Photo courtesy seeks2dream
On Monday I posed the question to the Simple Marriage readers: what’s the difference between intimacy and sex? Within a hour of posting, comments were rolling in quickly.
It seems these two topics are popular and thought provoking. One reader V. Higgins stated this well,
“Wow, there aren’t that many questions regarding marriage that are sure to leave one going well, um, like this one.”
Thus far there’s a bit of consensus that the two are not the same, and that one often is desired in order to attain the other. But what exactly is intimacy and sex?
Sex is the easier of the two to define, or is it? On the surface, sex is often characterized as coitus or intercourse. But sex is also a delineation of gender. For me, when discussing the topic of sex, I prefer to look at the idea of sexuality, which is far more encompassing than an act.
If you only look at sex as intercourse, this can be accomplished with any living creature. Most often sex occurs within a committed relationship, namely marriage. Research continues to show that the best sex happens in the “marriage bed.” I would stipulate that this is due to the intimacy often associated with sex in marriage, more on this in a bit.
If sex is strictly an act that can be performed by anyone, with anyone, why are there so many problems associated with it?
Biologically speaking, men and women are different (I know, shocking revelation!). On average, a sexual intercourse experience lasts 3 minutes. A man is ready for intercourse almost instantly (another shocker) while a woman on average needs 20 minutes to be fully ready. So if intercourse occurs according to the man’s timetable, the woman is ready 17 minutes after intercourse is over.
No wonder there are often problems when it comes to sex!
Now let’s add intimacy. You suddenly have a fuller and deeper experience. Intimacy is broader and deeper, and isn’t necessarily exclusive between sexual partners. One can be intimate with family, friends, even co-workers. And you can achieve intimacy without sex.
Here’s a few of the intimacy comments:
Intimacy is the state of really seeing, or being seen, by another. ~Kazari
A state of intimacy is achieved when the two parties are “naked” to each other. I don’t mean we open up our clothes to reveal our bodies. Intimacy is where we open up our heart, our soul, our authentic self and, being totally vulnerable, share that part of us not shared with others. The more intimate we are the closer we get to the core of this kind of sharing, and the closer we get to our personal authentic core. Intimacy requires trust in the person we are sharing with. ~Laurie
As humans we are not purely physical beings. We are a combination of physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Personally, I think one can, to varying degrees, be intimate in each of those areas. To have a truly, completely intimate relationship with someone I think you have to be intimate in ALL of those areas. It has to be a blending, a balancing of all of those areas and I believe the balance is somewhat fluid and changes (or should change) depending on the needs of the relationship (and the partners in it) at the time….
Real intimacy is openning yourself up on all levels to the other person and showing that you trust them to know you and love you for who you really are. The warts, scars, fears, insecurities, emotions, passions, beliefs, and on and on. The true intimacy and trust, the true union, happens when the other party returns it in kind. They open themselves to you just as thoroughly. ~Bruce Kelly
Intimacy seems to involve closeness for sure, and this closeness is co-created.
I’ve also heard intimacy defined this way: into-me-see, a revealing of yourself to another person. Obviously this revealing will be deeper and more meaningful when it’s well received and reciprocated in kind, but intimacy is more about you than the receiver.
This is where growing yourself up in marriage comes in to play so well. The more you grow up, the more capable you are of revealing yourself AND handling the response, regardless if it’s reciprocated.
I remain very interested in your comments and discussion on this topic. So keep the comments flowing. And, Evil Dad’s comment must be shared:
In my marriage: Sex is something that decreased after having a baby. Intimacy is something that increased after having a baby.