Relationships – Close vs. Intimate

We’re designed for relationship. We all long to be loved unconditionally by another human being. Yet we balk at being known. It’s too risky. We wear masks that hide our vulnerability. Or we’ve been authentic in the past and it wasn’t worth it.

Whether you’re single, never married, or widowed or divorced it’s important to know the difference between close and intimate. Knowing the difference may break cycles of multiple relationships or loneliness. It may encourage the stagnant marriage to begin a pathway toward vibrancy and growth.

Close is cuddling up on the couch with your loved one watching a Netflix movie and eating a bowl of buttered popcorn. Both individuals are watching the same scenes on the screen. It doesn’t take effort. It’s easy and comfortable.

Close is enjoying time on vacation together. Whether it’s a cruise or a camping trip, close is having fun during a shared activity.

Who doesn’t want to be comfortable?

  • Close may be the silence between two lovers.
  • Close may be the predictability of routines.
  • Close may be finishing the sentences of another.
  • Close may be knowing what the other wants on their pizza. 

On the other hand, intimacy is the risk of rejection for the sake of being real.

When a wife tells her husband she’s attracted to a male co-worker, she’s being vulnerable. The potential for teamwork to protect the marriage also bears risk of rejection or insecurity. It may escalate judgement, arguments, misunderstanding or resentment. Even though she chooses integrity, he may reject her vulnerability. Comfort morphs into tension. 

When her husband welcomes her internal struggles, their union is strengthened. Honesty breaks the power of the secret. Trustworthiness increases. The marriage grows a stronger bond. Intimacy invites partnership between the two. Unconditional love is fertilized through intimacy. 

Intimacy in dating is seeing the other person as worthy of dignity and respect. It’s considering her otherness. It’s resisting the attitude of “what can my girlfriend do for me” to “how can I honor her?” It’s choosing to nurture a friendship before a romance. It’s willingness to grow through relationship.

Other examples apply. Intimacy requires both in the relationship to choose authenticity. One may pave the way for the other, but both are willing. Reciprocity is key.

Intimacy is not sex?

  • Intimacy is leaning into love when you’d rather run away.  
  • Intimacy may be the confession of a shameful past to allow the other to forgive.
  • Intimacy is choosing to forgive.
  • Intimacy is saying, “I’m sorry” when it’s heart-felt; not just to please the other.
  • Intimacy is letting go of bitterness, resentment, or cynicism.
  • Intimacy risks comfort, yet chooses to live in truth. Those who live truthfully with themselves attract others who do the same.

May we enjoy the comfort of our connection with others. May we be open to intimacy in our families and those God brings into our lives.

Questions to Ponder

How are your relationships close? 

What does “intimacy” trigger in you?

What does “vulnerability” or “being authentic” mean to you?