10 Things That Negatively Affect Your Intimacy
By Beth Ann Baus, Crosswalk.com
How do you define intimacy? Your mind might immediately go to sex, or you might picture going on a long walk while holding hands or cuddling up on the couch to watch a movie.
Maybe intimacy to you is good, deep conversation or going on a grand adventure; anything as long as you’re together.
Regardless of what intimacy means to you, it can be affected by outside influences. If you or your spouse have been struggling with intimacy lately, read on. Let’s explore 10 factors that might be at play in your struggle.
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Stress can affect every area of your life and your overall health. If you're struggling with intimacy, take time to assess your stress levels. Look at your week’s day by day and make note of what’s going on at home, work, or elsewhere that is causing you stress. Trace the stress you experience during the day to how it affects your mood in the evening when you have time with your spouse.
Talk to your spouse about how you can either alleviate stress or find ways to deal with the stress so that you aren’t bringing it home with you. Perhaps you need some time alone to switch gears when you first get home. If you find that your home is the source of your stress, then you and your spouse need to address those issues and consider making some lifestyle changes.
2. Lack of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can alter your mood, decision-making skills and your ability to concentrate. Intimacy requires you to focus on the person you’re with, and I’m willing to bet they’d like you to be in a pleasant mood. If your intimacy is being interrupted by irritability, poor communication or indifference, examine your sleep schedule.
Track how much sleep you’re getting every night. We all go through busy seasons and sometimes we just have to muddle through them, but if you look at your routine and see that you are constantly running on empty, then I would suggest it’s time to make some changes. This might be a small change like giving up evening television time to go to bed earlier. Or this might require a drastic change like considering a new job.
Talk about this with your spouse and pray for wisdom.
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3. Poor Health
You might consider yourself to be in good health because you don’t have a diagnosis or aren’t on medication. You might look in the mirror and see a healthy, vibrant face looking back at you. But this doesn’t mean your health isn’t affecting your level of intimacy. You can look and feel healthy and not realize how your lack of exercise and poor diet are affecting you.
Do you have a lack of energy? Does your marriage bed seem a little less exciting than it used to? Do long walks or physical activities seem daunting rather than enjoyable? Do deep conversations make you feel sluggish rather than rejuvenated?
Consider your diet and exercise routine and whether or not making changes in this area might fuel your level of energy and your frequency of intimacy.
We love our distractions. What is your favorite way to unwind at the end of a long day? Sports? Binging t.v.? Scrolling social media? Curling up with a book? A problem that we have as a culture right now is feeling the need to always be doing something to fill the void. Even in our down time, we’re reading, watching or scrolling.
When we don’t allow ourselves to just be - to just exist in silence and allow our minds to wander - we miss opportunities to daydream, and we miss opportunities to reflect on our spouse and how much we love and appreciate them.
When we allow ourselves to step away from all the distractions and focus on our spouse, we’re reminded of past moments of intimacy. We’re reminded of the joyful fulfillment that comes from giving ourselves fully and freely to another.
If you’re going to be distracted today, let it be with thoughts of your spouse and how you can be intimate.
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5. Sexual Sin
This is especially true if intimacy, for you, equals sex. If you are in the habit of viewing pornography, masturbating, reading romance novels, or daydreaming about being sexual with someone other than your spouse, it’s going to affect your intimacy. Even if you can engage in sexual sin and still be sexual with your spouse, you're only giving your spouse what’s leftover rather than making them the sole source of your sexual experiences.
The truth is, because sexual sin is accompanied by guilt, shame, and often isolation, it can affect non-sexual intimacy as well. Your conversations might be guarded as you fear being “found out,” or perhaps you're distracted by your sin and deceitfulness and don’t feel worthy of engaging in intimacy. Examine this area of your life.
Confess any sin that needs to be confessed and make the necessary changes to walk in freedom from sexual sin.
Both men and women can struggle with their self-image, and it’s amazing how much this can affect our ability to be intimate. In the context of sexual intimacy, it’s easy to get distracted by the flaws you see in your own body and to be fearful of not pleasing your spouse. This can create misunderstanding and hurt feelings that take the fun and joy out of the marriage bed.
In the context of non-sexual intimacy, your poor self-image can affect deep conversations and your involvement in other activities. If this is playing a part in your intimacy struggles, take the time to remind yourself of who you are in Christ. Be open with your spouse about how you’re feeling and allow them to build you up.
Pray that you would see yourself the way God (and your spouse) sees you. Pray for the strength to let go of your insecurities and to give yourself freely to the intimacy you and your spouse long for.
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7. Being Too Busy
Intimacy takes time and intentionality. I don’t know anyone who feels intimate while passing their spouse like ships in the night - people just trying to survive their hectic lives. Perhaps you have small children who keep you occupied every second of the day. Maybe your older children have you running from one activity to the next.
Maybe you’re an empty nester or a retiree, but your days are full of work and volunteering. Maybe you’re in full-time ministry, and so while you recognize you’re overcommitted, you excuse it because it’s “all good stuff.”
Regardless of what’s crowding your schedule, it’s important to carve out alone time with your spouse. If intimacy is a struggle, sit down with your spouse and assess your schedules. Make sure you’re making time for each other. If your marriage isn’t strong and you aren’t feeling connected with your spouse, you likely won’t feel connected with anything else in your life either.
Everything will feel a bit disjointed.
There’s no shame in not working overtime every time it’s offered. It’s okay to not volunteer every time the opportunity arises. Your children will only benefit from not being allowed to participate in every sport and every activity. Your schedule should allow for everyone in your household to have regular time with absolutely nothing to do.
8. Trust Issues
If you are someone who has experienced trauma in your past, struggling with intimacy is very common. Learning to trust and to give yourself freely to another person can be frightening. Intimacy, even in a safe environment, can trigger PTSD. If this is the case, be open with your spouse about what you’re experiencing.
It may be that you’re someone who experienced trauma at the hand of your spouse. While there can be unspeakable joy in the covenant relationship of marriage, there can also be unspeakable heartache. We hurt each other and the wounds can take a considerable amount of time to heal, affecting intimacy in a number of ways.
If your struggles with intimacy are due to past hurts or trauma, I highly recommend you seek biblical counseling for yourself. If your intimacy issues come from hurts within your covenant marriage, I recommend seeking marriage counseling from a biblical counselor. Through the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, healing can happen and intimacy can be restored.
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9. Other Relationships
Perhaps instead of struggling with intimacy, you would say the desire just isn’t there. You don’t feel the need for intimacy with your spouse. If this is the case, I would encourage you to assess the other relationships in your life. Who are spending the bulk of your time with? Who do you consider to be your confidant? Who do you run to when you want to share a secret, when you want to rejoice, weep, or ask for advice? Is it your spouse or someone else?
It’s possible that you don’t feel the desire for intimacy with your spouse because your intimacy needs are being met by someone else. God made us to be relational, and therefore close friendships are a good thing. But if you find your relationships outside of your marriage are fulfilling something that should only be fulfilled by your spouse, you need to create some boundaries and make some relational changes.
This is especially true if the person you tend to run to is of the opposite sex. It’s possible you are experiencing an affair of the heart without even realizing it. Take a close look at your friendships and then take a close look at your spouse. Are you having intimate moments with other people in your life that you aren’t saving for your spouse? If so, confess any sin that needs to be confessed and make the necessary changes.
10. Your Relationship with God
I’ve saved the most important aspect to consider for last. If you’re struggling with intimacy in your marriage, you should ask yourself if you’re also lacking intimacy with God. How is your prayer life? Are you praying for your marriage? Are you praying for your spouse? Are you spending enough quality time with your spouse to even know what they need prayer for? Are you spending time in the Word? Are you spending time in personal and corporate worship?
Marriage was designed by God to give us a taste of what it will be like to be his bride. If your relationship with God is lacking, you can be sure your relationship with your spouse will be lacking also. Nothing will benefit you and your marriage more than devoting time to your walk with the Lord. Being intimate with Him is where we learn to be intimate with our spouse.
Intimacy takes effort, intentionality and should be fueled by a genuine desire to not only please your spouse, but to know them more fully. Intimacy, whether it’s sexual or not, should be a life-long commitment that continues to bring you closer together and closer to God. When you are intimate with your spouse, you are honoring God by honoring your marriage vows.
Enjoying the gift of intimacy in marriage allows you to taste the sweetness of being the bride of Christ. This sweetness should not only fuel you to want more intimate moments with your spouse, but it should also direct your heart to worship and to long for more intimate moments with your Heavenly Father.
Intimacy is a gift and was meant to be enjoyed. Like all of God’s gifts, we tend to abuse, distort and misuse it. However, through the work of the Holy Spirit we can change, healing can happen and new habits can be formed.
If your struggle with intimacy requires more than lifestyle changes and you see a need for biblical counseling, I urge you to look for a biblical counselor in your area at Find a Counselor.
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