where they went on vacation with their parents every summer. The next date they might progress to talking about some of their most embarrassing moments, the time they were cut from the basketball team or the cheerleading squad, and their career aspirations (since the other person liked them enough to go out again, they are more comfortable opening up more). By the third date, they might hold hands as they walk through the mall. They might side hug each other randomly and they may have their first good night kiss. Put a few more dates under their belt and it’s likely that they are hugging and kissing on a regular basis by this point. The kissing is so exciting and invigorating. “We just want to be as close as we can. We feel so connected!” So, the couple who started out by talking and getting to know each other suddenly can think of nothing else but finding that alone place where they can be falsely intimate.
Does false intimacy feel good? You better know it does… for a while. Before long, kissing is not enough to keep the relationship exciting. So, you start touching each other over the clothes. When that gets boring, suddenly you’re removing clothing. (This is known as the “law of diminishing returns” – it takes you a stronger level of interaction to have the previous level of excitement.) You think, “We’ll stop before we actually have sex,” but that doesn’t always happen. Even when you do successfully stop before intercourse, there are still feelings of guilt (because inside, you know you crossed a line you shouldn’t have). So this couple, who started off on the right foot, has been spending the time in a premature physical relationship instead of spending time getting to know each other better by communicating. The lie is that a physical relationship builds intimacy; however, false, sexual intimacy will often cause their relationship to stop growing.
Can Waiting until Marriage for Sexual Expression Really Bring us Closer Together?
Some of you remember me talking about my grandparents’ courtship from previous blog posts. Granny and Granddaddy met through letters during World War II. Granddaddy became friends with my Uncle Arthur who gave him a picture of my grandma. She was only fourteen years old at the time. So, Granddaddy started writing her letters and she’d respond. Granddaddy ended up writing her every day – some days his letters were ten pages long. In the three years they corresponded this way, I can only imagine how much they learned about each other. They weren’t physically together so they couldn’t get caught up in the thrill of gazing into each other’s eyes. When he came home from the war, he went to visit his Lillie on a Friday. They got married the following Wednesday and two days later they packed up and she moved to my hometown. There they raised three kids who are all still living there to this day.
I absolutely love that part of my family’s heritage. Some would have called them crazy. “You’ve only been in each other’s presence a few days and now you’re getting married?” But the time they were physically close wasn’t what mattered most. They knew each other. They weren’t strangers. In those letters, Granddaddy probably shared his deepest thoughts and feelings, his fears, and his hopes for the future. She probably did the same. My biggest regret is that she burned the letters before she moved to New Bern. They must have been juicy! ~smile~
As Hillerstrom pointed out, when couples spend their time engaged in the physical aspect of their relationship, it distracts them from other areas of their lives. When couples take a step back from their physical relationship to focus on getting to know each other, they often find that there is a lot of tension between them. They sometimes uncover personality traits they don’t like. They might realize that they don’t communicate well. Sadly, sometimes they realize the only commonality they share is their love for their physical relationship. The problem with building a marriage on the physical is that the physical is only a small percentage of what makes up the marriage – in using the physical/sexual area of a relationship as the foundation, the foundation will crumble under the weight of the house. Communication, similar goals, and conflict resolution skills are extremely important between husbands and wives.
Don’t get me wrong. I *know* it’s difficult to keep your paws off of someone you love and with whom you share a strong attraction. All I’m saying is that the wait is worth it, and not only that, but the time you spend getting to know each other in the dating phase will help enhance your sex life after marriage. Why? Because if you grow intimately close now, work through relational problems, and go into marriage prepared, you won’t suddenly have all these problems staring you in the face. Stress will kill (or seriously hamper) a married couple’s sex life. Also, if you wait to have sex, it won’t be old hat. You will know each other deeply and then you can finally enjoy a fulfilling sex life together.
If you haven’t ordered it already, get your copy of The Intimacy Cover-Up by P. Roger Hillerstrom and Karlyn Hillerstrom today! ~smile~
What myths have you heard about intimacy?