How do I develop intimacy in the fishbowl world of the church?

Intimacy means different things to different people. While most men tend to equate sex with intimacy, women tend to think in terms of emotional closeness. Both are components of a healthy love life, but true intimacy includes other ingredients:

  • Trust -- the ability to feel safe with each other.
  • Mutuality -- the freedom to choose to love each other.
  • Honesty -- open communication of your true feelings.
  • Pleasure -- giving joy to each other.
  • Spiritual sharing -- honestly sharing spiritual development.
  • Romance -- the spice of circumstances affirming love.

Intimacy, like all valuable assets in our lives, requires planning and work. It produces wonderful results that make us realize all the planning and work is very worthwhile.

Time together is an essential ingredient in developing intimacy. Unfortunately, couples in ministry risk giving so much of themselves in ministry that they endanger their own relationships. In the fishbowl we call ministry, we may be opening ourselves to criticism and feelings of failure if we do not immediately respond to call of ministry opportunities. Your church will wait while you build your marriage, but your marriage won't wait until your church is perfect. One key to maintaining intimacy in your marriages is to be sure that your schedule has specific time set aside to be with your spouse. That sacred time must be closely guarded and carefully planned.

Often, a pastoral spouse feels that the congregation is in competition for affection and intimacy. But, if you say that your marriage is a priority, you must clearly indicate to your spouse that intimacy is a priority. A key to prioritizing intimacy is to understand the expectations of your spouse. Simple misunderstanding over the expectation of how romance occurs in a marriage may set a couple up for disappointment. For instance, one spouse may think an intimate evening is a ten-minute conversation after the late news while the other spouse may envision an intimate dinner for two and a cozy evening of snuggling in front of the fireplace with candles burning. Honesty and careful listening is needed for us to understand each other's expectations. Once you understand each other's expectations, the next step is to establish some boundaries between your ministry and your personal life. Boundaries are established by insulating yourselves from interruptions. Sometimes that can be as simple as letting an answering machine screen calls for a few hours.

Some helpful ideas for building intimacy include:

  • Establish a daily couple time.
  • Have regular dates.
  • Plan regular getaways.
  • Covenant to pray and read a passage of Scripture together.
  • Provide a way to protect your time together from intrusions.