There is a harmful attitudinal trend that has begun to stretch along many generations and is very disconcerting. It has to do with sex and intimacy—so if you’re squeamish, stop reading now (or 9 words ago, depending on how squeamish you are). I’m not sure how we got to where we are with this topic—sure it’s all over books, TV, movies, music, etc., but it seems that on individual and personal levels that one of the most important attitudes anyone can have in a relationship has become terribly skewed.
Adults significantly older than me, and young people alike have expressed the belief that if they would like to achieve intimacy in a relationship, sex is the venue. It goes beyond the “trying out” of their partner to make sure that they are compatible (which is flawed enough), but has become the path by which couples are attempting to establish a sense of closeness and intimacy.
Sex does not create intimacy–not real intimacy. It should be the result of intimacy. Building a relationship this way is like going out to a field and chewing on a cow expecting steak. Chew all you want; that sucker is never going to turn into a steak without the proper process. The cow needs to grow, be slaughtered, cut up, aged, sold and then seasoned and cooked before it becomes what it was meant to be (my apologies to vegetarians, but this analogy doesn’t work with broccoli). Intimacy is the result of a process as well—it’s sharing time, your heart–thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams—going through difficulties and having fun, working together and all the other relationship building things that couples should do. This is what builds closeness. This is what builds intimacy.
Sex is the expression of closeness, not an agent to achieving it. If the intimacy isn’t there already, sex just creates a false sense of it. It’s meant to be the most perfect expression of self-giving, self-revelation and commitment. It’s the mutual handing over of heart, body, vulnerability and love to another. This kind of self-giving doesn’t belong to everyone you meet, everyone you date or everyone you share any level of intimacy with. God gives us marriage so that people who desire true intimacy with each other can cultivate a relationship where these things can flourish (and other stuff, too, but I’m just talking about sex, here). Sex doesn’t cause those things–it is the fulfillment of them.
Our relationship attitudes and our priorities have to be set straight to build strong, lasting relationships—marital or otherwise. We will never find real satisfaction in our relationships if we are relying on the effect to produce the cause.