5 Common Lies About Intimacy (and 5 Truths)

Don’t buy these common misconceptions about intimacy. Choose to believe the truth instead.

Don't Buy The Lies

Everyone wants more intimacy. At least it seems that way to me. Every time I ask about what people want more of in their marriage, the top answers, no matter how I frame the question, always come back to intimacy.

In my New Reader Survey,  77% had great interest in posts about sexual intimacy and 82% had great interest in posts about emotional intimacy. Regardless of how I slice the data, male/female, years of marriage, kids or no kids, previously married or not, people are looking for more intimacy in their marriage.

The same goes for my “Three Things” survey,  where I asked people to identify the top three things they wanted more of in their marriage. The top answer is for more passion/sexual intimacy (65%). The next highest answer is for more spiritual togetherness (39%). In third place is a stronger emotional connection (37%).

Intimacy is The Goal

I believe that intimacy, in all forms, should be the main goal of every marriage. God built us with an innate desire for intimacy: intimacy with Him and intimacy with our spouse. Deep down we all need a strong connection to God and our spouse, and that’s ultimately when our marriages are strongest.

I also believe God designed us for a huge capacity for intimacy and that we can continue to grow closer together regardless of how long we’ve been married or how strong we feel the intimacy in our marriage currently is. There is always more, just as there is in our relationship with Christ.

Don’t Buy These Lies

So we all want and need more intimacy. There are some common misconceptions about intimacy in marriage that will do damage if you believe them. Choose not to believe the lies but to embrace the truth instead.

1. Guys Don’t Do Intimacy

In his book Scarey Close, Donald Miller has a chapter about men and intimacy. He says, “I don’t think men are as bad at intimacy as we might think. It’s just that we get pressured to go about intimacy in ways that are traditionally more feminine, specifically we’re asked to talk about it and share our feelings. We don’t really want to do that.” He goes on to say, “I think men do intimacy differently and I think that’s okay.”

In that same chapter he also says, “The problem is most men are actually great at intimacy it’s just that we’ve been led to believe we aren’t. And I’m convinced the confusion is costing us.”

I agree. Men do intimacy; they just do it differently than women. To begin with, for many men the path for emotional connection leads through the bedroom. A strong sexual connection actually makes them desire (not just be open to) a strong emotional connection. Another difference is that men tend to share more about facts and data than about their emotions, because these are things that are important to them. Finally, men tend to use a lot fewer words than women do.

What all this points to is the fact that when it comes to intimacy (being fully known, and yet totally loved and accepted), men approach it from a very different angle than women. We need to accept that difference in each other and be okay with it.

Truth: Your spouse probably does emotional intimacy differently than you do, and that’s okay.

2. Sex is For Him

It’s amazing to me how many women believe this one. Many women who don’t have the same testosterone-laden sex drive as their husbands do think they are fine without sex. They aren’t.

Sex is the only form of intimacy that God strictly reserved to be shared between husbands and wives, which makes sex not only unique but also sacred. In my Sexual Satisfaction Survey findings (which you can get a copy of by subscribing to my posts here) I found that one in five marriage are essentially sexless (sex less than once a month). That is tragic.

Believing that sex is primarily for husbands will rob wives of the sexual enjoyment and fulfillment that God has intends. Sex is not primarily a physical act. It is deeply spiritual and builds a wide pathway to a strong emotional connection as well. Having sex regularly strengthens your marriage, gives you a sense of well-being, and makes you actually desire sex more.

Truth: Don’t let the fact that you may have less physical drive allow you to miss out on the joy and pleasure that is rightfully yours.

3. Spiritual Intimacy is for Her

The male corollary to women believing that “sex is for him” is the lie that “spiritual intimacy is for her.”

While I observe that women tend to gravitate more naturally and easily toward spiritual matters, it doesn’t negate the fact that God desires an intimate relationship with husbands. I’ve found that I can love my wife best when I am strongly connected to God and that to be a good husband, I must first learn to be a bride – the bride of Christ.

If you buy the lie and leave the spiritual domain to your wife, it will not only inhibit your relationship with Christ (and therefor with your wife), it will rob you of the satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from leading your family spiritually. Most women have a strong desire to see their husbands step more fully into their spiritual leadership role. Dare I say that demonstrations of spiritual maturity and leadership are compellingly attractive to your wife. In my Three Things survey, more spiritual intimacy was the number one desire for wives.

As I explain in “3 Simple Ways to Lead Your Wife Spiritually” there are some easy ways to start to step out and lead. And for wives, read my post “How to Support Your Husband’s Spiritual Leadership.”

Truth: A thriving relationship with Jesus is for both husbands and wives and is the foundation of your marriage.

4. Intimacy Needs to Be Earned

There is a tendency in marriage to withhold the intimacy your spouse desires until you feel your own intimacy needs are being met. This is a dangerous game that will quickly land your marriage on the The Path of Separation, where you slowly spiral apart from each other.

The fact is that when you got married, the two of you became one. Therefore, intimacy should be your expectation at all times and you’ll want to continually and intentionally cultivate it. When you withhold intimacy, for whatever reason, you damage your connection and tear at the fabric of your oneness.

Withholding and punishing normally results in the opposite of what you hope it will accomplish. Waiting for your spouse to change before you become generous at meeting their needs does not work. The best way to keep on the Path of Intimacy is for you to work on you and becoming the best you can be at meeting your partner’s needs.

Truth: Grace, not judgment, is actually the best path to having your intimacy needs met.

5. Intimacy Is…

It’s safe to say that we all have our biases when it comes to intimacy, and we tend to think that our view is the “right” view.

What we often think of as intimacy is actually a byproduct of intimacy. A hot sex life, being romanced, having a deep emotional connection, or praying and sharing together are all fruits of intimacy. The lie is that if we go after to fruit, we’ll get the intimacy we want. The truth is that it’s intimacy that leads to the enjoyable fruit.

And intimacy is actually pretty simple (not easy, but simple), and it’s probably not what you think it is. It’s being fully known, weaknesses and all, yet being completely loved. (This is the same definition as intimacy with God, by the way). Stepping into the vulnerability that comes from be completely known, and being met in turn with unconditional love and grace, we experience the kind of intimacy that more easily leads to great sex, a deep soul connection, and a strong spiritual bond.

Truth: if you’ll work on being fully known, being transparent with the totality of your being, it will cause physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy grow.


These are my top 5 lies about intimacy. You’ll do well not to buy into them. Do you have some others lies that you’ve discovered in your marriage? Leave a comment.

Unstoppable Love

The unstoppable love you need for your marriage is closer than you think.

Unstoppable Love

Love.

It’s a much overused word. It’s the source of countless memes and a myriad of cutesy quotes all over the Internet. “Love” is everywhere.

Despite it’s prevalence, I chose “Love” for the third part of my website’s tag line.

Unquenchable PassionUnimaginable Intimacy – Unstoppable Love

(you can click the links above to get to the two previous posts)

Unstoppable Love

What does it mean to have marriage full of unstoppable love?

Ultimately, it’s a marriage full of the love of God.

That may sound simple, and it is. It may sound trite, but it isn’t at all. God’s unstoppable love is real, and it’s vast. Where your marriage is concerned, I’d even say it’s essential.

My sweet wife, a Children’s Pastor, pointed out to me that the Jesus Storybook Bible describes the love of God this way.

“God loves us with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”

Don’t you want a marriage full of that kind of love? That’s exactly how God planned marriage to be when he designed it. Then he sent Jesus to show us what unstoppable love looks like in human form.

Love Like That

Just before the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians about marriage, he says this.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.   

Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

To me it’s no coincidence that these verses introduce us to God’s thoughts on marriage. Before you can do the rest of Ephesians 5, you have to get these first few verses down pat.

Doing marriage God’s way starts with loving each other like Jesus loves us.

The Good News

You may be thinking, “I could never love like that.”

I agree. On your own, you could never do it. But you aren’t on your own. As a believer, you have Christ living in you. That’s right, the very love you need to love your spouse in an unstoppable manner is right inside of you.

We just need to learn to let it out. We do that by first receiving and then getting to know this unstoppable love that we carry around in us. That’s not a one time, pray the sinners prayer kind of venture. It’s a lifelong pursuit. As Paul prayed a few chapter earlier:

[I pray that the Father] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19

As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, this is not a love that is far away and unreachable.

“I have revealed to them who you are, and I will continue to make you even more real to them, so that they may experience the same endless love that you have for me, for your love will now live in them, even as I live in them!”

John 17:26 (The Passion Translation)

This is fantastic news for marriage. We get to live out the great mystery of getting to know this unknowable love that is deep inside, ever pursuing us, drawing us closer, revealing itself as we get know him more intimately.

This is the love you and I need in our marriage. This is the Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love I get to lavish on my wife. This is the love that you get to lavish on your spouse too.

 

For My Daughter on Her Wedding Day

A letter to my daughter on her wedding day – five keys to a great marriage.

Lisa Otto Engagement

In just a few days my middle daughter, Lisa, is getting married. She and Otto are a wonderful match, and Jenni and I could not be more excited for their future.

Lisa has no doubt received all kinds of marriage advice from many people, but as her father and a champion for strong marriages I wanted to offer my own thoughts. I’ve struggled to condense down all I’ve written and read about marriage over the years to identify the essential keys that lead to an intimate, passionate and enduring marriage.

Here’s what I came up with.


Dearest Lisa,

The big day is approaching quickly! Amidst all the excitement and celebration I wanted to take a moment to share a few thoughts with you as you and Otto begin your marriage journey together. What follows is not a comprehensive list, but if you get these things right, it will go a long way to ensure you have a happy, healthy, intimate, passionate and enduring marriage.

1) Learn What Says “I Love You”

You and Otto have gotten to know each other pretty well through your dating years, but there is so much more you’ll discover as you become one in marriage. The most important thing for each of you to learn is what says “I love you” to the other. Trust me when I say that each of you will likely answer this question very differently. You may not “get” each other’s love needs, especially at first, but you don’t have to get them to do them.

It’s important to revisit this question regularly. You’ll want to be students of one another. It’s important to keep asking, especially in seasons of change or stress, “How can I best show you how much I love you?”

For this to work, you’ll both need to be transparent with your needs. Not in a demanding or selfish way, but in a way that helps each of you to love the other well.

2) Show Love Daily

Do something every day to communicate your love for each other. Be intentional about speaking and demonstrating love in ways that matter to the other. These don’t need to be grand or dramatic gestures. Small love expressions, given daily, will do more to sustain your marriage than big ones that only happen infrequently.

This means being intentional and watchful. It means keeping your marriage off of auto-pilot. Keep your eyes wide open and your hearts wide awake toward each other.

3) Practice Selflessness and Generosity

One amazing aspect of the two of you becoming one is that any time you bless the other, you also get to share in the benefit of that blessing. Learn to take delight in delighting each other with your love. Practice generosity and selflessness.

Give your love without condition and without the expectation of getting something in return. This is God’s kind of love. Practice giving love for love’s sake and for the sake of your marriage, rather than what you may get in return. But you will find that when you do this, the blessing does flow back to you.

4) Manage Your Expectations

It’s likely that you both carry many expectations into your marriage. For the most part it’s best to hold those expectations loosely. But there are two expectations that I encourage you to hold to steadfastly.

First is the expectation that this is a lifelong covenant you have together. It’s hard to imagine now, but there will likely be times ahead when you will need to be tenacious about this commitment you’ve made to each other.

Second, always believe and expect that the best days of your marriage are ahead of you. Regardless of how good (or how bad) things are, there is always more ahead. Deeper intimacy, more to know about each other, a stronger bond of trust, and grand new adventures are in front of you.

5) Pray

Always believe that God is for your marriage. He loves love. He is love. Press into him in prayer, both separately and together, for all you need to sustain and grow your marriage is found in him. Prayer for your marriage is a prayer he is eager to answer. And pray for each other, that you will walk in your true identities and that you will each fulfill your destiny in Christ.

There you have it. My short list of the essentials for a successful marriage. Just remember that, in the end, success in marriage isn’t about how many things you did right or wrong, but the level of intimacy (emotional, spiritual and physical) you share, because intimacy should be the ultimate goal of every marriage.

I Love You,
Daddy


What “keys to a great marriage” would you add to my list if it were your daughter getting married? I’d love you to add your thoughts in a comment.

 

How to Support Your Husband’s Spiritual Leadership

Simple ways to support and encourage your husband’s spiritual leadership without being controlling or demanding.

Support His Leadership

Welcome to another Wives Only Wednesday. It’s been a while since my last WoW post, so as a reminder, these are posts I do specifically for wives. Husbands can check out the related Men Only Monday post: 3 Simple Ways to Lead Your Wife Spiritually.

Most Christian wives I know are longing to have their husbands take up their God-given role as the spiritual head of the household. So how do you encourage your husband to lead? Many wives either have tried and failed or aren’t sure what to do.

(Note: these suggestion are for Christian couples and do not address the situation of an unbelieving husband. Also note that the “What Won’t Work” section is especially true for a non-believing spouse.)

What Won’t Work

There is a principle that says you can’t push on a rope. When you try pushing, all you get is a tangled mess. This rope principle applies to roles in marriage. Below are some examples of pushing.

Criticism – Many husbands won’t step up and lead spiritually because they fear they will fall short or embarrass themselves. Criticizing your husband’s spiritual life will only exacerbate his fear of failure and judgment from you. The higher the expectations you heap upon him, the less likely he is to step up. Communicating dissatisfaction will likely have the very opposite effect you hope for and cause him to pull back from expressing his spirituality to you. Be aware that he can easily view even well-intentioned questions as accusation (“Did you pray about that?”).

Nagging – Demanding your husband be a stronger spiritual leader won’t work. That is actually you usurping his leadership and will cause him to shrink back further. Nagging him about his spiritual habits will have the same negative effect. Such question as “When was the last time you had a quiet time?” or “Have you read your Bible today?” are actually just veiled attempts to control his spiritual life. It doesn’t work.

Comparison – This is probably an obvious one, but pointing out what other husbands are doing to lead their families spiritually will only make him feel like a failure and inadequate in your eyes. Just don’t do it.

What You Can Do

All of the approaches listed above amount to trying to control your husband. You and I both know that the only person you can control is yourself. Controlling amounts to pushing on the rope of your husband’s spiritual leadership, and it will probably backfire.  So, what can you do to help create an internal “pull” in your husband’s heart to want to grow in his headship role?  Here are a few ideas that are based on love and serving rather than on control:

Show Honor – Let go of your spiritual checklists and expectations. Your husband’s spiritual life is most likely going to express itself differently from yours, and that’s okay. My wife’s quiet times and mine are as different from each other as they can be. Mine are less frequent, less scheduled and tend to be shorter than hers. It took me a while to realize that we are just different in this regard. Honor and respect his way of seeking God.

Value His Insights – Even if (and maybe especially if) you feel you are spiritually stronger and more knowledgeable than your husband, ask for his opinion on spiritual matters. Invite him into your spiritual struggles and questions. Ask him to pray for you about specific situations and thank him when he does. Acknowledge his answered prayers. This has two outcomes. First, it builds spiritual intimacy as you learn to share your hearts in a vulnerable fashion, and second it helps him build spiritual muscle.

Express Appreciation – Acknowledge every step your husband takes in spiritual growth and in leading your family. Affirm him by saying, “I’m so thankful to have you as the spiritual head of our home.” Thank him when he opens up to you about spiritual matters or offers his perspective. Appreciation will demonstrate your desire for his spiritual leadership without you actually having to say it.

Seek Intimacy – Spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy are all connected. If you desire deeper spiritual intimacy, pay attention to your sex life and to how you act with him emotionally. There is not a formula, but fruit in one dimension tends to spill over into the others.

 


As I said, these actions are about showing love to your husband in language he can appreciate, and when you do these you invite his leadership by offering him your submission. The Greek word for submission used in the famous Ephesians 5 passage on marriage (hupotasso)  means to arrange yourself under. When you willingly show your husband honor and respect with your actions, you are arranging yourself under his loving spiritual leadership.

Of course you should pray for your husband, for spiritual intimacy between you, and for his headship in the spiritual domain of your marriage, but you don’t have to just pray and wait. While prayer is vital and your number one strategy, there are also practical steps you can take that create an environment where his leadership can thrive.

These are my ideas for what will and won’t work in your journey toward a rightly ordered spiritual dimension of your marriage.  I’d love to hear any ideas you have! Leave a comment.

 


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3 Simple Ways to Lead Your Wife Spiritually

Leading your wife spiritually is not as hard as you might think.

 

Lead Her Spiritually

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Men-Only-Monday post. As the moniker implies, these posts are intended for husbands. Wives, can check out my Wives Only Wednesday post for your side of the equation on this topic.

Are you among the many men who feel unqualified to lead their wives and family spiritually? Do you feel like your wife has more knowledge, more insight, and more sensitivity concerning spiritual matters? If you are like most men, you aren’t going to attempt things you don’t feel you can excel at, which means that you might hold back from even trying to be the spiritual head of your family.

You don’t need a theology degree or years of biblical study to spiritually lead your wife. Don’t disqualify yourself for this important role that God has assigned you to. The way the Bible describes spiritual headship, as with other dimensions of headship, has nothing to do with being the “spiritual boss” or being in any way spiritually superior to your wife. It doesn’t mean you need years of spiritual wisdom under your belt before you start leading.

Leading your wife spiritually is not nearly as hard as you might think it is. For the most part, it just means consistently pointing your wife to Jesus and inviting his covering over your family.

If the idea of spiritual leadership is new to you, here are three simple, easy ways to begin stepping into your God-ordained role.

1. Pray

Maybe you aren’t that comfortable praying out loud in front of others, maybe even with your wife. If that’s the case, just ask your wife what you can pray for her about. A simple “How can I pray for you today?” text message will work great! Then do actually pray for her and let her know you did. Even this simple little step will bless her more than you know.

If you can muster your prayer courage, I would urge you to actually pray together. Prayer builds spiritual intimacy like few other things can. If that seems too difficult for you, start just by praying together silently. Maybe conclude with the Lord’s prayer, if spontaneous prayer doesn’t come easily for you. You can also pray the “Apostolic prayers” right out of the Bible . A few examples are Ephesians 1:17-23, Ephesians 3:16-21, Colossians 1:9-14, Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 15:13. These are great prayers for when you don’t know what to pray.

2. Read, Learn & Share

Pick a book on a spiritual topic that interests you. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is something that speaks life to you or challenges you in some way. Devotional books can be good, because they tend to be short easily digestible. I’ll admit that I’ve never been a regular devotional reader, because I prefer books that drill a little deeper into a topic, but that’s just me.

I also encourage you to read the Bible regularly. If you don’t know where to start, you might consider a topical Study Bible. If you are looking for a life-giving translation, I suggest the Passion Translation Series. If you are new to Bible study, start off with the Gospels. If you feel you have a hard time understanding what you read in the Bible, pray for revelation and understanding. The Bible says the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:13), and He is eager to do it (Luke 11:11). Just ask.

A few times a week, as you come upon something that gives you a new insight or seems helpful to you, or when the Lord gives you a particular revelation, share it with your wife.

Your wife will feel safe and protected when she knows you are pressing into a deeper understanding of God. This is one dimension of God’s instruction to husbands to wash your wife with the water of the word (Ephesians 5:26).

3. Invite Her In

As I said, headship does not imply superiority. I describe the relationship between husband and wife as described in the Bible as an ordered partnership, where husband and wife are of equal value but willingly take on different roles to support and honor each other.

Good leaders invite the full participation of those they lead and encourage them to employ all of their talents and capabilities. So invite your wife into partnership with you as together you discover God’s heart and plans for your marriage and your family. Lean on her spiritual discernment and sensitivity to the things of the Spirit. Invite her to bring her spiritual gifting to your partnership.

Intimacy comes from being fully known and knowing you are completely loved. Spiritual intimacy is no exception. Be real, honest and willing to be vulnerable with your wife about your life in God. Invite her to do the same. It’s not a competition to see who is more spiritual. It’s about encouraging each other to walk in your God-given destinies and to grow in the knowledge of who God is. 

If you are the stronger one, spiritually, never use your position to browbeat or speak harsh judgment to your wife. Rather, speak grace and truth and encourage her toward who God says she is.

Now it’s your turn. What simple tips do you have for husbands who want to take a more active role in leading their wives spiritually? Leave a comment.


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