Intimacy is one of those things we all want. It’s universal – this desire to be connected and accepted and in relationship with others. I believe it’s a very important part of us being made in the image of God, who is also relational.
So why do so many of us struggle with it? Have you ever found yourself shutting down, putting walls up, or withholding – all the while knowing you deeply love and care for the person standing across from you? And if you’ve been on the other side of this, you might be familiar with how quickly hopes for connection and love can turn to resentment and frustration.
Intimacy takes work. John 17 sets the example of what true intimacy looks like. Intimacy starts with an understanding and acceptance of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice. Once that truth permeates the human soul, personal healing begins to take place and we experience intimacy with ourselves. It is only once we have intimacy with Christ and healthy intimacy with ourselves, that we have the ability to turn that love and intimacy outward toward others.
However, sometimes our interpersonal intimacy is broken. I understand first hand the pain and loneliness of broken intimacy. If that is you, I want you to know there is hope and intimacy can be restored. I want to offer you a process you can practice with those you love to help you grow and restore intimacy.
Two things to keep in mind. First, this isn’t my process. I didn’t invent this, but it is tried and true. Second, this process isn’t easy. It’s hard, but the more you do it the easier it gets.
Ok, here we go…
STEP 1: Once you’re both present, the first step in the process of restoring intimacy is to APPRECIATE! Start with what you APPRECIATE about the person in front of you.
Begin with Blessing
This actually shouldn’t be hard, but in the moment it can be, so come prepared. Name what it is that you genuinely appreciate about the other person. Be specific and keep it about your current reality. Don’t offer vague niceties, and be genuine.
STEP 2: All of us have a tendency to avoid the hard things in our lives. Instead, we point out what isn’t working in the other person. However, when we drop judgment, we can get curious and ask questions from a genuine desire to better understand instead of from a place of blame.
Step 3: The next step is to focus on the FACTS. In a world of social media and flippant opinions, it’s easy to focus on the ethereal. What matters most at this moment is to focus on SPECIFIC FACTS. Like what a VIDEO CAMERA could pick up and playback. BE SPECIFIC. No generalities. Look for patterns.
Focus on Facts
Step 4: As we continue to move toward one another, it’s important to take risks in vulnerability. The basic desire of every person is to be seen, but most of us have gotten pretty good at camouflaging our true selves. We have learned various mechanisms and tactics to protect ourselves. We cover up out of fear, and unless we move past this with each other, we don’t move closer in intimacy. This is one of the riskiest steps. So take it slow.
“I want you to know…”
Step 5: The last step is to name what you DESIRE to happen. Please keep in mind these are DESIRES, not DEMANDS. Paint an accurate and realistic picture of the desired partnership you seek. What do you desire to see change or improve or keep in place for the future? In this step, work hard to use the word WE wherever possible.
“I desire…” or “Together, I desire…“
That is the process. I promise this will become easier with regularity. For some of us, this will be more difficult than others. Maybe you didn’t grow up in a home where these conversations took place. If they weren’t modeled for you or you’ve never seen an example of this type of conversation, it’s not easy to start them in your friendships, your workplace, and your marriage. So give yourself some grace, take a deep breath, and let the conversation happen. You may do this in one sitting or it may take you several days. While I wish we could skip the awkwardness and jump ahead to the part where we’re having these with ease, it doesn’t work like that. Give yourself – and the other person – much grace in this process. The intimacy you experience on the other end will be well worth the work.
As you work toward healthy relational intimacy, here are some resources we’d recommend as next steps.
- We must first have intimacy with God in order to have intimacy with others.
- Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, Jeanne Guyon. Purchase here.
- Intimacy requires vulnerability. Brene Brown is a leader in this field.
- There are countless books on pursuing intimacy within the context of marriage. Here are just a few to consider.
- Like vulnerability, emotional intelligence is needed for intimacy.
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry and Jeane Greaves. Purchase here.
- Many from Parkview have gained understanding about themselves through the Enneagram. This is a great resource to using knowledge from the Enneagram to pursue relational health.
- The Path Between Us, Suzanne Stabile. Purchase here.