Genuine Intimacy – What is it and Can Singles Experience it?
July 8, 2012 Blogs, Family and Relationship Health, Human Sexuality by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

Hi Dr. J,

What exactly is intimacy? Is it a human need or just a want? Is it just for marriage? If it is a need we were created with, how do singles fulfill that need without violating the design protocol?

I’d love if you could do a seminar for singles/divorcees, etc. We’ve been socialized to feel we must have a partner, but in my opinion, I’m going to be miserable if I keeping thinking I need something I may never have. People keep citing “it is not good for man to be alone”…so what if you never marry/re-marry?



You have asked some very insightful and important questions. Many people confuse intimacy with sexuality. But true intimacy is about a deep, abiding, trust, confidence, heart fellowship, such that two parties “know” each other and love each other deeply. Such unity is certainly designed to be experienced within the marriage relationship, which also include physical intimacy. However, intimacy of heart is not exclusive to marriage and can be experienced without physical intimacy.

To open yourself to another, to allow another to peer into the deep recesses of your being, to allow yourself to be fully seen, disrobing your soul for the full inspection of another person, and to experience acceptance, love, and appreciation, to be valued and cherished and do the same with the other is what genuine intimacy is all about.

This type of intimacy is to be experienced between those who know and love Christ. Such unity is how God has designed his intelligent beings to live and what Christ prayed to his Father about in John 17 “I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (vs. 21) We are to experience unity of heart, knowing and loving each other deeply.

Intimacy is a human need, part of God’s design for our being and not exclusive to the marriage relationship. Singles can experience intimacy first in their relationship with God, as Jesus modeled for us, and second in true human friendships. But such intimacy is only safe with those who are trustworthy, those who genuinely love you more than they love themselves. This means, true intimacy can only be experienced by those who are in union with God, just as Jesus prayed. “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

While intimacy is a human need, marriage, in this world of sin, is not for everyone. It is true marriage was part of God’s design for humanity in Eden, but because of sin not all humans are well fitted for marriage. Some individuals actual function better as single people. Jesus, after counseling his disciples about marriage said, “For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (MT 19:11:12)

Jesus states plainly that some, for God’s kingdom, have chosen to remain single, while others were eunuchs by birth and others by man’s abuse. Being single, however, doesn’t mean one cannot be intimate. Single people can open their hearts in love and become united in genuine Christlike love with others.

What prevents one from experiencing true intimacy? Either one’s own fear (fear of rejection, fear of getting hurt, fear of not being liked) or inability to find another person who actually is capable of genuine other-centered love; of these two possibilities, failure to experience intimacy is almost always due to one’s own fear and insecurity.

Perfect love casts out all fear, and such perfect love originates in God. Therefore, my recommendation is to first get to know Jesus, and based on the evidence He has provided of His supreme loveliness and trustworthiness, open yourself to Him, the One who will never disappoint, never let you down, the One who already knows everything about you and loves you completely. Experience love and intimacy with Him and then, standing on the assurance of your acceptance and intimacy with Jesus, reach out to love others and you will find genuine human intimacy with others who also love and trust Jesus as their Savior.

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.
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