Achieving a high level of intimacy is an important part of our lives. Experts have shown us over and over again that having an intimate connection with others is more than just a deep-seated desire, it is often times a necessity to true happiness and well-being. People who have close relationships with friends, family members and spouses are happier, healthier and eager to live longer than those who are lonely and disconnected.
So what does this mean for us in the realization that there may be a lack of intimacy in a present relationship? The first step to achieving true intimacy is be aware of what it means to be intimate.
Intimacy is the experience of connection to another, knowing and being deeply known with all our vulnerabilities, flaws and fears exposed. It is at the core of love and friendship, and is a closeness made up of sharing and understanding. In an intimate relationship we can let go of our inhibitions, we can be vulnerable, and we do not have to be in control in order to feel safe and strong. When we are vulnerable and open in these ways, parts of us become available that are not exposed often in our day-to-day lives. We are vibrant, and completely present in our experience, leaving us to feel whole and alive.
The capacity for intimacy requires a basic confidence and ability to trust others. To allow another person to see us and know us, we must believe that we are worth knowing and that others will treat our true “selves” with care, respect and acceptance. And, even if they don’t, we have to know that we will be able to survive and go on to try again. We must also be willing to extend this same care and respect to the other person. When this process occurs, it is perhaps the greatest gift that a human being can give—the gift of ourselves to another.
Intimacy is NOT a term automatically interchangeable with sex or lust, and is far from an immediate process. True intimacy is not possible on a first date, or even in the first weeks of dating, although sex certainly is. Intimacy in a relationship can only be achieved over time, with nurturing efforts on both parts. It can continue to grow as the two partners get to know one another, become friends, touch, hug, kiss, and show genuine affection.
In this same regard, genuine intimacy and making love are important components in any stable relationship. In a rewarding relationship, sex becomes simultaneously an expression of the closeness that is felt, and a way to deepen and sustain that closeness. It is a path back to one another when the demands of the world – children, jobs, household chores, and even other friends and relatives – seem to be pulling you in opposite directions.
It is so easy in this busy world to become like ‘business’ partners or roommates with your partner, each of you attending to the daily tasks of running a home, a family and a career. Stopping and taking the time to re-establish your intimate relationship with yourself first will allow you the chance to reconnect with your partner.
Too little time is a never ending excuse for lack of effort. So instead of telling yourself there is no time, make time. Let someone else pick the kids up from the school, get takeout instead of making dinner, push taking the trash out until the morning—and don’t feel guilty. Also, allow yourself time to relax and reflect as an individual. This will make it easier to unwind and reconnect with your inner thoughts and emotions, thus making it more enjoyable to relax and enjoy your partner.
Do not to take for granted the power of a simple soft touch, a romantic dinner, or a bubble bath together. These are moments that preserve the intimacy that is so essential to a satisfying life with one another.
To begin again when intimacy has faltered sounds challenging and, quite frankly, may very well be. But to ignore the need to repair injured feelings is sure to result in slow death and destruction of your relationship.
If you know there is a lack of intimacy in your relationship, the process for renewing it will actually provide a richer outcome than you may have thought possible. Just remember, it takes two to make intimacy work. If only one person is putting forth effort you may have to take a step back and evaluate if what you are involved in is in fact a healthy relationship.