Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Square1Ministries.com. It has been modified and republished with permission.
Anyone who has been married for more than a day knows that men and women define hundreds of words differently, and in most cases, very differently.
"Intimacy" is one of those words. As a longtime mentor and advisor to husbands and marriages, I always ask the husbands and wives to define it for me. Here is what they say:
Wives - "closeness," "connected," "oneness," "emotionally close"
Husbands - "sex"
Upon further investigation, the word "sex" is typically expanded to mean physical oneness or closeness.
Our culture almost always associates intimacy with sex, so it is little wonder that men do too. Truth is, all the answers given above are correct. Where couples fall short is by misunderstanding or not appreciating the other spouse's definition.
So for the men reading this article, here is a brief overview of what you need to know about your wife's definition (and expectation) of intimacy.
1. Intimacy does not equal sex
Granted intimacy may end up as sex, but to most women intimacy is not defined by making love. To her, intimacy means closeness. "I feel emotionally close to my husband" is the definition we most often get from wives.
What this means in practical/man terms is:
We spent time together.
We talked through issues.
I feel caught up with what is going on in his life.
I feel that he loves me and values me.
I feel safe in our relationship.
I feel cherished.
I feel connected.
These things cannot happen without having been physically together in a non-sexual way, talking, processing life and issues and connecting as friends (more than roommates or business partners).
2. Wives don't have pop-up blockers
A typical husband can come home from a horrible day at work, having run over a dog on his commute, with a headache and a deep desire to plop into his favorite chair, and still be instantly in the mood for sex, if he is greeted by his wife dressed in a little black dress and informs him that the kids are eating dinner at the grandparent's house.
Wives, on the other hand, would need to talk with you about her horrible day and process her feelings about it. Cry a bit over the poor dog who ran out in front of her car, take some headache medicine and want to get off her feet as well.
If you greet her ready to make love - there will be absolutely no burning desire that magically wells up in her. She cannot block out all the events and relational issues of her day like a man can. Once again - it takes time, understanding, conversation and processing.
3. Pornography destroys real love
Statistics tell us that nearly 9 out of 10 men are exposed to pornography before they are 18. According to CovenantEyes.com, as many as 68 percent of college men view pornography on a regular basis. The women they watch always greatly desire sex, greatly enjoy sex and are greatly satisfied by their partner.
This leads to many problems for men, but particularly when it comes to expectations. They cannot help but want to experience some of that "greatly" from their own wives. When they don't, they subconsciously feel slighted and become more emotionally distant from their wives. This leads to more pornography, which leads to more disappointment and emotional distance - a very vicious and intimacy-killing cycle.
Spend mass quantities of time with your wife. Sit and talk, go for a walk, hold hands, court her, pursue her - make her feel special, loved and cherish. Talk with her about her day, anxieties, fears and dreams. Help her out around the house and with the kids. Ease her burdens. Lighten her loads.
Don't expect her to desire to meet your need for physical intimacy until you take the time and effort to meet her need for emotional intimacy first. That's what a leader does. That's what laying your life down for another means.
That's what Jesus did for us, regardless of our response, and expected nothing in return. Don't be so selfish that you only serve, love and help when you want sex.
Flee from porn if you are dabbling or using regularly. Get a mentor, an accountability partner, or even a formal treatment program if necessary. It is worth it. Your marriage, your children, your legacy - are worth it. Don't let the enemy destroy your life and your home.
If we will learn to do this, you will have the amazing marriage you've always wanted.