When we think of the term “intimacy” our minds often conjure thoughts of warm kisses and discarded clothing. This is certainly an important aspect of intimacy, but there is much more to it than that.
Intimacy refers to all sorts of closeness, with friends and family, as well as significant others. We can be intimate with people intellectually and emotionally, as well as physically. And in order to manifest the most fulfilling intimacy, we have to find ways to tap into all avenues of intimacy.
More frequently than not, we are hyper-focused on achieving intimacy only one way — through sex. And most of us feel like we are not getting enough intimacy through sex alone. It is difficult for our loved ones to fill our “love” and “intimacy” meter solely with intimacy from sex. This creates pressure, and sparks the never-ending relationship “push/pull” cycle.
For some, it can be difficult to experience intimacy and open ourselves up completely. It can be difficult to let people into our inner thoughts and feelings or to engage with others physically, whether that means being crowded together, hugging, or having sex. It’s hard for us because getting close to someone always comes paired with the risk of losing that closeness or being hurt in some way. Perhaps it has happened before, and the pain and fear never quite faded.
But intimacy is crucial to living a fulfilling life. The close connections that we build with the people we love and who love us make even the most trivial interactions feel significant and memorable. Learning to open ourselves up to intimacy starts with learning to be more vulnerable. That’s what we’re going to learn how to do today.
Certainly exposing ourselves to weaknesses and fears seems like a bad idea. But remember the “trust falls” from every summer camp and team-building exercise? They are meant to remind us that our friends have got our back, and being able to truly believe and rely on that is incredibly freeing.
We all want our friends to feel they can trust us, but that is a two-way street. In order to be trusted, we must show trust, as well. And eventually that relationship becomes more comfortable and dependable, until we feel we can say or do anything with that person and know that they will support us.
Although, something important to keep in mind is that trust isn’t only represented by a behavior from our significant other. It is about 80% of a choice that starts with us. When we choose to hold resentment, anger, or mistrust, then the other person could move mountains to “gain” your trust, yet it will never be enough. Trust is a decision that acts on blind faith that first and foremost has to come from you.
Ever heard the saying “You must love yourself before you can love someone else?” The same is true for honesty. In order to be honest with others about our innermost thoughts and feelings, we must first recognize them for ourselves. What do we really think of the people in our lives and their actions?
If we’re honest with our friends and colleagues, we never have to feel like we’re putting on a facade. And few things are as refreshing (or respected) as feeling completely authentic. Telling the truth untangles lots of social situations and prevents the need for complicated story-telling. It can be scary, but people appreciate a straight-forward, up-front interaction.
There are lots of risks involved in being more vulnerable, but higher stakes always yield higher rewards. We have to have the courage to work through the fear of rejection or awkwardness or discomfort. Just as with starting an exercise regiment, it often feels impossible in the beginning. But once we start to see results, we are so glad we stuck with it.
One of the largest fears that comes with becoming intimate is the fear that the person we let in will leave or betray us the way others have… all in all, abandon us. But if we let that stop us from ever trying in the first place, then we never give that person a chance to prove us wrong. We should never choose to remain alone so that we’re never left alone. And we should not attribute the faults of people in our past to people we want in our future.
So trying being vulnerable and open yourself up to some intimacy this week. If you are not feeling okay, ask a friend or colleague if they have some time to talk. If someone gives you a hug, hug them back. Appreciate the closeness that is always within arm’s reach. And try being there for others too.
Again, intimacy is a two way-street. An excellent how-to book on facilitating, understanding, and creating intimacy that is an absolutely must read is called “Intimacy” written by a great author, Osho.
Looking to add more intimacy to your relationship? Download our free couple counseling packet to see how a few sessions can help reignite your relationship.