Intimacy is Everything
What is it that people need in order to have a fulfilling relationship? It’s a question that couples have been asking for almost as long as there have been couples! And, as with most questions about love, the answer isn’t always easy. Everyone has their own ideas about what being fulfilled means. Everyone has unique needs and wants so it might seem like a waste of time to try and come to a single conclusion.
Still, with what we have already learned in the Everything Matters series, we can lay a foundation for building a great relationship.
Before we get to that, let’s start by talking about intimacy. Usually, that word conjures up images of sexual intimacy. And that’s OK. The type of intimacy that we’re going to be talking about is about way more than sex but sex gives us a great metaphor for understanding where we are going with this conversation.
Just like with committed relationships, sex is not something that we share with everyone we meet. Sex is something that we reserve for a relatively small number of people. We have all sorts of reasons for choosing who we want to have sex with and to give this part of ourselves to but perhaps the most important is how emotionally risky it is. Sexual intimacy with someone else requires a high degree of vulnerability. Before you literally lay yourself bare on your lover’s bed, you have to feel safe, you have to trust them. Nothing is hidden.
Great vulnerability like this has the potential for great risk. But it also carries the potential for deep connection.
The same thing is true of emotional or relational intimacy. If you’re like me, you probably interact with a lot of people in the course of any given week. But I can also count on both hands the number of people who I feel close and safe enough with to be able to share my emotional vulnerabilities. Of all the people that I meet, there are just a few who I want to share everything with. These are the people that know me – that I’ve hidden very little from. These are the people that see parts of my life that I don’t feel safe sharing with anyone else.
In some ways, intimacy is a measure of how much someone know about you compared to how much you know about yourself.
When we are able to know ourselves deeply (like in part one), and when we learn to be aware of exactly what we are communicating (like we talked about in part two), we have the foundation we need to become more deeply connected to the people we love. We develop the skills to make our own needs known in our relationship but also to hear and understand the needs of our partner. We begin to understand that true intimacy is about the willing dance between what you need and what I need.
The same safety and trust that allows me to trust my partner with my body is required if I am to trust them with my emotional self, as well. When we lay our emotions, our wants and desires, bare before our partner, they will not be mocked or ridiculed or minimized. They will be celebrated, honored, and shared. This is incredibly risky but, when that connection is made, there is no more fulfilling feeling.
Let’s take this idea back to where we started this series: the brain. When you get to know some deeply and intimately, your brain literally changes. You begin to wire that person into the very fabric of who you are. Just like as you begin to sort through those things that formed you and colored the lenses through which you experience the world, and just as you understand that others have their own set of lenses, intimately knowing someone’s emotional world can help you interpret the world how they might interpret it. It’s like you gain a copy of their lenses and you are able to see things close to how your partner might see them.
And when that happens – when you’ve communicated and shared and loved and grown – the needs that they have can seem less like nagging and more like those needs are your very own. You can celebrate when they are happy, and not be jealous. You can hold them when they are sad and not feel the need to fix it or a sense of blame. You don’t just understand them intellectually, you can begin to see the world through their eyes and experience the world through their senses.
Intimacy like this is powerful because it unlocks the most basic secret to fulfilling relationships. When our own needs are understood as being a part of who we are, our partners willingness to meet them feels a lot like love. When our needs are rejected, it feels a lot like we, ourselves, are rejected too.
The foundation for a fulfilling relationship then? It’s an intimacy that allows us to be able to be present with the people we love, to truly listen, to fully understand, and to care without any ulterior motive getting in the way. It’s an intimacy that allows our partners to be the same for us.
Intimacy is the ability to see the world through your partners eyes – to experience what it must be like to be in their skin.
Intimacy provides the safety to share your own areas of vulnerability without fear of repercussion.
Intimacy is awareness of the things that lead our partners to feel happy, angry, sad, or wild with ecstasy.
Intimacy is everything.
And, it’s about coming to the realization that everything matters.