What is intimacy?
Intimacy: close familiarity or friendship; closeness. A more accurate definition: Truth that affects connection. How can you be close to a human being if you don’t know them? Think about it? John Alexander, how do you feel about him? Are you close? Do you feel familiar or a sense of close friendship with John? Of course not. You don’t even know who John Alexander is. The further away one person is from another the weaker the potential for intimacy. The opposite is also true. The closer you are to the truthful version of someone a stronger feeling of intimacy grows.
Intimacy is a powerful experience. It is the amazing connection that occurs when one human truly knows another and vice versa. To accurately see into the complete human being and accept them generates a deep sense of validation and esteem for both. It is the pathway to healthy love.
Imagine a friend. We will call her Susie. Susie is a nurse with 2 kids and a loving husband. She is a Christian and loves her church. Susie is an avid crafter and used to sing and dance in high school. She has a masters degree in education and currently is looking for a job in the local school district. You are very close to Susie. She has been your friend for over a year and you have so much in common. However, one day she sits you down and admits to an incredible story:
“My real name is Jennifer and I am a high school drop out that ran away from home when I was 15. I only go to that church to get free food and support because I am flat broke. I don’t even like my husband. I only married him for a place to stay and actually the kids are his from a previous marriage. Can you let me stay with you? I can’t handle living there with those people any more...”
Shocked? Of course. This incredible story seems quite unlikely, but it actually occurred with one of my clients and she couldn’t stop feeling betrayed. I asked her what was the real challenge? She said, “I thought I knew her. Everything about her was a lie. I have no clue who this person is and I am both mad and sad because I just lost my best friend.” My client was suffering from the crash of truth. Jennifer was trying to come clean, for her own selfish reasons, but by hiding her identity and what her true agenda was she crushed any sense of intimacy that had been developed and immediately destroyed affection, connection and any potential for love from my client.
Every human lies. Everyone. They all hide aspects of their self, thoughts, behavior, wants and desires. They protect themselves with their own dishonest identity so that they will not be judged, thrown away, or caught in behavior that they selfishly feel they need regardless of healthy boundaries. They all lie. This is the chasm that separates two humans from absolute intimacy. Many lovers share many secrets and truths with each other and build a bond, but dishonesty on any level is the sand that grinds the machine and breaks down connection over time.
In the mating or courting phase of the relationship the dishonesty is rampant. This is the marketing zone. We are selling ourselves. We are promoting value and hiding a great deal of ourselves to be accepted and adored and ultimately kept. This is the cause for many bad starts of mis-matched couples that ultimately find themselves “fixing” their broken relationship aspects down the road. Truth is the action item that will prevent us from actually connecting with someone that we either don’t deserve, doesn’t deserve us or ultimately will simply cause us both harm in the future. The truth will set you free.
Intimacy is truth. It is complete and absolute truth. It is given in kindness and with compassion. Did you hear that? Truth that is shared, even if it is a truth that is hard to share should only be given with a tone of kindness from a place of compassion and empathy. Truth that is shared from anger or punishment or frustration is actually harmful. The words get lost in the tone and the intimacy will dissolve. If you are in an angry or frustrated place, share THAT, but make it a point to either correct your tone or pause until you can actually express yourself from a calm and compassionate place. But, intimacy is complete truth.
How can we ever abolish dishonesty? We can’t. Everyone lies. But we can practice telling the truth more often. We can practice being more open and clear and we can practice looking at ourselves and others with tools and action so that we can live in truth.
Why is intimacy so important? If you love me, I will not actually feel the love unless you love the TRUE me. I can live in the puppet show of your adoration of my presentation, but I will never actually feel truly validated, accepted or cared for unless I risk it all and share all of me with YOU. As you know me more clearly then I will feel your adoration and affection in my soul. I will feel more safe, more confident and ultimately LOVED. Intimacy is the pathway to healthy love. Intimacy is more potent than sex and more powerful than time in creating a lasting bond. But remember the Susie/Jennifer story, every lie, every deception and every dodge is actually setting both humans up for betrayal and disconnection. Even the subtle “white lies” foster suspicion. If you can lie so easily with small things you are very apt to lie about the large and important items.
We are not suggesting that you share all of your secrets on the first coffee date, but you should be as absolutely honest as you can be from the very first moment you interact. Share truth.
One of my clients was up and down in her depression and was hopelessly lost in her loneliness. She wanted to meet someone so bad and spent hours online looking for potential partners. She wanted to find love. She kept meeting these men who were in various stages of emotional health and ultimately being rejected. It was crushing. She told me, “I am honest with them. I tell them that I am having a hard time and am looking for love and they always end up running away.” My client is not being honest. She is not being honest with HERSELF. She isn’t looking for love she is looking for someone to fix her pain.
These men are seeking to use someone for their own needs and so is she. Both humans are lying. They are using each other. They leverage the words of connection to seek each other out but ultimately neither really wants what they say they want. They both want the same thing though, to feel better. How they are seeking to accomplish the goal is different and ultimately the wrong behavior. She needs to heal her internal pain before she looks for love. The moment we NEED something we must pay close attention to the real agenda. The only true needs are food, shelter, sleep and water. Everything else is a want and if our needy instincts drive our behavior we are apt to make mistakes and lying will be our asset. To ourselves and others, even if we don’t mean too.
Imagine how few connections they each would have if they opened their profiles with
Her: “I am looking for any reasonable man to simply make me feel better about myself. I am needy and lonely and don’t want frivolous sex. I just want you to make me feel better so that I can stop being depressed..”
Them: “I am an insecure man looking to talk romantically and make you think that there is a chance for us but ultimately I am hoping to have sex and then leave you after I feel validated. I need this to make me feel better so that I can stop being depressed...”
Now both of those statements are honest. They are broken, but at least they are honest. They won’t get either her or them what they are looking for but at least neither will be betrayed or rejected with lies. The real truth is hard to look at for all of us, but it is the only doorway to true love. Since most of us lie, and lie quite a bit, the reality is that the world is full of intimacy virgins. Love virgins that don’t even know what they are missing. They don’t know why their relationships are a series of "almosts" or why they can’t seem to find the right one or why they cheat or run away or betray. They are working so often on looking for one an another and yet failing over and over.
I had a 53 year old male client that had been in 5 long term relationships. He was handsome and charming. Affluent and smart and lost in the act of bedding many women. He was sad about the fact that his life seemed empty and pointless with regards to marriage or long term relationships. Why could he not find the right one? I told him the truth, “You are an intimacy virgin. You have never truly loved or been loved by anyone.” He was shocked by this statement. “It can’t be. I have had wonderful relationships and slept with many many women. I was crushed for over a year when my last girlfriend left me. I was so in love with her. I still am.”
I looked him straight in the eye and said softly and plainly, “Your instincts and emotional self was satiated by her. She was a beautiful drug that you used for many years. You grew quite addicted to her. But just like any addicted person, if they stop the habit they feel fear, loss and constantly want to run back to it again. This is not love. This is addiction. Love is something that you give. Intimacy is the doorway to love and you have provided neither. You had secrets and ultimately she could only give love to a fake version of you. This doesn’t satisfy. We want to be 100% known and accepted and if we are truthful then we will find our truthful match. You will need to wake up to what needs to be fixed in you and be prepared to see and provide truth. One day you will experience intimacy if you choose and if you do, the love that you feel will explode in you, and yet if it was better for her that you leave her you would do it right away, because giving someone what they need is love.”
I had a marriage. A beautiful and long marriage with a sweet, loving, loyal woman. We raised wonderful daughters together. But, after much work on me I realized that I wasn’t being honest with her or me. We were a mis-match. I was comfortable but not completely with the person that I wanted. I longed for someone to push me, partner with me and grow with me. She wanted a loyal, fun, christian man that she could depend on and share life with and I knew that she would never leave me to go find it. She would simply settle for her comfortable life with me. She was beautifully addicted to “us” and our lifestyle. So I did the correct thing. The hard thing. I left. I left her to free her. To give her the opportunity to find her fit. She is beautiful. She is not less than because she is no longer my fit. She is an amazing human being. I left. I left her to free me. To give me the opportunity to be with my fit. I am not less than because I am no longer her fit. The world did NOT like my choice. They seem to feel more secure if couples simply stay and work things out regardless of fit. This is NOT their life choice to make, but they do have opinions. I love me and her enough to not worry about the audience. I want to be honest. I want to be true. I want to feel love. I want her to be loved. I believe in truth.
So what is intimacy? Truth that affects connection and develops a closeness. It is the pathway to love. There are 7 primary sectors of sharing truth with your loving partner:
If you share all truth in these areas with your loving partner, and they do the same (honestly), the truth will set you both free and create a connection that is amazing. I completed my fear, moral, resentment, Sex Conduct and profile inventory for my entire life and so did my lover. We shared our life history with each other and cried and held each other. The connection and experience brought us very close. But, the real trick is too keep current daily. We endeavor to keep up to date and honest in each of these areas.
Too many humans go straight to body intimacy after a fun night of dancing and romance. They absolutely can feel a connection and then go about the process of building a relationship. But, the intimacy is flat. It isn’t complete and the body sharing could have been so much more powerful if it had been shared LAST. The goal is to build the intimacy over time, but to avoid dishonesty along the way. Be true to YOU and them from the start and you have a good chance to minimize jealousy, insecurity and doubt. If you aren’t a fit this isn’t rejection this is simply truth. Set yourself free. If you are a fit then continue to share in each category until every secret and every aspect of your true self is on the table. If your lover looks at all of who you are and gives you the same respect you will feel LOVE in a way that you can not imagine.
In a 12 step environment these inventories are shared with a sponsor:
I once had a discussion with a fellow member that said he would never share all of that data with his spouse. I asked him why not? He said she might leave him if she found out all of his past. I said, “Then she isn’t a fit. You do what’s right for you. I have no judgement, however if I can’t be completely honest with my lover then I am in the wrong relationship. If I have been broken and made mistakes in the relationship that I can’t confess I am already separated. I need to be heard, forgiven and move on so that I can feel love otherwise it will end over time regardless.”
He thought about that. The next day he told me that he chose to share his inventory that night with his wife. She did the same and they learned that both of them had made some pretty big mistakes, but after sharing them from a sincere place and establishing that they are much different people today, they both hugged, cried and woke up to the fact that they are perfect for each other. If I can’t listen to my lovers mistakes and secrets with compassion then I have work to do on ME. Everyone lies. Everyone has shame. Everyone has secrets from the past and we all deserve understanding and a chance to change. If my lover continues to break her word or cause harm I can choose to let her go. This is not rejection. This is love. This is me loving ME. This is me giving her what she needs, accountability and ultimately I shouldn’t blame her if she can’t stop acting harmfully. If I choose to stay in harms way, then this is MY mistake not hers. Love is giving. I can give love. Sometimes that means walking away. But, if she chooses to work on herself and needs support, then even if she falters and makes mistakes along the way, I can choose to give her patience and devotion. This is love.
The wonderful feelings I get when she makes me dinner, or is nice to me, or makes love to me or buys me a gift is appreciation. It is happiness or gratitude. But love is something I give. The feeling I get when I give love is my own creation. So NO one can make you feel love by what they do. They can make you feel valuable. They can give you the feeling of joy or laughter or even sadness. But when you say I LOVE YOU, you are actually committing to the action of giving it. YOU make love. You can have all of the love you want. Go give a bunch. If you are not feeling loved, then perhaps you are not giving enough to the right people the right way.
So don’t say, “I don’t feel loved.” You can be unappreciated, or rejected or even ignored and shamed. But these are their own feelings from separate actions. If you want these attributes in your ideal then LOVE you and let the person go who doesn’t have them to offer and find the one who does, or seek to restore these attributes as a couple with work. But ultimately, it is YOU that needs to change. Grow. LOVE yourself enough to invest in YOU. Grow. Be loving. Learn to see and tell yourself the truth. Be honest with YOU. Change. As you love you then you will have more love to give and you will start to feel these other wonderful emotions as the world reflects it back to you.
Walking through intimacy is critical. We will be one of the first humans that has ever shared everything with another. You will need to cross share and open yourself up. This process will foster transference. The only aspect of the intimacy chain that we shouldn’t share is body intimacy with all humans. All of the intimacy markers foster healthy love based on the roles that we have established, but the moment we share body intimacy whether through massage or visually or whatever technique opens the persons body to you will develop romantic intimacy. This is harmful to practice with the wrong person. Unless you choose to work with healthy nudist enthusiasts and this is your persuasion, I don’t judge, you shouldn’t encourage body intimacy. Leave that for your lovers. Many of us in love coaching have made this mistake and it ultimately created the wrong type of energy. If you intend to be or are lovers then by all means take off your clothes and open yourselves up to the experience, but if you are not the intentional lover of the human being you are caring for then focus on the other 6 markers of intimacy. This will generate a healthy love that you both can benefit from. Be honest.
What should a loving couple be prepared to share with each other? Everything
What should a loving couple keep to themselves? Nothing
What should a loving couple do to love more? Give love more
Who feels love? The giver of the love
What is Intimacy? Truth that generates closeness
How do we feel joy and connection the pathway to love? Intimacy