Posted tagged ‘intimacy’

Counterfeit Intimacy

February 25, 2009

This post is the 2nd in a follow-up series to Sharing Our Story (Jan 26). The 1st follow-up to that was the post called What Drives You To Act Out (Feb 19). This series is targeted to people who struggle with addictions and their spouses. If you’re not an addict (or married to one) the following info might be really weird for you. I’m just sayin’.

I wanted to write about the issue of Counterfeit Intimacy some more, as it has been a foundational issue in my recovery.


First, let’s define intimacy. I do not mean intimacy as sex – which comes immediately to a lot of people’s minds. Instead, I mean intimacy as an emotional connection, not a physical one. It is familiarity, a feeling of belonging together, closeness, of truly knowing each other, “to know and be known”, to not have secrets between you, to empathize with the other person, to share common experiences and goals, to be on the same team emotionally and spiritually, to be accepted and loved for the person you really are.

I never realized how important my need for intimacy, as defined above, was until I got into recovery. And then I came to learn that my addiction to pornography was linked directly to this idea of counterfeit intimacy.

Pornography is a fantasy – yes. It is an aid for physical pleasure and stress relief – yes. But for the addict, it is much more than that. Addicts are looking for something to fill the void which is created inside them by a lack of intimacy in their marriage. We crave that intimacy so much, that when our gauge gets low -and the need is not addressed in a reasonable amount of time – then we will turn to counterfiet intimacy in a lame attempt to fill that need.

Pornography is a counterfeit intimacy because it plays on the illusion of closeness and familiarity. It gives the user a cheap imitation of actual acceptance and love. But it is not real. It is hollow. It cannot fill up the void that exists within. It can only temporarily delay the feeling of isolation. Because the truth is – as soon as you’re done looking at it – the empty feeling wells up from within and is even more powerful than before. And on top of that – you pile guilt and shame on top of it.

It is at this point in the cycle, that you see why people get trapped with it. When you feel that guilt and shame, you can’t look your spouse in the eye (because intimacy and trust has been broken). You now have a secret that exists in the space between the two of you. This makes getting your need for intimacy filled all the more unlikely, because NOW you not only have the normal lack of connection with that person that has to be rekindled through communication and understanding, but now you have actual barriers you have to cross before you can even GET there.

The first barrier is honesty. You have to come clean with your spouse. This will take courage and humility. But most certainly, your spouse will react negatively (obviously.) So you will reach another barrier.

The second barrier is forgiveness. The spouse will need time to process things, to go through anger and frustration and letting their emotions out. And once they get through all that, (hopefully with God’s help and some time), they will offer you forgiveness. This will free you from the guilt and shame, but now you’re on to the third barrier to restoring intimacy.

The third barrier is rebuilding trust. There can’t be intimacy without a component of trust. After all, why would you open up and re-give your heart to someone who is likely to break it again? How do you rebuild trust? My counselor gave me this little tidbit to remember. Trust is easy to define, but hard to build. Trust is: consistent behavior over time. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But for the addict, it’s very hard to get through. You have to consistently make right choices over a long period of time in order to earn back someone’s trust.


Once you’ve made it through those three barriers, now you’re back to ground zero and back to building intimacy between the two of you. Talking, sharing, laughing, crying, communicating, sharing experiences and setting common goals and just generally being on the same page. THAT’s how you create intimacy – and it is its own reward.

Sex between two people who are connected in that type of intimacy is always amazing – not because there’s anything diffeent physically, but because you are living out the biblical promise – “and the two shall be one flesh”. United as one. Sharing everything. Holding nothing back.

So the next time you feel that intimacy in your marriage is on the decline, DO NOT PUT IT OFF. Do whatever it takes to regain it. If your “everyday” efforts do not get you back to that place, then ramp it into overdrive! Take time off work. Get a babysitter. Go away for the weekend. IT’S THAT IMPORTANT. Once you settle for the counterfeit intimacy, you start a cycle of separation that will last a long time and lead to a lot of un-necessary pain.