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Poly Love

Synopsis: Uncle Charlie’s introduction to a love weirdness; The Poly Advantage; Questions and Quandaries; Personal Questions; and the Worldwide Scene.

Uncle Charlie’s Introduction to a Love ‘Weirdness’

Jackie opened the door and said, “Hi Mom, Dad, Uncle Charlie.  Come on in and meet two of the guys I’m considering marrying or at least someday living with”.

Dad and Mom looked at her a bit sheepishly and Uncle Charlie looked happily confused but interested. Uncle Charlie said, “So what are you going to do with the husband you already have”?  “I’ll keep him too of course,” Jackie replied.  “All three at the same time?”, Charlie asked, acting like he was sort of going along with a joke.  “Yes, all three, at least some of them at the same time,” Jackie replied in a serious, contemplative tone of voice.

Uncle Charlie looked more puzzled.  “Ah hah,” said Jackie turning to her mother and father.  “You haven’t told him I’m a Poly, have you?”  Jackie’s father spoke up saying, “ I would just get him confused trying to explain it, because I haven’t quite figured it out yet myself”.  Jackie then replied, “Come on in to dinner and I’ll see if I can explain it to you without too much confusion and maybe even without too much embarrassment.”  More people arrived and were introduced as friends and part of Jackie’s “poly” network.  At dinner Jackie explained. “Poly love, or more officially Polyamory, is about two or more people openly loving each other, usually in an ongoing relationship, while acting supportive of their lover’s other love relationships.

“Here’s a basic concept.  If you love somebody you want the one you love to have what they want and need.  Many of us want and need more than one romantic or mate-like relationship.  Therefore, if someone we love intimately wants or needs others we want them to have those relationships.  Since you can love two or more parents, two or more siblings, two or more children,  two or more friends at the same time why not two or more lovers or love mates?

“There are different societies around the world who have lived this love style for hundreds even thousands of years.  More accurately poly love styles, in a variety of different ways, but none of them make for exclusive one-on-one living or for being dishonest about it.  Polys tend to argue that our culture’s way is ‘phony monogamy’ but actually it’s serial polygamy or polyandry with lots of dishonesty.  Affairs, adultery, unfaithfulness, cheating and the like, occur in over half the marriages pretending to be monogamous.  So much doesn’t get shared that deep sharing realness and real intimacy of the heart hardly have a chance.”

Uncle Charlie, an open-minded and bold sort of fella said, “So, let me ask the big question in my mind. What about sex ?  I can’t help but suspect all this Polyamory stuff is all just a mask for a form of ‘swinging’?”  Jackie laughed openly and everyone else giggled or blushed a bit.  “Sex is usually included but not always.  With some, Poly love is done more like long-lasting, deep friendship while relationships in the swinging world tend to be more shallow and brief, though that’s not always true.  But with us Polys it’s really not primarily about sex.  That’s more for ordinary singles, swingers and of course cheaters.  We Poly people are about the people we love having what they need and want, and that can include lots of sex with lots of people, though it usually is confined to a much smaller number of very special people”.

Uncle Charlie looking a bit devilish said, “Again let me ask, altogether at once?”  Jackie responded, “That can happen and does with some Polys.  For other Polys sex is a more private, one-on-one sort of thing.  Again it’s much more about healthy, real love that’s open and honest”.

The Poly Advantage

One of the other dinner guests then spoke up, “The Poly way has a great big advantage.  It is non-deceitful, non-possessive, non-controlling, non-restrictive and non-exclusive.  When you lust or feel love for another, which I think every spirited, really alive person does, you don’t have to hide it from those closest and dearest to you.”

Another guest at the table who had been quietly listening said, “The Poly way saves us from cheating and all the lies that go with it.  If you have a forbidden desire you get to talk about it instead of hiding and feeling bad about yourself about having the desire.  It also means having a whole lot more love in your life, and with it a whole lot more joy –  at least that’s the way I experience it”.

Then Sandra shyly spoke up saying, “Let me tell you my experience.  Before I became a Poly I was always afraid of losing whatever love I had, so I always had to secretly have a second lover on the side.  Time and again that meant someone found out what I was secretly doing on the side and there were horrible fights and a horrible breakup and a whole lot of time spent suffering and also in recovery.  Then the whole thing would start again. That nearly killed me.  I mean literally.  I nearly suicided twice.

“Then I got introduced to the Poly thing.  I learned I really have what it takes to love and be loved a lot.  It just seems natural to me.  What was messing it up was dishonesty and a value system which made sexual fidelity and monogamy more important than what I think of as natural, real love or truth.  When monogamy or sexual singularity are more important than love it can destroy love.  I’ve heard it said that whatever we make more important than love ruins love, and I think that’s true for me at least.  Now I see that anyone dumb or insecure enough to want to abandon me over who else I love probably isn’t right for me anyway.  Breaking up would hurt some but see I have deep and abiding love with the most wonderful set of other people, so I know I’m not going to be unloved. It’s more like the family you can count on, and I wouldn’t trade anything for it.  I know it’s not for everyone but it works way better for me than what I was doing before”.

Questions and Quandaries

Well, the evening went on with lots of humor, occasional tender, caring feelings and a surprising amount of frank, open honesty.  Some talked of their failures at being Poly and the failures of others they had known who tried it and found it wanting.  There was quite a lot of talk going on about children with some parents strongly testifying how much seeing their parents go Poly had done for them.  Others, of course, were very dubious about that part.

A lot of the other ways that a Poly lifestyle can be lived also got mentioned.  Handling jealousy and insecurity, plus the role of healthy self-love in doing so was focused on for a time.  How a Poly love lifestyle was being a great benefit to bisexuals in the Poly community was generally agreed on.  The question of “is Poly love real love?” resulted in people saying “sometimes yes and sometimes no”.  All acknowledged that false forms of love could happen in Poly relationships just like in monogamous relationships.  Also everybody agreed Poly love took just as much or more work as any other kind of relationship.  While it seemed like a sort of salvation for some, it was seldom easy, especially at first.

Some put forth the idea that it’s the English-speaking peoples that have the most trouble with Poly lifestyles, while maybe northern Europeans, the French, Polynesians and certain special indigenous people in China were more likely to do well with it.  Jackie’s parents testified to the fact that their daughter was happier this way than she ever had been before and that was what mattered to them.  Uncle Charlie said this dinner party had been the best conversational circus he had ever gone to, and he had never experienced so many surprising thoughts that he would have to think about a lot more and he was going to do just that.

Personal Questions And the Worldwide Scene

So, dear reader, how do you think you would go home from a dinner party like that one? What might your personal questions be?  If some of your close friends or family were to be revealed living a Poly lifestyle what would that mean to you?  Since all polls and other indicators show the Poly lifestyle to be growing with Poly clubs in every major city and many minor ones, Poly national and international conventions popping up all over the Western world, parts of the Far East , South America and especially North America, seminars talks, group discussions, Internet sites, online magazines and lots more, it seems likely you are going to run into it sooner or later personally.

Perhaps you already have.  It seems like a lot of people keep their Poly involvement kind of quiet because, after all, it is a rather personal thing.  As to love and lifestyles, the world seems to be changing one relationship at a time.  Concerning yourself, those closest to you, family, children, neighbors, etc. if any of them want you to come with them to the gathering of the Polys what you think you are likely to do if you haven’t already?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Are you more puzzled, threatened, dismissive, angered, worried, curious, amused, conflicted, inspired, excited, encouraged or just don’t know what to think by the Poly lifestyle?

Special note: Thanks to the several people who have requested this topic be addressed.  Sorry we didn’t get to it sooner.  For those new to the topic you might want to Google “Polyamory”, there’s lots of information at lots of different sites. Yes, there is likely to be more on this topic from time to time, along with information about other “alternative” lifestyles and how love is being carried out in those lifestyles, along with the “traditional”.

Love Is Patient

Mini-Love-Lesson #237

Synopsis: Loving Patience, what it is, its psychology, many benefits, disadvantages, the dynamics of impatience and ways to develop greater Loving Patience are very helpfully presented here starting with an ancient Indian teaching tale truth.

An Ancient and Crucial Truth!

To journey together in love, we have to walk at the slowest person’s pace.  That is what the Dakota medicine woman’s campfire tale taught one night before we guest scouts retired to our tepees when I was an impulsive youth.  This ancient, tribal wisdom is just as true today as it was then.  It echoes Paul’s first of 16 tenets on love – Love Is Patient.

In Paul’s ancient, biblical Greek it is “He agape makrothumia” which includes the concept that love is repeatedly forbearing of others and their frustrating ways.  Versions of this truth can be found throughout the teachings of various world religions and more positive philosophies.  “Impatience shows no love, “If patience is absent, real love may be absent too” and “With patience, love withers not” are examples of sundry, sage’s precepts I have encountered.

What Is Loving Patience?

Patience is the ability to calmly wait while enduring ongoing, negative stimuli.
Loving Patience is the ability to calmly wait while remaining loving (good-natured, kind, helpful, tolerant, accepting, non-judgmental, etc.) in the face of the slow, tedious, frustrating, annoying, aggravating, disappointing and/or unloving behaviors of others, or even of one’s self.

The Psychology of Patience

I think the best thing psychologists have discovered about patience is that it is obtainable by those who attempt to acquire it.  It also is teachable to trainable pets and children who have reached certain stages of development.  This mostly is accomplished by using positive rewards and reinforcements for incrementally increased waiting.

Studies suggests patience comes in three forms.  The first is Interpersonal Patience which has to do with calmly dealing with others who are unhappy, upset, angry or in other ways exhibiting negative and unwanted behavior.  The second can be called Severe Situational Patience which has to do with calmly dealing with life’s more arduous and ongoing hardships, setbacks and difficult situations.  The third can be termed Annoyance Patience.  This has to do with the ability to take-in-stride life’s more minor annoyances, irritations, delays, diversions, distractions, worries, hurts, hampering events, nuisances, harassments, vexations, etc..

To learn more about all this and the psychology of patience, I recommend checking out the Association for Psychological Science (APS) reports on patience studies.

All three types of patience have to do with what is sometimes called owning one’s power and not giving it away, being proactive more than reactive, and remaining inner and self-directed instead of other and outer directed.  Those, in turn, have a great deal to do with healthy self-love (see “Self-Love and Its Five Healthy Functions”).

The Many Benefits of Loving Patience

Practicing Loving Patience is an immense help to the health, well-being, improvement and fulfillment of love relationships of every type.  Perhaps that is why Paul put it first in his list of real love’s characteristics.

In a love relationship, practicing patience can build empathy and that, in turn, decreases interpersonal hassles while communicating acceptance and non-judgmentalism of a loved one or one’s self.  Patience often leads to long-range understanding and a fuller comprehension of what to do about disharmony.  Plus, it aids in the development of general positivity.  Patience, well demonstrated, helps block other’s misinterpreting you as angry or upset at them when you actually are being only concentrated, serious, worried, concerned, etc.

Showing loving patience helps others identify you as a person not to fear, avoid, manipulate or keep secrets from.  Therefore, Loving Patience assists people to be authentic and more fully self disclosing in a love relationship.

Demonstrating impatience can greatly harm and even ruin what would otherwise be loving and bonding, interpersonal, good experiences.  Repeated demonstrations of impatience may increasingly turn people against you, exclude you, or subconsciously passive/aggressively attack you.

Showing love through patience when someone is not functioning as you would wish may take longer and reach fulfillment later than you expected.  However that assists in developing higher and greater, mutual, team functioning and achievement along with increased emotional closeness, plus the likelihood of return patience when you need it.

Loving Patience is often wonderful for avoiding intolerant and destructive sudden reactions, incomplete understandings, wrong conclusions, mistaken impressions and impulsive anti-loving habit behaviors.  In every type of love relationship, Loving Patience is much more likely to lead to more constructive, accurate, comprehensive and harmonious interactions than is impatience.

For all concerned, having Loving Patience is far more healthy than impatience and its accompanying stress illness dangers.  Patient people usually live healthier, longer and happier than impatient people.  Most of all, they tend to have much better and longer, lasting, love relationships.  To learn more about love and health, check out Love and Survival by Dr. Dean Ornish.

The Dynamics of Impatience

In interpersonal impatience, one person wants one or more other people to change to operating at their own rate and/or in their manner of behaving.  It is, therefore, an imposition of one’s own standards on another.  Acting impatient often sends a message of “do things my way, not yours”.  It also can be a communication of “you’re operating in a way that is inferior to mine” and “my ways are more important than yours”.  Relationally, it frequently is disharmonious and can have a strong emotional divisive effect.  None of this is loving, democratic or as pragmatic as simply lovingly requesting someone to change something more to your liking, such as “hurry up a bit please”, “I’d like you to try doing something in an alternate way if that’s okay with you”.

Impatience often has a short-term gain and long-term loss, interpersonal dynamic.  If being impatient gets other people to do what you want more immediately, that is the short-term gain.  If it makes them resent you and act against you when they can, that is the greater and longer-term loss.

The Disadvantages of Patience

Like all things human, even Loving Patience is not perfect.  Having patience at the wrong time or for too long may lead to missed opportunities, too slow a reaction to a crisis and being misidentified as uncaring, indecisive and unassertive.  Worst of all, you may, through patience, accidentally reward and, therefore, reinforce some bad behavior.  Patient people also can be more targeted for deception and manipulation by the sociopathic.

How to Develop Greater Loving Patience

Learning to calm yourself while waiting longer and longer is the essence of practicing and developing patience.  Learning to make patience loving, requires loving thinking and loving self-talk while you practice the behavior of positive waiting.  Positive waiting requires breathing slowly and deeply, purposefully relaxing tense muscles as you also focus on being loving to yourself and whoever else is involved (see “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”).

If worry or fear has triggered impatience, reassuring self-talk and distraction actions usually are helpful.  Becoming more mindful and self-aware of what you let trigger your impatience also can be quite useful.  Purposefully spotting when, where and why you are impatient and choosing those times to practice more Loving Patience is often hard but necessary.

Talking all this over with those you love (children included) to see if they will reveal their deeper feelings when you are both patient and impatient with them usually helps tremendously.  Remembering that two of the 12 major ways to demonstrate love are supported by developing patience.  Those two are Toleration Love and Self-Disclosure Love.  For more on this, check out Chapter 5 (How Do We Grow Intimate Love) in Recovering Love by yours truly.

One More Thing

Talking all this over with others can help you and them implant the knowledge and develop it further.  When you do that, we would like it if you would mentioned this site and our free subscription service.  Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question: If we don’t lovingly ask our loved ones to be more patient with us when we desire that, how can we expect them to ever lovingly respond?

Ready or Not for Love?

Are you really ready for love?

Explore the following ‘willingness’ issues and you are likely to help yourself be ‘more ready’.  You also may get in touch with the areas of love- readiness you might do well to understand more, need to strengthen, and the areas in which you are most love-able and love-potent.  Which willingness areas can you say “Yes” to, which ones elicit a “Maybe”, and which ones get your “No” or “Probably not yet” response?

Do You Have STRONG :
1.    Willingness to do the work of learning to love well?

2.    Willingness to do the work of practicing loving well?

3.    Willingness to do the work of unlearning unloving, negative thoughts and feeling systems and the negative behaviors that go with them?

4.    Willingness to risk (to let fear and safety NOT be primary)?

5.    Willingness to love yourself healthfully?

6.    Willingness to live love-centered (NOT money-centered, status-centered, power-centered, etc.)?

7.    Willingness to explore and experiment with new ways?

8.    Willingness to be open to both getting and giving love?

9.    Willingness to choose and use the power of love over all other forms of power?

10.    Willingness to be transformed by love (because that’s what happens) into an ever growing, better self?

11.    Willingness to work at using real love to help heal others, and to use real love to heal you of old wounds and the negative thoughts, feelings, and behavior systems those wounds empower?

12.    Willingness to let love deeply connect you with others, life, nature, spirituality, and other love forces in the universe?

Add up your “Yes” responses, your “Maybe” responses, and your “No & Probably Not Yet” responses.  If you have mostly “Yes” responses you probably are well on your way to ‘readiness’ and enriched living through love.  Mostly “Maybe” answers suggest you could use some work on your love readiness and it is advisable to proceed carefully in love matters.  Mostly “No & Probably Not” responses suggest that before you enter your next great love adventure you may want to emotionally strengthen yourself, look much further into understanding the dynamics of healthy real love and how to avoid love trauma and tragedy.

Please know this is not a definitive test just a little guide for examining your possible love readiness.  It also can be used by couples, or friends and family, and others to help each other look a bit deeper into the area of love readiness.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Loneliness and Love Absence

Mini-Love-Lesson  #236

Synopsis: The why’s and good reason for loneliness and it’s pain; wrong things to do that don’t end the pain; our epidemic of killer loneliness; social media and some very good news about what can be done about loneliness and the absence of love are all here.

The Why’s of Loneliness ? 

Why do we get lonely?  Do we need loneliness?  Does it do anything for us?  What is the purpose of the pain we experience when we feel acute loneliness?  Did nature, evolution, a deity or all three put loneliness in our lives for some good reasons?  Will our loneliness go away if we understand the why’s and what for’s of loneliness and act on that understanding?  What are the best things to do about loneliness, lovelessness and their agonies?  Are these the right questions that will get us to the best answers about loneliness and the absence of real love in our lives?

The Purpose of Loneliness and Its Pain

Considerable research shows loneliness works like a hunger for something we need for our psycho-biological well-being.  Ultimately loneliness is a hunger for love and the life connections that can lead to love.  When we satisfy that hunger, our physical brain and systems in our bodies work better.  When we don’t satisfy the hunger of loneliness and love hunger, we move toward brain chemistry malfunction, greater disease susceptibility, we become de-energized, less productive, less creative and less socially adept.  When we satisfy this hunger, we reverse all that and also do better at cooperation, feeling a sense of fulfillment and a long list of the other benefits of positive companionship.

Using  the concept that all emotions give us guidance, we can see that loneliness tells us to seek positive connection and nurturing interactions with others.  This includes being accepted, cared about, liked, affirmed, safeguarded and ultimately loved (see “Dealing with Love Hurts: Pain’s Crucial Guidance”).  When we achieve the nourishment of being connected and love-bonded, our brain and body chemistry responds very positively and we definitely are healthier, live happier and longer because of it.  This, by the way, turns out to be true not only for humans but for all mammals so far studied, plus many birds and perhaps some other life forms as well.  In short, to live well, we need each other and loneliness tells us when we need to do something about that.  So, to avoid toxic loneliness, actively seek emotionally meaningful life connections with others.  Then work to grow some of them into real, love relationships (“Behaviors That Make And Grow Friendship Love”).

The pain of loneliness tends to grow stronger when we do not succeed at following the guidance message loneliness is attempting to give us.  In a way, loneliness is like a good friend hounding us to do something positive to end the loneliness and not just suffer it (“Loneliness and Love”).

Doing the Wrong Things to End the Hurt

Some people try to end the pain of loneliness and love hunger in very unhealthy ways.  They turn to drugs, drink, or the destructive distractions of enthralling danger and fascinating dysfunction.  This easily can be done with sex, gambling, several forms of false love and excitement junkie behaviors.  All those things might work but only for a while.  Unless the behavior has healthy, real, love possibilities it is probably not going to pay off well.

Some people try to escape the pain of loneliness and love hunger through quantity instead of quality seeking.  Popularity, mass approval, fame, having high status connections, and the like, can result in ego boosts but very seldom in deep and love-bonded, meaningful, love relationships.  Others try to purchase friendships and love not realizing only false friends and false lovers are for sale.

Then there are those who live in crowded loneliness thinking they have many friends but they still feel lonely.  In truth, what they have are basically only acquaintances.  Acquaintances are better than nothing and they have the potential of becoming more if the right things are done to deepen some of the acquaintance relationships.  Remember, it is not about quantity it is about quality.

Tragically, the ultimate escape from the pain of loneliness and love hunger too often is suicide.  For some, the pain of loneliness and love starvation is just too much for them, or so they think.  Sadly, they may see the efforts required are far too difficult and the likelihood of success much too dismal.  Getting  new friends and growing new love often is hard and slow but with the right know-how and practice, it definitely is doable.

Unfortunately, all too many of the lonely and love malnourished have arrived at the conclusion that no one could or will ever like or love them because they are somehow crucially flawed.  Therefore, their future is one of nothing but painful loneliness and love starvation.  This is not true. Time and again in counseling I have seen people learn the skills of friendship-making and love relating.  When this happens, almost universally they go on to love-filled and friendship-filled living.

Preventively, this is where pets can come to the rescue.  I, and quite a few of the counselors and therapists I have trained, report love of and from a pet dog has made a life-saving difference.  For those living in lonely despair, for those who have lost a major love source and for those stranded in social isolation, for whatever reason, pets can make a huge, real, love difference.  Dogs seem to know how to do love especially well but we see cats, parrots, horses and monkeys do quite well at giving and receiving love too (see “Pet Love”).  Initially after a love bond with a pet has formed, it is not too long until the pet owner usually begins doing better connecting with people and then starts attaining a life of greater health, happiness and general well-being.

Our Epidemic of Killer Loneliness

If too often and too strongly you are lonely, you are more likely to die prematurely.  That is because loneliness does bad things to your brain chemistry and brain functioning and then to your body.  In many places around the Western oriented world, research shows loneliness and its detrimental effects are growing to epidemic proportions.  With this epidemic of loneliness, stress illnesses especially are increasing and related life expectancy is leveling off or beginning to decrease.

The research done by the UN, WHO, the US CDC, the National Health Service of the UK, countless medical schools and universities, and a plethora of epidemiologists confirms the veracity of these conclusions.  In England and Scotland, special anti-loneliness programs are being started by the health service, partly modeled on the cultural behaviors in countries in the world where the loneliness epidemic has not taken hold.  So far, they seem to be working well for many.

The Very Good News

The good news is you can hear the guidance message of loneliness which is to push yourself into connecting with others including pets; learn and do what it takes to make and keep real friends and then grow healthy, real, love relationships of several types.  It is likely you will have to overcome both internal and external obstacles, or you would have done it already.  Defeating loneliness is being done successfully by a growing number of people as they work to build their network of liking and loving others.  Do you think you can top and act on that?

Can Social Media Help?

So far, the research results are mixed.  It seems to be that if your connections with others via the Internet are marked by some emotional realness, positivity and backed up with some healthy self-love (see “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”), healthful sincere connecting may occur.  It also helps if the connections are more face-to-face with the assistance of Skype or similar visual services.  Note: the highly important psychobiological contributions of loving touch still will be missing (see “Love Hugs for Health & Happiness”).

Some of What You Can Do

If you do not have a pet, really consider getting a good loving and lovable one soon ( see “Pet Love”). Next, Look up some how to books on loneliness or friendship making, pick one, read it and do at least some of what it says.  Then start another.  Frequently older books are better than new ones.  For an in-depth approach, I recommend adding to the how-to books Love and Loneliness by the wise and highly readable, existential psychotherapist, Dr. Clark E. Moustakas.

Next you will have to pick an action to take and then risk doing it at least three times, not expecting any success at all.  Learn from what happened and improve the action, then do it again.  After that, add another action and start doing it again and again, not expecting or counting on anything improving whatsoever.  As you go, keep studying the how to’s of healthy, real love and enjoying everything you can about this process.  This is what it takes in experimenting and practicing before success starts to happen unless you are extraordinarily lucky.  Also know it really can help to get the assistance of a good counselor, personal coach or therapist as you tackle loneliness and/or love absence and their life-impacting difficulties.

One Other Thing

Talk about what you have just read with someone and that likely will help to implant these concepts as well as motivate action.  While you do that, we would like it if you would mention this site and our free subscription service.  Thank you.

As always Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question: is it more our duty, or our privilege to grow our own love giving and getting network?

Intimacy Creation - A Love Skill

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson covers intimacy ignorance; the two major kinds of intimacy; sexual intimacy; emotional intimacy; the cultural complications of intimacy; and then gives you a dozen ways to work toward creating and enhancing emotional intimacy in your own, personal life.

Intimacy Ignorance

Can you say “My most intimate experiences are among the very best experiences of my life!”?  Can you say “The intimacy I share with those I love most provides me with my most valued, special feelings!”?  Can you say “Intimacy with a loved one has been a supreme and sublime, love experience like no other!!”?  Can you say “I know very well how to go about creating intimacy and intimacy experiences with those I love!”?

“She told me we just were not intimate enough, often enough.  At first I thought she meant sex but that turned out to be quite wrong.  So what does she mean?  How in the world do I go about whatever this intimacy thing is?”

Often I hear this sort of question when I’m doing relationship counseling or coaching with men.  However, there are related statements I get from females. Their statements often are something like “Isn’t he just supposed to know how to be intimate if he loves me?  If he hasn’t learned how to be intimate by now doesn’t that mean something’s wrong with him and our relationship can’t work?  If I have to tell him how to be intimate won’t that spoil it? ”

Sometimes I get a female’s statement like this: “I don’t know how to tell him what I mean by intimacy.  He is willing to learn but I only know it when I feel it, but I can’t explain how to get there.  Of course, there are females who make statements more like the males and males who make statements more like the females, so it’s not strictly a gender thing.

Another kind of statement I sometimes get in counseling concerning intimacy goes like this: “Our sex just isn’t very intimate.” Or sometimes, “ When we feel really intimate with each other it just never turns into anything sexual, and I want it to be sexual at least sometimes but we don’t know how to make that happen.”.

Two Kinds of Intimacy

I like to suggest that the first thing to get clear about is that there are two main types of intimacy – emotional and sexual.  They go well together but also they can be confused with one another.  When this confusion occurs people frequently end up having difficult problems with each other.  It also is quite important to understand that people can have sex without emotional intimacy just as easily as they can have emotional intimacy without sex.

Sexual Intimacy

Sexual intimacy can be said to occur when people closely and personally experience each other’s activated and shared sexuality.  This can occur via sight, sound, touch, scent, taste and kinetics.  It also can occur via shared sexual thoughts and feelings, well shown and expressed physically and emotionally.

Sexual Intimacy often involves disclosing one’s sexual self to another, accompanied by close and extensive body exploration, and the sharing and showing of erotic responses to erotic stimuli.  Sexual Intimacy may or may not involve sexual intercourse and orgasm but it often does.  Some people do not seem to be able to do sexual intimacy without emotional intimacy, while others do so rather easily.

Still others mix and separate the two, at will, depending on who is involved and their own, individual, love situation.  Sometimes the words intimacy or sexual intimacy are used to merely mean sexual intercourse or that some other form of sexual action has occurred.  This, I suggest, is a misuse and more misleading way of using these words.

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy for most people is a little harder to identify and define.  Emotional intimacy can be said to occur when someone feels an emotional, close, personal contact and connection with another.  This usually is accompanied with feelings of warm, private affection and positive regard, and not infrequently with very strong, personal love of one type or another.

Emotional intimacy can be marked by a depth and breadth of knowledge of another, and a sense of emotional interweaving with the inner core or essential nature of another’s innermost, true self.  It is most likely to occur when strong emotions are felt and shared.  It can come with close, physical, mental, social and emotional association.

Occasionally it brings on a sense of two or more beings, at least temporarily, having a fusion of their core spirits and real personalities.  Emotional intimacy frequently leads to increased love bonding, sometimes accompanied by a sense of awe and of being spiritually understood and connected.  Recent evidence suggests that when emotional intimacy occurs there are strong, healthful and perhaps fairly rare neurochemical processes occurring in the limbic system of the brain.

Cultural Complications

In the larger, Western world, growing, mega-culture it seems like not a lot of people learn what emotional intimacy is, let alone how to create it.  Even fewer appear to learn how to maintain and grow intimacy in ongoing relationships.  In our more ‘macho’ societies emotional intimacy often is regarded by males as feminine and, thereafter, disregarded, ignored and avoided.

It’s interesting that in some societal spheres things seen as feminine are put on an ‘idealized pedestal’ in principle but devalued and psychologically trashed in actuality.  Then there are those people who fake intimacy as just a way to gain something on their hidden agenda list like money, sex, marriage, etc.

After attainment of the hidden motive, the intimacy actions disappear.  This seems to occur particularly often in cultures and societal groups oriented primarily to commercialism, consumerism, power, status attainment, etc. rather than love, cooperation, mutuality and having a deeper quality of life.

However, all over the world there are people longing and striving for intimate love connections, intimate romance, emotionally intimate sex, and relationships filled with intimate emotional intercourse.  All over the world there is the question “How do you go about being emotionally intimate?”.  It would seem most people have very few, clear answers.  The good news is you can learn how to enhance and grow your intimacy-making skills and, thereby, strengthen and improve your love relationships.

A Dozen Ways to Work Toward Creating and Enhancing Emotional Intimacy

1.    Get Close  As you relate to someone slowly get physically closer and closer to them if the relating seems to be going well.  The closer you get physically the more likely you are to be able to be emotionally intimate.  When close make lots of eye contact.

2.    Talk Quietly  Intimate, personal talk is low-voiced, quiet talk, at least at first.  Shouting with shared exuberance may come later but until it does almost whispering does best.

3.    Talk Emotions  Learn and use the many terms for emotions.  Identify emotional feelings, ask about emotional feelings, share emotional feelings, and never leave emotional feelings out.

4.    Listen Well  Always be able to repeat back, nearly verbatim, what a loved one or an important other says to you.  Always be able to label, describe, or ask about the emotions involved in what you heard.

5.    Touch Carefully  First, softly touch the hard parts like shoulders, elbows, wrists, etc.  And later softer parts. At first, hug gently but then firmly and strongly.

6.    Reveal Private Feelings  Going ‘psychologically naked’, more and more, is essential for intimacy development.  Revealing the emotions you have and sometimes the physical feelings, along with behaviors and thoughts, history, hopes, etc. is required.

7.    Respect and Accept Revelations and Sharings  Usually with kindness and without shock judgment or criticism receive what others intimately share and reveal.

8.    Expressionally Communicate Lots  Facial expression, tonal expression, gestural expression, and postural expression often are more important than verbal expressions.

9.    Show Care  Have real care for what another is experiencing and show it, be it happiness, or agony, or the most mundane of things.

10.    Adventure Together Emotionally  Create and seek out experiences you can jointly experience together that are likely to engender emotions be they strong, delicate, tender, inspiring, surprising, reassuring, intense, serene, ecstatic, moving or anything else.

11.    Take and Make Time  Make and take the time it takes to have emotional intimacy and don’t rush it.

12.    Empathize Frequently  Emotional intimacy takes joining with another by empathetically and sometimes passionately sharing their pains, and pleasures and also their mediocre times.  Avoid becoming emotionally distant, distracted, absent or frequently attitudinally against those you would love and be emotionally intimate with.

Hopefully these 12 points will help you grow your intimacy-making love skills. Of course, there’s lots more to learn so probably you will need to venture into this topic more.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Can you fantasize and then analyze what would be a wonderfully, emotionally, intimate experience for you and your most beloved?