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February 11, 2015

50 Shades of Intimacy

Kelvin headshot Oct2013 HDRSo…there’s this movie coming out in a couple of days entitled 50 Shades of Grey. You might of heard of it. It is a movie based upon the New York Times Bestseller which just became the greatest selling novel of all time in Great Britain.

What’s it about? Depending upon who you ask, you might get a number of different answers. Without jumping into the myriad of ways in which one might answer, know this…the book falls within the category of erotic fiction. In other words, it is a work of literature that seeks to tickle the sexual fantasies of the reader.

Now, I am not here to preach to you about this book’s place in the pantheon of moral literature, but I do want to look at one of the reasons this book, and the others within E.L. James’ trilogy, are so popular. They speak to a longing that is present within many people. A longing that things could…perhaps…be different—romantically and sexually.

In my work with couples, I’ve learned that this fits the profile for many of them. They want something different. I don’t necessarily mean they want to have the type of sexual experiences described in the book, but many want to have the freedom to express what they want sexually. When this freedom isn’t present, they often turn and look for it in other places like books, movies, or pornography.

But great sex isn’t really what the spouse wants most anyway. What they want most is intimacy. They want a naked emotional experience that won’t bite back. They want to express themselves freely and openly whether that be romantically or sexually. To have that type of intimacy, three things are needed: engagement, comfort with risk, and the ability to deal with rejection.


Many couples are disconnected from one other. They go through the motions in their relationship while maintaining a home together. In order to welcome intimacy into the home, someone has to re-engage.

Whoever decides to take the first step can open the door for intimacy. Engagement can be as subtle as grabbing your partner’s hand and caressing it, and it can be as blatant as telling your spouse that you want them. Right. Now.

Someone has to take that first step; it might as well be you. This step doesn’t guarantee that they will respond positively, but it does ensure that the door to intimacy is unlocked — even if it’s not opened yet.

Comfort With Risk

Intimacy is risky business. However, risky business may be the best type of business for this particular relationship. Marriages need intimacy and sex. Without the fire of romance, marriages freeze to death.

Anytime you play with fire there is always a risk, but the payoff is beneficial once you get that thing a-burnin’. With fire, you can cook your food and heat your homes.

Taking the necessary step towards authenticity requires risk, but you needn’t think of risk as a scary thing. Look at it like this: risk is the thing that kindles any romantic flame. If you avoid risk, the fire won’t burn.

Ability to Deal with Rejection

So you communicate your desire for your significant other and then you tell them you want to experiment sexually with them, but for some reason…they turn down your advance. What then?

Well…then you will likely be hurt and upset.

With intimacy, there is no perfect formula or set of steps that you can follow where this always ends the way you want it to. Unlike books or movies, this is real life. I wish I could give you a magic formula, but it doesn’t exist.

What I will say is that you must develop the ability to deal with this type of rejection and keep it from stopping your pursuit of the intimacy you crave.

Remember, someone has to change the pattern. When the pattern is interrupted, it causes everyone to be uncomfortable. When we are uncomfortable, we seek to keep things the way they’ve always been even if that way is dysfunctional. It happens in every area of a relationship, but it is especially seen when the topic has to do with intimacy and sex.

Don’t give up. Intimacy for married couples is within your grasp. When you experience it, it will be greater than any romance novel or movie—for it won’t be fiction—it will be as real as it gets.

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