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Can Intimacy Really Bring Wellness Benefits To Your Life and Marriage?
Coming in Early Spring 2020
Genuine intimacy involves commitment, exclusivity, acceptance, care, and connection. Intimacy is a powerful state of oneness spiritually, mentally, volitionally, emotionally, and physically. Once again the world has caught up with the Scripture and come to realize that there are actually health benefits that accompany an intimate marriage. According to a recent article on the Everyday Health website humans are hardwired for relationships and the presence of intimacy in a life produces health for that life, even when it doesn't involve sex.
When we think of intimacy, we naturally assume that we are referring to sex. However, genuine intimacy is so much more than that for the Christian couple. It's easy enough to have sex without intimacy. In fact, too many people do. While it's true that sex can and does enhance and perpetuate intimacy in the undefiled bed chamber, without intimacy it is far more prone to destroy the potential for genuine intimacy and ultimately the relationship.
Dr. Michael Krychman, MD, is the executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health in Newport Beach, and he says, "There has to be an evolutionary reason why people maintain paired bonding and intimacy when there is no sex involved. Indeed we have found that there are biological advantages of being a dyad over an individual."
No, Dr. Krychman it's not evolutionary. We were designed and hardwired that way. We have a need for love and intimacy so deeply that its presence or lack of it effects our health and wellness. Human beings were created to be intimate and interdependent.
So, how exactly does intimacy effect our overall health and well-being? I have found five ways so far and here they are:
1. Intimacy Can Reduce Stress
Chronic stress can cause a host of health complications, such as insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, cardiac events, stroke, a weakened immune system, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, TMJ, and premature aging. The list of medical complications is long and distinguished. Stress puts your body in a perpetual state of preparedness to counteract intrusions in your life. Your body literally prepares to fight or to take measures to run and avoid the source of tension. This is often referred to as "fight or flight". Valuable energy, nutrients, and adrenaline are channeled to body systems necessary to fight and the immune system is depressed in order to save itself for the anticipated wounds in combat. Barbara D. Bartlik, MD, psychiatrist and sex therapist at Weill Cornell Medical College, states, "When you are in a constant state of fight-or-flight, you use up a lot of necessary nutrients needed to maintain health. Intimacy helps reduce the stress and panic so that your body can replenish itself and maintain a good immune system."
2. Intimacy Has The Ability To Reduce Loneliness and The Risk of Mortality
Scripture states that a "two or three-fold cord is not easily broken". (The third element in the cord is God.) Pain and loss isolates a person and can precipitate depression. One of the first symptoms of depression is hopeless and feelings of isolation. I have never counseled a person for attempted suicide that didn't express feelings of loneliness and abandonment. A study published in 2013 by the National Academy of Sciences confirmed the connection between social isolation and increased morbidity and mortality. The University of Chicago published a study that found that in addition to higher mortality, loneliness has the ability to impair executive functioning, sleep, and mental and physical well-being. Dr. Bartlik explains, "If you feel complimented, loved, and appreciated, that all contributes to good health. If you feel alone, isolated, stressed, abused, or taken advantage of, that has a negative effect on your health."
3. Intimacy Greatly Enhances Your Sex Life.
Sex without intimacy is like religion without God. It's just a physical act, which those who have never experienced genuine intimacy would like you to believe is what sex really is. In reality, sex by itself does not constitute intimacy; it wars against it. Sex was designed by God to be one element of a three dimensional intimacy: spirit, soul, and body. Actually sex was meant to be the ultimate expression of a growing unity of spiritual oneness and the synchronous merging of two hearts. When God's order is honored and followed, sex can become mystical, almost magical. This is how love grows, and how one man can stay with one woman for a lifetime as the relationship remains in a perpetual state of growth void of boredom.
4. Intimacy Is Therapy for The Reduction of Anxiety and Depression
An intimate relationship with another person, especially if that relationship involves reassuring interactions and touch, boosts your mental energy. Men need validation and women need interaction. Sometimes we just need to talk it out. Studies show that a lack of intimacy produces anger in men and depression in women. Intimacy affects your hormone levels, especially oxytocin, also known as the "cuddle hormone", and the neurotransmitter dopamine, known for the "feel good" effect it produces in the brain. Hormones and neurotransmitters all have good sides and dark sides. Intimacy diminishes the dark sides and enhances the presence of the good effects of these body chemicals.
5. You Are Strengthened By Intimacy and Emotional Support
We are familiar with the diversity of Spiritual Gifts granted in the Body of Christ and how they are designed to work together for the good of all. This design insures an interdependence within the Body of Christ. The Church cannot do it's work with just one person calling all the shots unless that one person is Christ who possesses all of the gifts. (This is a sure pathway to conflict and failure for churches that fail to follow God's plan clearly outlined in Scripture for a multiplicity of leadership in the Body.) Likewise, in a marriage we need the support and encouragement provided from one partner to the other to perform and produce at our highest levels.
The world's design is independence; God's design is interdependence. If genuine love*, before it's anything else, is discerning and meeting the needs of another person, then the truly independent person is the most unloved person on the block. By definition, they have no needs to be met. They are fully capable of meeting all their own needs emotional and physical without any help from anyone. That's a miserable island to live on.
Emotional support provided by an intimate relationship enables healing to begin from the pain of hurt, humiliation, and loss. On the other hand, a lack of empathy and understanding on the part of someone you trust can exacerbate the pain and even deepen the wounds and emotional trauma. To paraphrase Dr. Bartlik, a person that avoids intimate relationships, usually due to past hurts and wounds, becomes a prime candidate for anxiety and depression.
* Genuine love has several dimensions. The deepest and purest of all loves is what Scripture calls "agape" love. This is love that is dependent upon the character of the lover regardless of the state of the beloved, and is the love that the Apostle Paul was referring to in Romans 5:8 when he said, ". . . while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It's this love that we define as "discerning and meeting the needs of another without having as my motive personal reward." In an intimate marriage, this is the love that starts and preserves every other dimension of love and intimacy spiritually, emotionally, and physically. To learn more about love and three dimensional intimacy capable of lasting a lifetime, watch for the release of our new book. It will be available on this site, or on Amazon, in Barnes and Nobles, and through Apple in paperback or kindle editions.