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Intimacy in relationships is not the same as sex

 

This week, I had the privilege of speaking at Hillsong Conference in Sydney on intimacy in relationships - a topic that is often misunderstood! In society and in the church!



Have you ever wondered why some relationships just seem to thrive while others struggle to move beyond surface-level interactions? The answer lies in intimacy, and we’re here to explore how you can cultivate it. So, grab your favorite drink, get comfortable, and let’s discover how to build deeper, more meaningful connections the way God intended.


The Battle with 21st-Century Culture


Let’s face it, we’re up against some pretty tough cultural challenges when it comes to building meaningful relationships. Here are three major contenders:


1. Individualism You know the drill: “Me, myself, and I.” It’s a self-centered, ‘me-first’ mentality. Think of it as living in a world where everyone’s got a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on their hearts. “I don’t need anyone,” and “Don’t challenge me; I know best.” It’s all about ME.


2. Hyper-Sexualization This one’s a biggie. Hyper-sexualization turns people into objects and sex into a mere transaction. Imagine treating emotional bonds like swiping a credit card—quick, easy, and detached. This culture values short-term thrills over long-term commitment, stripping away the depth God intended for our intimate connections.


3. Digital Dependence Ah, the digital age. We’re more connected than ever through screens, yet we’ve never felt more isolated. Our phones have become our go-to for interaction, leaving our real-life relationships feeling shallow. Likes, messages, and notifications may keep us plugged in 24/7, but do they really fulfill our need for genuine intimacy? Not so much.



The Impact of Modern Culture


What happens when these cultural trends dominate? Relationships become transactional and superficial, focused on personal gain rather than mutual growth. But fear not! True intimacy thrives on mutual vulnerability, and that’s what we’re here to explore.


What I Have Learned


Here’s the golden nugget: Intimacy is not the same as sex.


1. God Created You for Intimacy Jesus said it best in John 15:15-17 NIV: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Intimacy is God’s blueprint for us.


2. Intimacy is Reserved for the Few, Not the Many Let’s be real—you can’t be best friends with everyone. True intimacy is a deep connection shared with a select few who truly get you.


3. Intimacy is Built on Mutual Vulnerability Opening up and being authentic with each other—that’s where the magic happens. It’s about sharing our true selves and welcoming others to do the same.



6 Practical Ways to Build Intimacy


Now, let’s get to the fun part—how to actually build intimacy. Here are six joyful and practical ways:


1. Recreational Intimacy Dive into what your loved ones enjoy. Visit your foodie friend's favourite café, explore your partner's favourite art museum, or take your kids to a fun park. Shared experiences create lasting bonds.


2. Spiritual Intimacy Be open about what’s happening in your heart. Share what God is challenging or revealing to you. Embrace vulnerability, invite prayer, and support each other spiritually.


3. Intellectual Intimacy Get curious about their perspectives, experiences, and core values. Discuss thoughts, ideas, passions, and purposes that bring deep meaning to their lives. Who knew intellectual chats could be so intimate?


4. Emotional Intimacy Be emotionally available. Listen actively, empathize, and validate each other. Create a safe space to explore dreams, hopes, fears, and insecurities. It’s like a heart-to-heart hug!


5. Physical Intimacy Express affection through touch and physical closeness. Give a long supportive hug to a friend, hold your spouse’s hand, playfully wrestle with your kids, or lean your head on a friend’s shoulder. Physical closeness builds bonds!


6. Sexual Intimacy For married couples in a a God-covenant marriage, sexual intimacy is a beautiful, God-designed way to share deep love and desire. It fosters closeness, connection, and unity.



Resource List

To help you on this journey, here are some resources on different topics:


Sexual Intimacy in Marriage

‘Sex Awakened’ Renee Yam. Buy it here

 

Biblical Sexual Framework (Parenting, Teens, Marriage)

Patricia Weerakoon

Books: The best sex for life, Teen Sex by the book, Talking Sex by the book, You & Me, Birds & Bees by the book, Growing Up by the book, The Gender Revolution


Vulnerability

Brene Brown

Books: Daring Greatly, Atlas of the Heart


Individualism, Modern Relationship & Intimacy

Terry Real

Books: ‘Us’ and ‘The New Rules Of Marriage’

Esther Perel

 

Attachment in Relationships

‘Wired for Love’ Stan Tatkin

‘Love Sense’ & ‘Hold Me Tight’ Dr Sue Johnson

‘The Power of Attachment’ Diane Poole Heller

 

Parenting

‘Raising an emotionally intelligent child’ John Gottman

‘Loving our kids on purpose’ Danny Silk

‘Talking Sex by the book’ Dr Patricia Weerakoon

 



Building intimacy is a rewarding journey that requires mutual vulnerability, effort, and a commitment to God’s design. By recognizing and countering the influences of modern culture, we can create deeper, more meaningful connections with the people we love. Ready to embark on this adventure?


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