“Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a man child with the help of the Lord.’” (Genesis 4:1)
The thought of “having relations” with a spouse communicates more than what would immediately appear. Of course, the immediate context is in the holy act of marriage whereby God blessed them with offspring. However, properly “relating” to one’s spouse is hardly satisfied by physical intimacy. When God said that “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him,” He wasn’t merely referring to a physical provision. He was referring to a companion who would complete him in a variety of ways. There are actually four areas of intimacy that need to exist for a marriage to be as fully satisfying and enriching as God has intended.
When a couple begins to think about intimacy, physical relationships often immediately capture their thinking. In fact, physical intimacy often so dominates couples that no other area of intimacy receives much deliberate attention. Although a gift from the Lord to be enjoyed within the bonds of marriage, physical intimacy is sometimes so over-emphasized that it defines intimacy. It is what is craved by couples who find themselves attracted to one another. It is so dominant in couples’ perspectives that physical intimacy is mislabeled as “making love.” Such a narrow perspective can hardly capture what God fully intends for “having relations.”
Another level of intimacy that must exist for couples is mental intimacy. On this level, a couple will share details about their day, current events, family plans, job issues, speeding tickets, neighbor concerns, kids’ school performance or behavior, etc …. There is a sharing of what is on one’s mind. Being able to feel confident that you know what the other person has experienced or about what they are thinking provides a deeper level of “relations” that every couple ought to seek to enjoy. Making your spouse feel cherished by both listening to them and sharing with them mentally is important.
Still a deeper level of intimacy exists in emotional intimacy. This level enables a couple to share how they feel. It is the ability to communicate things such as irritations, frustrations, excitement, joy, sorrow, disappointment, laughter, tears, etc … and know that you are able to share that emotion. A marriage ought to be that venue where weeping with those who weep, and mourning with those who mourn can find its purest, safest, and most effective way to cherish one another. Such intimacy is the level where loneliness is able to be most thoroughly dispelled and support most clearly felt.
The deepest level of intimacy can only exist among couples who have been reconciled to God through the work of Christ and are made spiritually alive. This is the level of spiritual intimacy. These couples are able to cast their burdens upon the Lord together, praise the Lord together, worship together, pray together, fellowship together in the power and depth of the Holy Spirit. They can read the Scriptures and apply God’s Word in their marriage as they seek guidance for life decisions, parenting wisdom, financial philosophies, and more. This is the deepest and most rewarding level of having “relations” with one’s spouse.
Only when all four of these intimacies exist, and spouses feel cherished spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically is it able to be said that a couple truly has “relations” with one another in the way that God intends. If you satisfy yourself by only participating in one of these areas of intimacy, there will be a superficiality to your relationship. Spouses will yearn for “something more,” often not understanding where to turn to receive it. Individuals within a marriage can feel alone, isolated, and hopeless. However, when you seek to cherish one another and relate to one another on all of these levels, then you will “know” one another in the true biblical sense.