Synopsis: How emotional intimacy is achieved and closeness improved through self-disclosure of our inner and most private self; the importance of verbal and behavioral self-revealing for going psychologically naked together; the heartmate satisfaction that can result from sharing our deepest feelings; the best of our selves and the worst of our secret selves are required for profound and close love to grow.
A major pathway to intimate love is disclosing to another who we really are. Self-disclosure may involve letting another honestly know our thoughts, our emotions, our body and our behavior. It also can entail relating our private and personal history as well as who we are in the existential now.
If we do not disclose our true self to our loved ones, they deal with a phony us. If our phony self is given love, our true self can go love-malnourished or even love-starved. In some manner, we probably sense the love coming toward us is for our act and not for our essence.
A best practice to getting really close to one another is to become naked. To become physically or psychologically naked one must take off one’s wraps. We also must be willing to deal with another’s nakedness. The psychologically naked may be seen with warts, scars or unhealed wounds. To show these elements of oneself, is a vulnerable and brave act. To accept such elements without personal negation, rejection or attack, is a fine act of love. To uninhibitedly show one’s emotions through expressions, words and touch, are potent ways to self-disclose. To reveal our true thoughts, our moods, our fears, hang-ups, shame, joy, self-worth, or childlike qualities often are what is hungered for in intimate love relationships.
Loving Self-Disclosure As A Key To Relationship Fulfillment
Research reveals that self-disclosure is a major key in forming strong relationships, in increasing cooperation and in the growth of mutual emotional intimacy. When we self-disclose, we often cultivate a sense of bonded closeness. An imperative for long-lasting and enduring relationships appears to be the inclusion of honest, loving self-disclosures.
The lack of self-disclosure has been found to highly contribute to agony-filled breakups. Infrequent self-disclose can impede relational growth. Relational stagnation, consequently, is too likely a consequence. Deterioration of a relationship when self-disclosures are absent, or too few and far between, may produce loneliness, isolation and a sense of futility.
Self-disclosure tends to correlate with high couple and heartmate satisfaction and relational health and functioning. Because self-disclosure helps us know each other more fully and more accurately, trust is enhanced and teamwork is smoother and more effective. Through self-disclosure, those who love each other often experience a greater sense of unity and contentment (see “Catharsis Empathy - A Love Skill”).
In ongoing love relationships, behaviorally showing how you are and who you are is a fundamental necessity. Revealing your private and personal behaviors may be more important than what you tell about yourself. For instance, the behavior of crying at a sad story may garner more empathetic intimacy and closeness than merely telling about feeling sad for a story’s protagonist. Likewise, actually dancing for joy over something is more potently revealing and sharing of yourself than just announcing that you are happy about the same thing.
In intimate, sexual loving and relating, sharing your body behaviorally usually is vastly, emotionally more important than just talking about it. Behaviorally demonstrating your love shows a great deal about you that words may never be able to express. The look on your face, the kindness in your caress, the tender tones of your voice, your playful movements all can give disclosure to the special ways you do love (see “Difficult Topics: A Love-Centered Way To Approach and Broach Them All”).
Positive Feelings and Self-Disclosing Love
Relational research is beginning to shine a light on the positive feelings involved in emotional relating, especially those having to do with love. Recently Positive Psychology has contributed a focus on positive feelings like joy, ecstasy, serenity, awe, tenderness and the like. When positive feelings like those are divulged, love relationships tend to be strengthened and deepened. If I say, “I feel so safe with you” or “Wow, I feel our connection just went up a notch”, or “When we cuddle, I feel truly cherished”, I potently act to reinforce our bonds. Sharing our significant feelings often can be the glue that holds relationships together (see “Say It With Love”).
As always – Grow and Go with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Quotable Question: What might you not bear to share or bear to hear shared and what if you could?