Creating an Intimacy Timeline

Your sexual history can impact how your intimate life in marriage is going now. Whether your past contains negative or positive messages and experiences affects how you view sexuality now. This is definitely a challenge in many marriages — to move beyond what came before and create new scripts in keeping with God’s design for intimacy in marriage.

All too often, however, we don’t even realize how we’ve been impacted. We don’t pause to make the connection between our past and our present. I suggest that you create an Intimacy Timeline. This exercise can help you pinpoint when and how your sex life got off track.

Let me explain what this Intimacy Timeline would look like by illustrating from my own life.

List factors that affected your view of and satisfaction with sexuality. I went for broad categories of childhood, premarriage, newlywed, post-children, and mid-life — although I certainly could have tracked more variations by using specific ages.

Childhood: conflicting messages about sexuality (media focused on sexuality vs. religious messages of “just don’t do it!”), didn’t feel pretty

Premarital: no strategy for maintaining purity, curiosity about sex, promiscuity, guilt, multiple short-term partners

Newlywed: in love, secure in relationship, freedom to engage in sex, ample time, high sex drive

Post-children: low sex drive, estrogen deficiency, exhaustion, menstruation problems

Mid-life: increased sex drive, improved marriage relationship, endometrial ablation, vasectomy, commitment to time alone with hubby

Assign a value to the categories, with 0 being not one way or the other, -5 being awful, and +5 being ideal. For myself, I put Childhood: -1, Premarriage: -4, Newlywed: +3, Post-children: -3, Mid-life, +4. Of course, you could use any range you want.

Transfer the data to a graph to see your sexual intimacy through the years.

By doing this exercise, I see when my intimacy suffered — when I was promiscuous before marriage (see My Personal Testimony) and after having children (see When My Sex Life Sucked). I can also see when my intimacy soared. Yeah, increased sex drive! Yeah, better marriage relationship! Yeah, all that practice that has paid off!

What things might negatively affect your sexual health and satisfaction?

  • Overly strict messages about sexuality — such as sex is bad, sex is for men only, etc.
  • Being molested or raped
  • Ongoing sexual harassment
  • Pornography
  • Sexually-transmitted disease
  • Promiscuity
  • Low sex drive
  • Pain in intercourse
  • Sexual mistreatment or apathy from a partner
  • Extreme difficulties with menstruation
  • Infertility
  • Poor body image

And the list could go on.

Positive factors might include:

  • Quality biblical teaching about sexuality
  • Maintaining purity before marriage
  • Getting married
  • Taking a marriage and sexuality class with your spouse (with homework:))
  • Trying new things
  • An increase in sex drive
  • Mentoring other couples

And the list could go on.

Try this exercise. Sit down and list those things that you believe have impacted your approach to sexuality and your current satisfaction with this area of your marriage. Give those messages or experiences a value from -5 to +5, with 0 being a-okay but nothing special. Then chart a timeline to see where you have been.

What can an Intimacy Timeline reveal?

Are you making general progress or backtracking? For instance, if your sex life is only a +1 but it was in the negatives for most of your life, that’s good. However, if your sex life is a +1, but it has been +3 to +5 for most of your marriage, you might need to pause and address whatever the problem might be. Some ups and downs are to be expected, but living according to God’s design for marital intimacy should result in an overall upward trajectory.

Are there events in your past still affecting you negatively? If you were molested, told sex was terrible, and struggled with weight as a child, it would be no surprise to discover that poor body image and/or low sex drive affect you now. Even if your current situation is substantially better than that awful time, those messages are likely hang around in the background until you replace them with the positive truth from God’s Word. Maybe you’ve blocked it out to some extent, but it shows up when you represent your sexual health in an Intimacy Timeline.

Do you have current issues that need to be addressed? Had I done an Intimacy Timeline when my kids were infants or toddlers, I would have noticed how terrible things were. At the time, I didn’t realize how much our sex life had dropped off and how unavailable I was to my husband. I was in survival mode: I was tangled up in the trees and couldn’t see the forest. Doing this exercise would have helped me to step back and gauge where our intimacy was. Armed with that information, I could have spoken more candidly to my doctor and my husband about our sexuality and remedied problems. I’m betting many of you have analogous situations.

Are you and your spouse on the same page? If both spouses create an Intimacy Timeline, you can compare how you view your marital intimacy.

Maybe your lines wouldn’t be as in sync as the ones above. Perhaps you think things are going fine, so you’d give your current intimacy a +3. And then you find out from his Intimacy Timeline that it’s a -2 for him — meaning he feels sex-starved right now. Wouldn’t a loving wife want to know that?  Wouldn’t a loving husband want to know if his wife thinks sex is not going well now because it hurts or she’s tired or whatever?

An Intimacy Timeline is simply a tool to see where you’ve been and where you are, and then to actively plot where you’re going. It can also be a tool for communication with your spouse to see where the two of you are going — or rather, growing — together as a couple. Take a look at where you’ve been and where you want to go. Pinpoint issues that have negatively affected you and start to deal with them.

I’m a firm believer in redemption and healing from God. Yet you will not likely combat a bunch of negative messages with a single great experience. In fact, psychologists say we need about five positive messages to combat every one negative message. But you can start today. Take a new approach. Make new memories. Experience new satisfaction. When you start piling up the positives, the negatives will slowly fade. Your Intimacy Timeline can mostly hang out on the positive side, and maybe some of you will even have those +6 times.

Let me know if you use this exercise and how it works for you.

Note: I appreciate all of the questions from Monday’s post. You are welcome to add your question there at Q&A for J at HHH. I will begin answering the inquiries next week.

12 thoughts on “Creating an Intimacy Timeline

  1. John Wilder

    Unfortunately the church is the last place that you should learn about sex although it should be the first. They teach little girls that sex is bad, dirty and wrong and that good girls don’t do it. They never teach the sex positive messages from the bible. Many pastors will even teach that masturbation is a sin even there is no biblical prohibition on it. Bev and Tim LeHayes book The Act of Marriage is riddled with physiological, psychological and scriptural errors. They teach that oral sex between a man and his wife is forbidden and sodomy, that the only valid orgasm for a woman is a vaginal one.

    The church also ignores the biblical mandate in the NT in Titus 2 where it says that the older women of the church are supposed to teach the younger women of the church how to love their husbands (sexually) so that the word of God is not blasphemed.

    It is for these reasons that I am writing my book and explaining to couple the nitty gritty of great sex as commanded in Proverbs 5

    John

    1. J

      I agree that churches historically get a bad grade in this subject. However, I am encouraged by the marriage and sexuality ministries I’ve seen cropping up in recent years. Our resources and willingness to speak have multiplied lately. There are indeed positive messages about sex in the Bible. Hey, God created this act!

      As to Christian books on sexuality, I have read the one you mention and many others. I tend to glean from books — take what I think is useful and not worry about what I disagree with. Of course, I want my own reasoning to be based on scripture, so that’s where I turn as the definitive source.

      Titus 2 is a wonderful reminder for us to take our mentoring roles seriously. Thanks, John.

  2. Greg

    This is an excellent idea, as it provides both a neutral and informative visual explanation for each spouse. I can see where it would also be a great springboard for initiating conversation and understanding.

  3. Anonymous

    My husband and I are having a problem in our sex life. I think it’s serious, and he thinks it’s no big deal. I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he gets very angry at me, and it causes him to close up and not talk about it. I am a very sexual person, and really doesn’t put very much importance on it. We are newly weds so I was expecting a very active sex life. He is a wonderful man in every sense, but when it comes to sex, I am starving! He accused me of making sex the focus of everything. I don’t believe that at all, but he makes me feel dirty for wanting it. Everything is good in our marriage until bedtime. He wants to watch a movie or go right to sleep, and I am lying beside him dying to feel his body and feeling so undesirable to him. We love each other very much, but I go to bed very depressed every night. I’m sure he would want no part of counseling on sexuality because he thinks I have a problem with thinking sex is more important than anything. I don’t know what to do.

    1. J

      First of all, I want to say that you are NOT alone. I had several women in my last post asking what to do when their sex drive is much higher than their hubbies’. Second, because this is such a common topic, and quite frankly it’s often hard to find other women friends who will relate or sympathize, I will be addressing it NEXT MONDAY. I don’t want to put you off, but I do want to give this issue fair and full treatment. I hope you’ll hang in there and check back.

      On a side note, boy am I going to be praying for God’s wisdom! I know you — and others — are hurting, not so much because you can’t get that physical release (which is what sex-hungry hubbies also get accused of at times), but because you want that emotional intimacy in your marriage. My heart goes out to you.

  4. Anonymous

    Omg, I can relate with what that lady said. I kept myself before marriage mostly because of guilt and years of self imposed self control. My hubby on the other hand, was quite promiscous.Now we’ve been married 3months and where I expected unbridled passionate sex, I’m left disappointed. I keep wondering if I should have engaged in some before we wedded? Worse, I’m also pregnant which means it would only decline and get worse. We are very much in love and he is the Man of my dreams but I feel he’s had his own share of passionate sex and doesn’t feel the need to carry on as much. And me? At 25, I want it all the time. I yearn for him at night, and during the day I just stare lustfully at my husband. Wondering why he doesn’t want it as much as I do? I’m frustrated.

    1. J

      Coming up on Monday is my response to women being the higher drive partner. It happens. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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