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 IgnoranceCan 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 IntimacyI 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 IntimacySexual 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 IntimacyEmotional 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 ComplicationsIn 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 Intimacy1. 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
Can you fantasize and then analyze what would be a wonderfully, emotionally, intimate experience for you and your most beloved?