The Power of Intimacy in
When you hear the word intimacy, what do you think of? Go ahead and let your thoughts go and form a
like to suggest a few questions that might help:
• What things do you picture yourself doing or talking about?
• What emotions are you feeling?
• What is the person you are sharing intimacy with like? What are his or her traits?
If possible, write down what you are seeing and experiencing. Those things will be invaluable on our tour
of taking a deeper look at intimacy in relationships.
A Picture of the Divine
What would you say if I told you that you just had a divine vision? If you created a mental picture of what
intimacy is like, then you did have a vision of something truly divine. Intimacy is something that God
created. From eternity past, God has existed in a Trinity enjoying intimate fellowship between the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit. The members of the Trinity experience perfect openness, unity, trust, mutual
sharing and deference to one another. The best part about this is that God wants to share intimacy with
us? Dr. David Benner writes, “Rather than be content with the circle of love within the Godhead, God
reached out to create so that others could enter this sphere of intimacy and be warmed by divine love.”
Did you get that? We were made for intimacy. It is in our very design as a created being. No wonder we
can dream of it.
While there are spiritual aspects to intimacy that I do not claim to fully understand, there are practical
aspects of intimacy that are relatively easier to understand. Because these practical aspects of intimacy
come from an overall divine design, they can be very powerful and transformative in many kinds of
relationships. However within the realm of human relationships, only in marriage can intimacy be at its
fullest expression. Only in a marriage relationship does the Bible talk about two becoming one flesh
(Genesis 2). And only the relationship of marriage is cited as an earthly metaphor of Christ’s relationship
with the Church. Any intimate relationship can be a powerful and transformative thing, but it is the
marriage relationship that has the potential to be most powerful.
The Components of Intimacy
It can be helpful to break intimacy down into its key components as a diagnostic tool to help us see
where we can maximize God’s design for intimacy in our relationships as well as to adjust things when
they get out of alignment. While looking at these components, be ready to refer back to your own picture
of intimacy to see if these components were part of what you had in mind.
For most people it is no surprise that communication is an essential element of intimacy. After all, the
Latin meaning of the word intimate means to announce or speak out. But intimacy, as you pictured it in
your mind’s eye, likely involves more than just having a chat. You can chat with the cashier at the grocery
store and not be the least bit intimate. So while communication is clearly an essential component of
intimacy, there are other components that must be present to achieve intimacy. Use your picture of
intimacy and see if you can identify some of the next components.
You probably guessed that this was one of the components. Webster’s defines trust as “assured
reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Can you imagine trying to
have intimacy with someone who was missing some or all of those qualities? Now you might be able to
have some level of initial intimacy with such a person, but it would not last very long. A few breaches of
trust and you will likely censor your communication with that person.
Take a moment and go back to the definition of trust above. To be able to trust implies being able to
discern effectively when it is safe to communicate about intimate matters. When you discern it is unsafe,
you adjust your communication with others to a level that helps maintain your safety. But if you discern
that it is safe, you potentially may allow communication that is freer and that contains content that is more
vulnerable. In this way trust is like a filter that restricts or allows other components of intimacy to flow.
But what if your trust filter is out of alignment? What would happen then? Developmental psychologists
and attachment theorists tell us that one of the first psychosocial stages we go through as a child is
learning to trust and build healthy attachments with a caregiver. It is here that our initial trust filter is set
up. But sometimes the trust filter is not set up properly and causes problems. It can either filter out too
much or too little and thus we trust too much or too little. Sometimes the initial assumptions we develop
as a child go unexamined and therefore never become subject to subsequent adjustments. Instead
these initial assumptions often remain as the template for all our future relationships and sometimes
cause us to wonder why the intimacy we picture and desire eludes us.
Now if trust is a filter for communication, then this next component is the substance of what gets
communicated. So in essence, truth is the substance of intimacy. This component is what makes
intimacy intimate. To help illustrate this point, go back to what your own picture of intimacy looks like.
What did you envision? Did you envision posturing, posing, faking, hiding, lies and false identities that
exhaust you, entrap you and create fear and distance? Or was your picture about being known for whom
you really are, sharing your deepest dreams and desires and knowing another likewise? Knowing in
truth and being known in truth is at the core of intimacy.
The exercise of referring back to your own picture of intimacy helps you connect emotionally with the
concept of truth being a key component of intimacy. True intimacy occurs when there is a truth to truth
encounter with another person.
Intimacy is thwarted when:
• We tell lies about ourselves because we think others won’t accept us as we truly are.
• We tell lies about ourselves because it may cause others to have a trust issue with us.
• We believe lies about ourselves which may prevent our true self from being known by others.
• We believe lies about ourselves which may cause others to have a trust issue with us.
• We do not accept the truth from another person about ourselves because we want to hide.
• We do not accept the truth about another person because we don’t trust them.
From this you can see that the thwarting of intimacy can come from either side of the relationship or in
some case both sides.
There is a pervasive myth about intimacy that we cannot enjoy intimacy unless we make ourselves
acceptable first. This is not true. The book Reconcilable Differences describes when couples choose to
understand their partners on a compassionate heart level, they can accept them even if aspects of their
partners were otherwise incompatible with their own needs, wants, and values. When the spouse
accepts their partner in truth for whom and what they are, it fosters intimacy between them. But that is not
all, the paradoxical thing is once acceptance is given, their partners often begin to change. This is an
amazing dynamic because it was designed by God first. He accepts us just as we are on a deep
compassionate heart level and sent his son to die on the cross for us on our behalf to prove it. Intimacy
with God develops when we grasp that amazing grace. And the beautiful thing is that we too begin to
change. Intimacy starts with being who you are and not who you want to be.
Intimacy is of a divine design. God made us for it and gave us a hunger for it so we can experience its
transforming power both with Him and with others. God gave us human relationships, particularly
marriage, for this purpose. And when we understand some of the key components of intimacy such as
trust and truth, we are more likely to understand roadblocks to intimacy, as well as, possibly make
choices to relate more intimately even being imperfect.
Ed Moore, M.A.