5 Steps to Building Intimacy in Any Relationship
Welcome to Part 1 of the Building Intimacy Series!
Today we discuss the five basic steps to building intimacy in any relationship including God, friends, children, and your spouse. I’ve also included a practical worksheet to help you put these steps into action right away.
[Note: There are scripture references throughout this series. I have provided an easy link to each via Bible Gateway. If you need to review the Series Introduction that includes guidelines on how to get the most from this series, review it here.]
If you haven’t read The Intimacy Manifesto, get it free here.
Let’s get started!
In our sex-saturated society, intimacy and intercourse are often used synonymously. But that’s like saying gardening and strawberries are the same thing.
Strawberries are a fruit of diligent labor, but so are tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and squash. Strawberries are awesome, but if they’re all you eat, your overall health will suffer for it.
Security, acceptance, peace, love, and yes, sex, are fruits of intimacy. And like a garden, intimate relationships require diligent, purposeful cultivating. Whether you’re fostering a relationship with friends, children, a love interest, a spouse, or yes, even God.
There are five steps to building healthy, intimate relationships:
#1 CREATE A PLAN
Like a fruitful garden, intimacy doesn’t happen by accident; you gotta have a plan including the right season, the right tools, and the right attitude.
- The Right Season – Consider if this is a good time for you to build intimacy. Both people in the relationship need to be emotionally healthy . If there is recent trauma including a move, job loss, a death, a break-up, or a car accident, this can create an unhealthy dynamic in building a new Also, both parties should be free from (or in diligently recovery from) enslaving addictions such as sex, alcohol, drugs, or food.
- The Right Tools – Time is your most valuable tool. Both people must be willing to dedicate the time necessary for nurturing and fostering the relationship. That may mean giving up other activities including entertainment or even a second job in order to devote time to building intimacy.
- The Right Attitude – There is nothing more heartbreaking than abandonment. Therefore, both people need to count the cost and make a commitment to sticking it out for the long haul.
[THE GOD FACTOR: If you don’t feel like you have a relationship with God yet, no fear. He already has a plan. You just have to be willing to make the time and approach it with the right attitude.]
#2 SOW MUCH MORE
Planting the seeds of intimacy in the fertile soil of a relationship is exciting, but it’s just the beginning. Your follow-up care is essential for growth.
- Watering and Fertilizing – Listen to each other—I mean, really listen. Read books together and discuss them. Do activities the other person enjoys even if it’s not your favorite. (More ideas to follow in the next few weeks.)
- Pulling Weeds – Conflict is a normal part of human relationships. Be committed to gently dealing with anything that hinders the growth of your relationship—sin, another person, work demands, church activities, etc.
- Lots of Sunlight – Be honest. Stay in the light. Be open about struggles.
[THE GOD FACTOR: In the next email, we’ll cover 19 practical ways to water and fertilize your relationship with God. For now, commit to being honest with him and working through anything that keeps you from spending time with him.]
#3 LET IT GROW
There are various stages of intimacy you can’t rush. Too much attention to a relationship can be just as bad as neglecting it. When you are patient and wait for the relationship to grow, the ripened fruit is healthy and sweet.
It is healthy for both people to spend time away from each other. Healthy adults need a variety of relationships—men with other men, women with other women.
If we spend time all our free with only one person, we develop a distorted view of ourselves and our partner/friend/child. A safe circle of others help us to keep a good perspective.
[THE GOD FACTOR: God designed us to be social creatures. That means monasteries are out. We need to spend time with God, but we also need strong, safe human relationships.]
#4 REAP A HARVEST
If you’ve worked the three preceding steps, the harvest will be bountiful! Relationships in which intimacy is fostered thoughtfully, diligently, and patiently produce an abundance of love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
#5 SEASON AFTER SEASON
Like gardening, intimacy has seasons as well. Life takes us through changes and our relationships shift and adjust to accommodate accomplishments, illness, job change, physical and emotional trauma, and even death. Sometimes we have to rotate our crops and let one area of our garden lie fallow for a season before starting anew.
[THE GOD FACTOR: Even though God doesn’t change, we do. Therefore, our relationship with him goes through seasons. You are pursuing growth right now by striving to build intimacy.]
Intimacy with others is a garden that can only flourish when we follow a plan and patiently nurture it to fruitfulness.
Time to get practical. Download your free worksheet to help you start building your relationships with a circle of safe others.
Or, using your journal and two of the relationships you jotted down in your journal, apply steps 1-3.
CREATE A PLAN for each relationship evaluating if it’s the right season to grow the relationship, if both of you are willing to sacrifice the time to invest in yourselves and each other, and if you’ve both counted the cost (so no one is hurt if someone chooses to bail).
SOW MUCH MORE. As a team, create a list of activities the two of you can do together. Commit to honesty. Be proactive about conflict, discussing strategies for working through disagreements. Write and share your own intimacy manifesto with your safe other.
LET IT GROW by making sure both of you spend time with other people. This would be a time to nurture the other relationships on your initial list. If most of the relationships on your list are family, try to spend time with friends. If most of the relationships on your list are friends, try to spend time with family (if family relationships are safe).
Wrapping it Up with Resources
As promised here are a few resources to further expand your understanding of what it takes to build intimacy in all your relationships.
- Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller
- Developing Emotional Intimacy by Shana Schutte
- 36 Questions to Build Emotional Intimacy by Arthur Aron
- Growing Healthy Friendships By Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP
- Developing Friendships That Last by Sheryl DeWitt
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown (if you are not a member of Audible.com, you can get the audiobook for free.
Great job! You’re on your way to building deep, safe intimate relationships.
Next time, we’re going to dive into practical and creative ways to build and deepen the most important relationship in your life—your relationship with God.
Don’t forget your free Steps to Building Intimacy Worksheet
That’s it for now, but take a moment to share this series with a friend. Click on the book below and send them the link for their free copy and an opportunity to sign up for the series.
If you ever have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me.
References:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8,  Luke 14:28-30,  Colossians 3:13,  John 3:19-21,  1 Corinthians 3:7,  Titus 2:1-6,  Proverbs 15:22,  Genesis 2:18,  Galatians 5:22-23,  Malachi 3:6