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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Nature of True Intimacy


Recently I read the following quote by Upendo Kupita Juu: “Intimacy is not entirely physical. In fact, it can have no physical interaction at all. For an intimate relationship to take place, allow someone into your thoughts. Let them hold and caress your feelings. Let them be intimate with your mind. Allow for the emotional intimacy to be the reason for passion to be bred. Now that intimacy is long lasting.”

You may never have considered this aspect of intimacy, simply because our socialization process since we were young, led us down paths that consider intimacy to be only (or mainly) about sex. Not so.

If I had a hundred euros (or dollars) for every couple that has come to see me about a failing sex life, I’d be wealthy by now. We don’t seem to understand that without what I am going to call spiritual intimacy, which goes far beyond emotional intimacy, the physical one simply doesn’t last. As a matter of fact, it hasn’t got the slightest hope, unless perhaps we’re talking about adrenaline & drama-laced relationships of the kind I referred to in my last two newsletter articles (June 2018 & July 2018), which are - as most people who have engaged in one or more of these know very well - highly dysfunctional anyway.

Let’s look again at what a part of the above quote says:

For an intimate relationship to take place, allow someone into your thoughts. Let them hold and caress your feelings.

Allowing someone into your thoughts – allowing someone to hold and caress your feelings … wouldn’t you agree that this kind of intimacy goes far beyond knowing what each other’s political affiliations are, professional aspirations, financial desires, and so on? And wouldn’t you agree that this kind of intimacy goes far beyond telling each other that you love each other? That you want several children and that you want to eventually live in the country as opposed to the city, or vice versa?

At the risk of simplifying what happens in so many relationships, what I am trying to say is that the apparent intimacy of so many couples rests on sharing bed and home, children and bills, social life and vacations, and all the many conversations about thoughts and feelings that focus on these arenas, but not much more that goes beyond that. Not, I hasten to add, because couples are superficial, or not tremendously intelligent, or thoughtful, or articulate, but because, as said earlier, this is what so many of us were raised on, and that we therefore emulate. The sitcoms we see, the billboards, the magazine articles, our social media, all keep us – unless we seek out more – in a place that does not generally develop an intimate intimacy with intimacy.

We can share our deepest, darkest past with each other, our dreams and aspirations, but even that may still be distant from true intimacy, if it is not interwoven into our daily lives. Intimacy is not something that happens occasionally, but that – if we are truly intimate – is an ever-present part of all our shared hours. Unless this is understand by both sides, a woman may be more deeply intimate with a female friend than with her husband, and a man (although less frequently) likewise with a very close friend.

And that is not healthy for true intimacy.

So. What can be done?

For me, an initial foray into this kind of thinking does requires some intimate awareness of the self and one’s thoughts, feelings, reactions, and actions. Without such awareness, how can you (or I) hope to create true intimacy with another?

Another important aspect to this is the desire and willingness to really go there. Am I interested enough in this other person (especially if that person is my partner or spouse), to want to go to the ‘bother’ of achieving such intimacy? I use the word ‘bother’ deliberately. This isn’t something that just happens. It has to be worked on. This is a delving into the other individual – and into the self – with a profound desire to connect on levels that go far beyond what we usually use to connect to each other, such as the fact that the roof has a leak, the kids need new clothes for school in the fall, one of our cars should be replaced, which movie shall we watch, or what we should do this weekend.

You may be thinking that I still haven’t given you anything specific to do in order to begin creating true intimacy. Here’s how I see it. If you begin a deeper relationship with yourself; one that allows you to connect to your true inner essence, by becoming more present and aware, perhaps by using mindfulness as one of your tools, a tool that will simultaneously lead you to greater self-love and emotional maturity, you will – without a single doubt – automatically crave greater intimacy with your loved ones. In fact, without such intimacy, a relationship will seem like a dry desert, where the intimacy could be equated to life-giving water. And you will attempt to move into that direction simply by focusing more on that inner essence of the other. That may be your child, your sibling, your parent, your friend, or your life partner. Not because you have deeply serious conversations, but because you are conversing about whatever topic is on the table, with the inner essence of the other and not only the outer visible part.

You might also like to read some books that walk you down this road, although they don’t give you cookbook recipes to get there. Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, as well as his Soulmates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love and Relationship, are a good place to start. Another good one is Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt, and finally, Zen Therapy: A Buddhist Approach to Psychotherapy by David Brazier. While these books are wildly different, they nevertheless all focus - in some fashion - on intimacy. Some novels, albeit quite old, that connect into this intimacy are The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham, and The Magus by John Fowles (not the film). And while it is slightly harder to pinpoint films that walk this path, The Prince of Tides might be one to start with, as well as Out of Africa, The English Patient, Shadowlands, and The Bridges of Madison County.   

The important part is that you work on becoming intimate with yourself. By so doing, becoming truly intimate with another will begin forming part of your priorities; it will become something that you will actively seek in any important relationship, and you will recognize that without it, a connection to another person merely touches the surface of all that is possible.

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