Synopsis: This mini-love-lessons starts by discussing fears and confusion regarding intimacy; and then gets into the question of why intimacy; the yea’s and nay’s of psychological intimacy; and the importance challenge of studying intimacy further for growing great love; more.
Fears and Confusion“Let’s be intimate!” Does that statement scare you? Does it confuse you? Does it excite you? Do you wonder if the word intimate means you are being asked to do something sexual, or something emotional, or both? If someone were to say to you “I feel so intimate with you” would you hope or fear that person wanted to have sex with you, make love with you, or were experiencing emotions of closeness and personal connection focused on you.
When you use or hear the word ‘intimacy’ are you puzzled or quite sure about what is meant? Are your emotions usually more apprehensive or more positive. Or perhaps you are just neutral or confused. ‘Intimacy’ can be just another polite euphemism for being sexual or it can have to do with becoming especially emotionally close and connected with someone. Many fear that it means they will be asked or required to make themselves vulnerable and exposed, and they fear they will either do that poorly or they will self reveal things that will get them hurt and rejected.
For you, is intimacy about sexuality, or emotional closeness or both, or is it something else entirely. Whichever way it is for you, is it more of a positive or a negative? For many people it is one of the most wonderful parts of a love relationship. For others it is very threatening and to be avoided if at all possible, sometimes both sexually and emotionally.
Many love relationships grow strong and healthy largely by way of intimacy. Many other relationships fail to thrive because of too little intimacy. Still other relationships are wounded or ended by way of intimacy poorly dealt with. All this means that if you want a successful love relationship, understanding and being able to operate well intimately may prove essential.
Why Intimacy?It is by intimacy that we more fully give the gift of ourselves to those we love. It is by intimacy that we more fully receive the gift of much more completely knowing another. It is by intimacy from and with those we love that we more fully experience the joys possible with them. It is then through intimacy that we can better give those we love, love’s precious acceptance, tolerance, affirmation and the special joys of shared, intimate love.
It is by intimacy that we let others more fully know us and open those more private parts of ourselves to their love. It is by intimacy that we much more fully and richly experience each other. It also is by risking intimacy that we show we are brave and strong enough to let ourselves be loved where we fear we may not be lovable. That is the ‘why’ of intimate love. It also is why it is best that we strive to overcome our fears of intimacy.
The Yea’s and Nay’s of Psychological Intimacy
Psychological intimacy has to do with close association and personal
connection, usually mixed with affection and love. It implies both a
deep and broad knowledge of someone and letting oneself be known deeply
and broadly. Becoming emotionally intimate with another means relating
to that person’s essence and core being, and letting them do likewise
with you. If things go well, it can mean developing a sort of close
harmony with another’s inner character and most genuine, innermost, true
self. When deep intimacy is joined with love there can be a sense of
the fusion of souls connected in profound and wondrous, love-filled,
abiding serenity and joy.
If in attempting intimacy things do not go well, it can mean feeling pains of rejection, inadequacy, negative judgment, criticism, disapproval, exclusion, loneliness, emptiness, failure, condemnation and feeling threatened. Intimacy in friendship love usually includes feeling a very warm, personal attitude toward someone who is feeling a very similar way toward you. When that occurs a sense of cherished unity with another can occur. Feelings of intimacy in a couple’s relationship often brings on an amazing, combined, simultaneous sense of serenity and elation. Feelings of intimacy in a family may include the above and be accompanied by a sense of happy familiarity and safety.
The Role of RiskIntimacy is feared mostly because usually it requires the risk of self-disclosure. With self-disclosure one’s inadequacy, insufficiency, ugly parts, failings, areas of ignorance and all other ‘not okay’ factors may be seen and known by another. With that could come being shamed, demeaned, rejected and abandoned to live a loveless life. To the contrary, one could also meet with loving acceptance, understanding, inclusion and the joys of intimacy. Psychological Intimacy often requires considerable and repeated risk-taking.
Are you strong enough and okay enough with yourself to handle attempts at intimacy not turning out well. If you have sufficient, healthy self-love, risking self-disclosure and being more real and exposed to another can be okay even if it does not go well. If you are sufficiently, healthfully self-loving, and you ‘own’ it so it can not be taken away from you, taking the risk of self-disclosure can be easier. Nevertheless, intimacy still can lead to you getting severely hurt emotionally but hopefully not irreparably.
When you have an intimate relation with someone they get to know all
sorts of things about you. You may give them intimate knowledge about
your secrets, your areas of weakness, your vulnerabilities, your
misdeeds, your private ways, along with your peculiarities and your
idiosyncrasies. You also may reveal your secret riches, your private
joys and the taboos you relish. All this they can tell to others who
may use this knowledge against you. Perhaps even worse, they themselves
may use this knowledge against you. Embarrassment, shame,
disadvantage, various types of loss, personal defeat, blocking of
opportunity and a great deal of emotional hurt might result. Thus, it
behooves you to be very careful about who you become psychologically
In a love relationship when someone lets you know them intimately, it
is very important that you cherish your intimate knowledge and
experiences with them. Cherish means to appreciate, honor and hold
special and private whatever has been intimately shared with you.
Unless you are given specific permission to share an intimacy – don’t!
No small number of friendships, romances and family relationships have been irreparably ruined by someone revealing and exposing instead of holding private someone else’s intimate secret. Sometimes it is because the revealer thinks it won’t do any harm, or it might do some good, or it is just too funny not to reveal. I know of at least one case in which such a betrayal of intimacy got the revealer shot and another in which a person was jailed, not to mention a passel of breakups and divorce actions. The unintended negative consequences of revealing private and personal intimacy facts can be enormous.
Cherishing intimacy well often leads to someone becoming much more emotionally close, growing trust, sharing very special joint joy, and feeling preciously and especially uniquely, strongly, personally connected. Those feelings can be so powerful and wonderful it makes the dangers of psychological intimacy well worth the risk.
A lot of love’s intimacy gets achieved by tiny actions. A certain
kind of glance, a wink, an ordinary word said in a special tone, a
slightly sexual touch quickly done, a word or term with special private
meaning, a facial expression that says “I understand and care”, a
whispered private nickname, all these and many more tiny acts of
intimacy are often used by highly successful couples, friends and family
members to achieve and sustain intimate connection.
Really good and full ranging sexual intimacy involves emotional
intimacy. This may include letting someone explore both visually and by
touch every reachable inch of you while you do the same with them. It
also may involve letting yourself be seen as you experience a vast array
of uninhibited, different physical and emotional feelings while you
appreciatively and intensely do the same with them.
Intimate sexuality may involve tiny, little, extraordinarily precious and awesomely tender movements and moments. Intimacy in sex also may include amazingly strong and powerful sensations arrived at through wild abandonment resulting in oceanic ecstasy and a sense of cosmic, spiritual connection. Sometimes for some people the loss of inhibitions and the enacting of actions they have been taught are forbidden, naughty, nasty, filthy, wrong and sinful, etc. are what opens the door to joint, incredible intimacy. For others sharing actions that are extremely loving, preciously pleasuring, and delicately tender brings forth a sense of miraculous intimacy which is for them magnificently and enormously love-filled.
Sexual intimacy also can be achieved in simpler ways, like just doing a few easy actions of what a love partner wants and seeing that has brought your loved one pleasure. Once sexual partners know each other well, lots of sexual intimacy is achieved by using that knowledge in simple pleasure-giving and receiving. This is sometimes done with a kind of sexual laziness and easy-going familiarity resulting in a more serene, further love-filled, intimate bonding.
Curing Intimacy Fears with Love
If you have healthy self-love and a healthy real love of another, or
of friends and family, you can use that love to work past your intimacy
fears. To do so, focus on the fact that love can make you brave and,
therefore, able to take the risks involved in going psychologically
naked, or very self-disclosure-prone with those you want to do love
with. Yes, it will cost you maybe embarrassment, awkwardness and making
some blundering mistakes, but remind yourself for growing bigger,
better, stronger love it is likely to be worth it. Just with someone
you love, you can say things like “I feel ashamed to tell you this
but…?, and “Doing what you want is so utterly embarrassing, let’s go
ahead and do it”.
Can you show that you are not good at something yet with someone you love? Are you brave enough to act and look silly? Are you strong enough to reveal your weaknesses? Will you let your real flaws and foibles be seen? Will you let yourself experience your emotions, and both talk and show them fully. Doing so often is the price that must be paid for intimate love to occur and grow.
If you center yourself in love, come from love on purpose, and do what you are afraid to do you might be able to reveal yourself to a loved one and then love’s intimacy may result. With inner, loving, self talk you can tell and show your fears and by doing so move forward, perhaps carefully into greater self-disclosure and the intimacy it can bring. If you let your fears stop you, you probably will not. Keep reminding yourself, LOVE CAN DEFEAT FEAR. Remember also that you can ask those you love for loving tolerance and acceptance as you go.
Study IntimacyLike most things, the more you study intimacy the more you may do it well. This mini-love-lesson is designed to help you move at least a bit forward in improving your love relationships via intimacy. The hope is to get you to consider, and study, and then experimentally practice what you have learned about intimacy. Those who do well with intimacy tend to extend and strengthen their love relationships. So can you? Therefore, it is recommended that you talk with your loved ones about what intimacy is, read about it, carefully experiment and explore, and then discover intimacy more fully and experience its many outstanding marvels and wonders as you go. Recommended reading Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
If you were going to go to a loved one, and do something or say something rather intimate right now, or very soon, what would it be?