When it comes to relationships, intimacy is a word people think they understand. They may even have opinions about whether they have enough of it. But when your spouse is avoiding intimacy, there can be many reasons for it. Those reasons can damage a marital relationship and be harmful to your relationship with God.
What is Intimacy?
Intimacy isn’t just a state of physical closeness to someone else. It’s a close, familiar, and usually affectionate relationship with another person or group. Sexual intimacy is just one type, but it’s the most common and certainly an important one in a marriage.
“…A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, LXX)
The Apostle Paul calls marital union “a great mystery” (Ephesians 5:32, NKJV). And since a person is body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23), a man and woman are called to be intimate with each other – in the body (sexually), soul (spiritually), and spirit (intellectually and emotionally) – in ways that honor God in marriage.
Principles for God-honoring Sexual Intimacy
Sexual intimacy is a gift from God, a way for couples to join together and fulfill each other in the physical sense. Thus, it’s primarily a means by which wives and husbands glorify God. It unites husbands and wives in ways that other means of intimacy can’t.
Intimacy should be regular. It’s not supposed to be an infrequent occurrence used to make a husband and wife feel good physically. It’s supposed to be a way to give themselves to each other and satisfy the other’s physical needs. Paul says in Ephesians, “…husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (5:28).
Other Forms of Intimacy
Intimacy is to be other-oriented, meaning that it’s not just in a physical manner that a husband and wife should be close to each other. Spouses should be intimate with each other in non-physical ways too.
Intimacy manifests itself in four unique ways:
- Intellectual. Couples who don’t match together intellectually are often unable to be intimate in other ways. A healthy intellectual intimacy between a husband and wife ought to include sharing thoughts and opinions without judgment.
- Emotional. This form of intimacy helps tie a couple together at the heart. A husband and wife strengthen their bonds as partners and friends when being vulnerable and sharing each other’s emotions and weaknesses without judgment or ridicule.
- Spiritual. This form of intimacy allows for connections that transcend the mind and body. It’s not just limited to praying for a partner (though that is vital in itself). When a couple joins together spiritually, each partner helps the other better their relationship with God.
- Physical. As mentioned before, this is a way in which couples satisfy God’s desire for husbands and wives to love each other. It’s also how they satisfy each other’s physical desires.
When Your Spouse is Avoiding Intimacy
When wives and husbands can’t be intimate together in every way, their relationship will suffer. When a spouse is avoiding intimacy, there are often underlying reasons. Past events and experiences, like trauma, can prevent a man and a woman from being closer to each other.
People with unresolved trauma often avoid intimacy. To avoid reliving hurtful events or situations, emotional, mental, physical, or sexual abuse can go unaddressed. And this fear of getting hurt again can lead to couples’ lack of intimacy.
Signs of avoiding intimacy:
- Low Self-Esteem. When a spouse doesn’t have a high opinion of themselves, they could feel the other thinks they’re unattractive or doesn’t want to be with them.
- Acute Shyness or Awkwardness. These feelings stem from an inability for a partner to let their guard down and be vulnerable with the other.
- Extreme Fear of Judgment. Husbands or wives risk emotionally or intellectually harming their partners when they don’t let them voice opinions without fear of judgment.
- Avoidance of Social Situations. Sometimes a person doesn’t want to be with other people because they feel physically unattractive. Other times, they may be afraid of being too open or “friendly” with others and making their jealous spouse angry. Avoiding social situations also can be a sign of depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue.
- Being Overly Sensitive to Criticism. When a person was treated harshly during childhood or adolescence, they may not be able to properly accept criticism, even if it’s in jest.
- Actively Avoiding Physical Contact. A husband or wife might feel unattractive to the other or be afraid of what physical contact, no matter how slight, might do to their bodies or their emotions.
- Have Insatiable Sexual Desire. If a spouse is dealing with unresolved trauma, they use sex as a coping method. For them, sex isn’t about intimacy, it’s about feeling better emotionally. They could even have a sex addiction.
- Self-Imposed Social Isolation. When someone withdraws from friend groups or family, it may be because of abuse. They may be hiding physical trauma or avoiding situations that their partner is discouraging or forbidding.
There are simple, effective ways for wives and husbands to build intimacy that don’t involve sex. Give the following examples a try to improve your intimacy with your partner.
Ways to build intimacy:
- Communicating. Though people can share with nearly anyone, anywhere, communication has diminished in the digital age. An excellent first step to rebuilding intimacy with your partner is talking to them. It can start with simple topics, like how your day went, and grow from there.
- Lessen Screen Time. Screens can distract you from spending time with your partner. Instead of spending hours surfing the internet or playing games on your phone, try “unplugging” and being present with your partner.
- Cuddling. When was the last time you and your partner just cuddled? Cuddling is a way to share the bond of physical intimacy without sex.
- Take a Trip. Life demands can make it difficult to break away. But a short trip for just the two of you can be a great way to help rekindle intimacy in your relationship.
How Boulder Recovery Can Help
Trauma may be the root cause for your spouse’s inability to be intimate with you physically, mentally, or spiritually. But neither of you has to go it alone.
At Boulder Recovery, we believe in, support, and help strengthen intimate relationships between a husband and wife. Our 14-Day Men’s Intensive is for men looking to heal from sex, porn, and relationship issues and to renew and strengthen their faith. Using Holy Scripture and the Trauma Induced Sexual Addiction treatment model, we take a holistic approach to helping men recover from trauma.
We also understand that wives also need help in healing troubled and broken relationships. Our private Partner Support Program is solely for the partners of the men in the program, meeting virtually during the 14-day intensive.
If you want more information about our programs, reach out to us today. Boulder Recovery is here to help you.