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The word "intimacy" is often cast about in our language. It is something often sought, and yet, based upon many conversations I have had with myriad men and women, is rarely experienced. Book stores have shelves filled with books about this subject, and yet it continues to be an elusive topic when it comes to practical application in a relationship.

What is intimacy? It comes from the root word "intimate," a verb which means "to state or make known." It is a familiar, affectionate and very close connection with another as a result of a bond that is formed through knowledge of, experience with, and commitment to another. Such intimacy in human relationship requires the following five elements: 1) communication; 2) transparency; 3) vulnerability; 4) reciprocity; and grace.

Intimate communication is not the sharing of data, schedules, tasks, etc. It is the sharing of feelings, desires, fears, dreams, longings, inadequacies, etc. In other words, it is the sharing of one's soul. This kind of sharing does not happen with the evening news blaring on the TV while a husband and wife, both just home from work, are busily throwing a hasty dinner together for the kids before running off to a function that night. This kind of communication takes place away from the noisy, hectic, everyday hubbub of life. I have found that it requires discipline; it is the result of deliberate, intentional planning.

I will never experience true intimacy until I am able to share my soul and all that it contains. And yet marital oneness requires it. Transparency does not mean that I have never stuffed emotional baggage in some closet in my soul. It does mean, however, that I have intentionally opened that closet door and turned on the light of truth so that my other half can see into the closet. This can be painful, yet true intimacy requires it.

This is why intimacy requires vulnerability. It is costly. It means that I must get emotionally naked in front of my other half. If it sounds scary, it is. But think back to the Garden of Eden with me. Adam and Eve experienced total and complete intimacy; nothing was hidden in their relationship. In fact, they were naked both physically and emotionally. They walked through the Garden with God without giving their nakedness a thought. Just as physical intimacy requires the removal of clothing, so emotional intimacy requires the removal of "no trespassing" signs on every closet of the soul. Intimacy requires emotional nudity.

Another requirement of intimacy is reciprocity. It takes two to Tango! Both the husband and wife must communicate, be transparent, and be vulnerable. Two major enemies must be confronted and overcome by the couple who will experience true intimacy: pride and fear. We all want our spouse to respect us, honor us, and be proud of us. Yet none of us are perfect; we have said, thought and done things that we are not proud of, and that we know might shock, grieve, disappoint, or even wound our other half. And so our pride sets us up for fear. And fear keeps our white-knuckled hand on the lock that would open that closet door and begin the process of moving toward genuine intimacy in our marriage. Husband and wife; both must be willing and ready to make intimacy a reality in the marriage relationship.

Finally, both husband and wife must be ready to extend grace to one another. A spouse is never more vulnerable than when they courageously open that closet door or take off the emotional baggage and get naked before their other half. How their spouse treats them at that moment will either encourage them to move into deeper intimacy or cause them to run far from it. Let's be honest. Marriage is a much-grace-required relationship. It means giving a spouse what they need rather than what I think they may deserve. Without grace none of us is worthy; yet with it we can all experience intimacy at a level we never dreamed possible!