Intimacy. People often confuse it with sex. But people can be sexual without being intimate. One night stands, friends with benefits, or sex without love are examples of purely physical acts with no intimacy involved. They are what they are, but they don’t foster warmth, closeness or trust.
Intimacy means deeply knowing another person and feeling deeply known. That doesn’t happen in a conversation in a bar or during a lovely day at the beach or even at times during sex. It doesn’t happen in the first weeks and months of a new and exciting relationship. It doesn’t develop when one person nurtures a relationship more than the other. No. Intimacy, like fine wine takes time to deepen and mellow. It takes gentle handling and patience by all involved. It takes the willingness to make mistakes and to forgive them in the name of learning.
Intimacy is what most people long for but not everyone finds, or rather, makes. Why? Because intimacy, true closeness with another human being, can also be scary. Getting to the intimate core of a relationship requires that both people work through their fear. By visiting and revisiting these areas, intimacy matures and mellows over time.
What Intimacy Involves:
Knowing: A truly intimate relationship lets both people know on the deepest level who they each truly are. They have looked into each other’s soul and found what something they value and appreciate so much that it can withstand the inevitable differences that exist between any two individuals.
Acceptance: Neither person feels the need to change the other or to change themselves in fundamental ways. Oh yes, minor changes always occur when people accommodate each other to live together. But neither member of the couple thinks to him or herself, “Well — with time, I’ll get him or her to change who they are.”
Appreciation of differences: Both understand that they don’t need to be entirely the same to be close. In fact, part of the delight of relationships is the discovery of differences and appreciation for each other’s uniqueness. Learning about each other’s points of view is seen as an opportunity to expand their worlds.
Safety: True intimacy happens when both people feel safe enough to be vulnerable. There is support for each other’s weaknesses and celebration of each other’s strengths. The couple has agreed on a definition of fidelity and both feel secure that the other will not violate that understanding.
Compassionate problem-solving: Elephants don’t come to stay in the middle of the “room” of the relationship. Issues are confronted by both people with love, compassion and a willingness to engage with whatever problems have come up. The two work to be on the same team, solving a problem, rather than on different teams competing with each other.