4 Killers of Intimacy

Sex is a good thing. In fact, it is a great thing. God created it as a beautiful gift for covenant marriage. Sadly, as with every other aspect of life, sin’s presence has created a world where sex has been twisted, tainted, and gutted of its meaning. But this does not reduce the power and pleasure of sex when it happens as God intended.

After years of promiscuity has taken its toll, King Solomon does not want his sons to follow his example. He tells them, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18–19, ESV). While poetic in nature, Solomon is saying, “Son, enjoy lifelong, pleasurable sex with your wife because that is what God intended.”

So, what destroys this kind of intimacy in Christian marriages? Here are four intimacy killers:

1. Disconnect with the Creator of Sex

It may sound strange, but there is a direct relationship between how things go in bed and how often you kneel and pray beside your bed. We don’t like to mix spiritual discussions with sexual ones, but God never intended the two to be separate. From Genesis to the words of Jesus to the Apostle Paul, the teaching is clear: When a man and woman marry, they become one. Their “oneness” is not just a reference to a covenant agreement, a spiritual bond, or an emotional attachment. It includes the act of intercourse – literally joining two bodies so that, in the act of lovemaking, they are one.

This deep level of connection is why sexual sin causes deeper levels of damage than other sins. “Casual sex,” “friends with benefits,” or “hooking up,” are myths created by a sinful world. When people have sex, they give of themselves on all levels. When done outside of the covenant of marriage, the carnage is far-reaching. If sex is spiritual, then it stands to reason that the best sex is between spiritually healthy people. When a husband and wife are each pursuing Christ and finding their joy and fulfillment in Him, they come to the bedroom to give and not to take. So, if intimacy is a struggle in your marriage, before you look at your spouse for the answer, look at your relationship with God.

2. Neglecting Dating and Dishwashing

A strong desire for sex is not a struggle for most couples early in their relationship. Christian couples committed to abstaining from sex before marriage know how difficult this can be because once we truly love a person and want to be with them in marriage, we also want to be with them sexually. This is how God designed it. But after marriage and as life goes on, all couples will run into a time where sex loses its appeal, excitement, and satisfaction. The world has all kinds of sinful answers promising a remedy. The truth, though, is quite simple. We want who we pursue. When dating, we pursue our future spouse. We pay attention to him or her and work to impress with our love and loyalty. We set “dates” on our calendar just to be together. We sneak into his or her apartment and clean the kitchen. We show up and cut the grass. We send love notes. We arrive with unexpected gifts. Sadly, once life becomes routine, we forget to date and load the dishwasher. We need the reminder that these simple acts of thoughtfulness can wake up those desires we once felt so strongly.

3. An Unlocked Garden

In the most erotic book of the Bible, Solomon celebrates the love he once knew when he and his wife were committed to one another. As he describes his desire for his wife, Solomon says, “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed” (Song of Solomon 4:12, ESV). These words are a poetic celebration of his bride’s purity. He was excited to know he would enjoy what was unavailable to any other man. Often, the world sees the discussion of purity as prudish, irrelevant, and impossible. According to God, there is a direct connection between purity and pleasure. A brief survey of the opposite thinking proves my point. If uninhibited sex with multiple partners was truly the path to pleasure, why do porn stars continue to commit suicide at an increasing rate? No one has ever walked into my office and said that, after years of exploration and promiscuity, he or she has finally had enough sex to be completely satisfied. Actually, people communicate the opposite feelings of despair, dissatisfaction, and brokenness. The best sex is pure sex. Pure sex is between a man and a woman inside the covenant of marriage. Premarital sex, porn, infidelity, or even engaging another person emotionally through secretive social media unlocks a garden that is supposed to be locked. While these illicit activities promise erotic excitement and fulfillment, they never deliver on their promise.

4. Chasing the Wrong Pleasure

The gospel applies to the bedroom. The gospel says that the greatest joy in life is found not by keeping one’s life but by giving it away. Jesus famously said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25, ESV). So, what in the world does this have to do with satisfying sexual intimacy inside of marriage? Often, we gauge our sex life by whether or not we find it pleasurable and satisfying. We say things like, “I like it when my wife…” or, “I wish my husband would…,” or, “It used to be so much fun for me when we…”. While it is healthy to discuss sex with your spouse, notice that the common denominator in these statements is me or I. In every counseling situation I have encountered with a couple dealing with struggles in their sex life, the problem always lies in one or both thinking about themselves first. This is the wrong pleasure to seek. Our definition of pleasure has to change. Pleasure should be found not in how much we are pleased but in how much we please our spouse. Selflessness needs to replace selfishness. The results are nothing short of a total game-changer. When both husband and wife go into the bedroom with the desire to please versus the desire to be pleased, selfless love becomes sexual joy this world cannot touch.

Even if you feel like things are incredibly satisfying in your marriage right now when it comes to sex, take these points to heart. Guard against allowing sin, selfishness, and even complacency to interfere with God’s gift of marital intimacy.