The word “intimacy” seems to be popping up a lot recently. It seems to appear most often in connection with sexual activity. An online article suggested that we are all looking for intimacy, but usually settle for intensity. A book I am reading recognizes the sexual activity of couples in marriage can promote intimacy between the partners. My sense is that intimacy is not just related to sex, but has a much broader meaning and consequence for married couples, so I looked up its definition. At Dictionary.com I found:
[in-tuh-muh-see] Show IPA
noun, plural in·ti·ma·cies.
1. the state of being intimate.
2. a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.
3. a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.: an intimacy with Japan.
4. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like: to allow the intimacy of using first names.
Other sources have very similar definitions.
This is a new topic for us, so we will each write some of our initial thoughts and share them with you.
We invite you to share your thoughts with us and help us to expand our understanding.
Clearly, intimacy can be associated with sex, but can be achieved all through a good relationship.
When I think back to our dating days I can see that we started to develop intimacy early on. We didn’t have much money, so we often just walked around downtown Cincinnati and wandered through various stores and talked about what we saw. I remember being in a bookstore and browsing through books. One of us would hold up a book and ask whether the other was interested. That often led to sharing about our interests and feelings on many subjects. In furniture stores we shared our tastes in furniture and were led to discussions about where we wanted to live and what our dream house would be like. We discussed having children – how many, what would we name them. I remember those times as being, by turns, exciting, fun and affectionate. From them we learned about the other’s approach to God and religion, anticipated what it would be like to have sex and many other things.
We entered marriage knowing a great deal about each other and I look back our dating years as great preparation. We have continued to do many of those same things throughout our marriage and have continued to grow from doing so. One of our favorite Sunday afternoon actives for many years has been to tour model homes in search of ideas for decorating or remodeling our home. We enjoy considering possibilities and making fun of the decorating ideas we thought were ugly.
Marriage brought sex into our relationship. I have found it a source of awe and wonder at the inner beauty of this person who loves me so willingly and makes me feel so loved. I find it very special to be able to return that love. The closeness it produces extends beyond the bedroom to kisses and touches throughout the day, to teasing and propositioning each other in the produce department of a grocery store. Perhaps sex gets so much attention when we talk about intimacy because of the intense physical and emotional closeness it can produce.
Our love produced children and there were special moments together marveling at them as newborns and celebrating special moments of joy and pride at milestones in their lives.
Traveling with Rita has been a great source of intimate moments – standing before Michelangelo’s David, climbing Mt. Vesuvius, eating lunch in a creperie in Paris and in many other ways.
At this point in our lives I find the fun, pleasant exchanges and feeling of closeness often in ordinary things – lying in bed as we wake up and discuss the weather and our plans for the day, enjoying watching a movie or TV program and occasionally commenting on the things we see, reading Rita’s writing on the daily scriptures. They make me feel wonderfully loved, very close to her and peaceful with our life together.
Perhaps it is being stuck in the cold winter of Chicago or maybe it is just something new for us to consider in our relationship, but we have been talking a lot lately about the meaning of intimacy. Some of it has come from various things we have been reading, from discussions with a friend and just from living together. We have been thinking about and discussing intimacy as we watch the snow fall.
Some of the things I have been thinking about. First of all, the derivation of the word itself:
1. Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity.
2. Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature: intimate prayers.
3. Essential; innermost: the intimate structure of matter.
4. Marked by informality and privacy: an intimate nightclub.
5. Very personal; private: an intimate letter.
6. Of or involved in a sexual relationship.
It comes from the Latin intimtus, past participle of intimre, to make familiar with.
As I looked at the definitions from a different source than Bob’s I found it interesting that the sixth definition is the one people most associate with the word. As a society and perhaps as a world, we have come to equate sexual activity with intimacy. This is not necessarily true. Consider when one hears the young, hook-up generation speak of sexual activity with no strings attached. The first three have been part of our discussions even before we looked up the definition and derivation of the word. I have found from my own experience that intimacy is that profound, unexplainable closeness that results from trust and commitment.
I can think about how I experienced intimacy as it grew in our relationship. As I reflect back it began in the things we did when we were dating. Like Bob It was walking through stores and commenting to each other what we liked and disliked. It was in the picnics we enjoyed in the park areas of Cincinnati as we talked about our future, sharing simple foods and just enjoying being in each others presence. It was in the little touches we experienced from each other in the hand holding, arms around each other and the kisses we shared. Of course a big step occurred on our wedding. I remember seeing Bob looking at me as I walked down the aisle with my brother. He had eyes for no one else but me. Then here was the undressing together and sharing a bed with each other and those first moments of sharing our bodies.
The years pass and moments of intimacy have come and gone. Some bigger than others but all part of the glue, the trust and commitment, that holds us together. I remember when we found out we were pregnant with our first child. We were in the middle of Marshall Fields and we didn’t care what anyone else thought – we just hugged each other and shared a moment that no one else could quite understand because it was our love for each other that had produced this child. Each time I gave birth and we held that child together were moments of incredible intimacy, and our children have continued to produce wonderful moments of intimacy for us in accomplishments they have achieved, in the ways they live with their spouses, the joy we see in them when they share special moments in their lives. Most recently it occurred when our youngest son announced his engagement.
It was interesting that as we began to talk about putting this together for our blog today how many moments flittered through my mind. As I read what Bob wrote I discovered that we shared some things that we have never before directly identified as intimacy. Some have indeed involved our sexual relationship, especially on our first trip to Hawaii. Most involve physical presence but not necessarily physical activity. There were many great moments as we wrote our book, especially as we wrote about our lives, sharing forgiveness, and speaking of how the other’s love had transformed us. Sometimes the moments of intimacy pass without leaving a big impact. Moments of intimacy have occurred when we walked on a beach together, smelled roses together, enjoyed a great art museum the architectural beauty of various churches of the world, merely watching snow fall or working together on various projects around the house.
Intimacy comes when we least expect it and we can’t make it happen when we want. I remember the night my mother died. My sisters and I, along with Bob, were present when she passed. We had all shed many tears in those last moments, but in the middle of the night I began to sob as the reality of her being gone settled on me. We were lying in bed and while no words passed between us Bob just gently enveloped me in his arms and let me cry. A moment of intimacy I will never forget.
There are so many moments of intimacy in our over fifty years of knowing each other and forty six years of marriage. As I write I wonder if perhaps marriages fail because intimacy is not built, savored and enjoyed.
So often couples tell us that they read our postings and have a lot to say but never quite get around to commenting, This is a topic we think we will explore again as we work to understand intimacy and its impact on a marital relationship. If you have thoughts please comment below. We would greatly appreciate it.