Intimacy. This word is often used as a synonym for sex. As most of us know, sex and intimacy aren’t the same. We are intimate with family members or dear friends, but that relationship isn’t sexual. Sex in a loveless marriage or out of duty lacks intimacy. What I will discuss here is that special sense of heart to heart connection that allows one to feel seen and heard by a special other and to feel that one really “gets” another person.
The late Stan Dale defined intimacy as INTO-ME-SEE. In other words, allowing oneself to be seen by another person, warts and all. You will know what makes me angry, sad, happy scared, sexually turned on. No topic is off limits and I don’t have to put on a mask of any sort in your company. In return, you will do the same with me, letting yourself be seen and known.
During the getting to know you phase of what will become an intimate friendship or love affair, a great deal of self-revealing conversation goes on: “Do you like that? “How do you feel about this?” There is a joy in the discovery of what makes this other fascinating person tick. We find out how we are alike and marvel at that, and we find out how we are different and find those differences just as fascinating. There is an exchange of facts, certainly, but more importantly we share how we feel.
Once the friendship or the marriage is formed everyday things seem to take over. “Did you take the dog out? Have you called the plumber? How did you do on those tests?” If the couple fosters their intimacy they will also ask “Do you mind taking the dog out every morning? Would you prefer that I do it or we might do it together? How are you feeling about the tests you took? Are you worried? Want to talk about it?”
If both people have just come home from stressful days at work what is more likely is that one plops down in front of the tv to watch the news and the other takes something out of the freezer and pops it into the microwave. They may eat together in silence and then one might go back to watching the tv while the other catches up on emails. Then they go to bed. Yes, they might have sex, but where is the intimacy? They may feel they already know each other’s likes and dislikes, so is that it?
The couple would likely feel so much closer to one another if she came and cuddled on the couch where he was watching tv or he said “Let’s go for a walk as soon as you’re through with the email.” One of them could ask the other “How are you feeling about the situation at work you told me about?” or suggest that the two of you discuss a weekend getaway.
If this is a new approach your partner might be grumpy or uncommunicative. That happens. Don’t give up. Show concern, genuine interest. Ask more questions that begin with “What’s happening with…..?” or “How are you feeling about…..?”
If the person you care about shows that he or she cares about you that’s most heartwarming. These little gestures of interest and caring conversations are what build intimacy. Time has to be created for them to happen. Try to make a point of adding them into your everyday interactions. Intimacy needs to be tended like the most beautiful of plants. The intimacy that flowers from the time spent nurturing it is extremely rewarding.