The first earthly experience of intimacy that a child has is when he/she is held by his/her mother, and then noticed through visual contact. This is the first form of post-natal physical and emotional intimacy. Breastfeeding is a subsequent strong factor that develops intimacy, as the child is validated physically by the closeness to his/her mum with her accepting gaze. The hormonal interchange that occurs when breastfeeding includes the release of oxytocin: the attachment hormone.
Another moment where this hormone, oxytocin, is significant, is during orgasm in the sexual cycle. It is good to know that when orgasm is experienced in a healthy covenantal context, the release of oxytocin causes the couple to bond more and more. In men, vasopressin (the equivalent hormone to oxytocin) is released to cause this bonding as well. It is a wonder that God created orgasm to be a bonding moment that mimics the same bonding that occurs between a mother and child during breastfeeding.
This closeness between a mum and her baby also includes the child being noticed. Noticing, and being noticed, are an essential parts of building a healthy sense of intimacy. This is because self-knowledge and learning to know someone else is derived from the basic need for attachment that should have been fulfilled from birth. Research also shows that a foetus will also respond to healthy intimacy within the womb (Flower 1983:11; Perry 1990:138).
All this is marvellous knowledge, and it becomes very helpful to us when people want to grow in intimacy with each other, whether it be casual or deeper friendships, dating, marriage, or growing to love others, as God intended for us. All friendships have to grow over time, and this growth is actually an issue of becoming more intimate – knowing and being known.
Firstly it is good to know that God gave every human being the capacity to become intimate and to bond. Not only does he give us the psychological, intellectual and spiritual capacity to do so, but He backs it up with hormonal interchanges that cement the bonds. Many men don’t believe they have the capacity to become intimate in a non-sexual way. This is untrue – the desire and capacity for intimacy is in every human being. It initiates love and fulfils it. It is an exciting path as we choose to believe that we can know and be known.
Secondly, whether we had a mother/child relationship to initiate this intimacy or not, it is very good to know that this should have taken place, to understand the possible deficit we carry around our intimacy. The truth is that Father God has made a way through Jesus, to enter into any lack we may have experienced, and through His Holy Spirit, download the basic trust involved in a mother’s intimate gaze, in an instant. I have seen many people have a download of God’s intimate love poured into their being to cover all intimacy deficits. The Trinity relates through intimacy, so being caught up in this Godly relationship always brings healing and restoration that engenders a greater capacity to be intimate.
Thirdly, intimacy is all about noticing and being noticed. We are all observing and perceiving circumstances all the time, and it doesn’t take much to notice someone and validate something in them. So many married couples find their relationship becoming stale because they have forgotten to notice each other and find something new about their partner that can be celebrated. Noticing and being noticed is at the heart of discipling as well. It is when we notice the God-qualities in others and draw it out of them to meet their creator, that they start realising how loved they are and what Jesus has done for them.
Enjoy growing in intimacy with yourself, God and others today:
- As a result of what you have read, what intimacy deficit do you think you have? Take courage and ask God to come and fill up that void in you.
- As you consider your day, what is one new thing you notice about the way you have behaved, felt or thought in a healthy way? Acknowledge it and celebrate it.
- In your dealings with people today, consider one of your interactions and identify a healthy quality you noticed in someone else. How did you respond to it? Was there anything else you could have done to respond to the person more sincerely?
- What can you do or say to someone close to you to position yourself in a way that they can notice your love for them? Go for it! It might be scary, but it’s well worth it.
If you would like to receive further counsel, or join others in a journey to a healthy, Godly, sexual lifestyle, please see the options available to you on our website: sexualitymatters.co.za