Strengthening Relationships: True Intimacy
As we stated last week, all during the month of February, we are focusing on relationships. In our last blog, we talked about active listening as a strategy to help build and strengthen your relationships. This week, we turn our attention to intimacy.
What is the meaning of true intimacy?
For many, intimacy can be the most difficult aspect of any relationship. That’s because intimacy requires us to be vulnerable. The classic cliché about intimacy that many of you may have heard of is that it can be thought of as “into me see”, and this idea is often one way of understanding the concept of intimacy. There are a number of layers to intimacy, from the purely physical to the deeper emotional or spiritual intimacy.
We want to focus on emotional and spiritual intimacy this week, as it serves as a window into relationships. In fact, oftentimes, it is a privation, or lack, of emotional intimacy that can lead to distancing and a lack of physical intimacy as well. Really, at the heart of any sustainable relationship is true intimacy.
In marriage, this intimacy is often characterized by self-giving, by a concern for the other. In older parlance, marriage was often viewed as the rendering of a debt or doing one’s duty. This language of duty and debt can make some feel demeaned and can shift the focus to gratification, as opposed to true intimacy. Nonetheless, both partners in a relationship should work towards showing their spouse selfless love.
Thomas Aquinas addressed this in depth when he cautioned husbands to be attentive to their wives and to act promptly to their needs. Here Aquinas is focusing the husband’s attention on those of his wife, and not on himself.
Another truth of marital intimacy is that when we are more focused on ourselves than our spouses, we are weakened and tend to pull back. Our love is no longer the self-giving love it was meant to be in the beginning. It becomes ‘thing’ love: I love you for what you can do for me; I love you because it is pleasant to love you.
How do we go about changing this?
In order to reverse this and work on establishing a deeper, truer intimacy, we recommend filling the bank with positive experiences. Making time for your spouse involves more than just active listening, but it also involves showing your spouse that you love them by being attentive to them and their needs. That doesn’t have to mean sending flowers. You might try writing your spouse a little love note. Try spending time together. Build your relationship by filling the bank with as many positive moments and memories as you can so that when you and your partner aren’t feeling connected, you have the intimacy you need to remain connected.
There are a number of ways to work at intimacy. Sharing your vulnerabilities is another way to strengthen your relationship. This is something that requires immense trust, but the rewards to your relationship are immense.
It’s important to remember that intimacy is not simply about sexual or physical pleasure: it’s about building and strengthening your relationship by connecting emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. True intimacy is about giving, rather than taking. It is about sharing your hopes and fears and trusting your partner to be there, with you and for you, through the trials and tribulations of life.
Equally, it is about you accepting your partner for who they are, warts and all, and loving them in a self-giving manner equally. True intimacy, after all, is not selfish. This idea of acceptance is one of the hardest, but one of the most important aspects of intimacy.
We encourage you to take some time this week to reflect on how loving, how accepting, and now selfless you are when it comes to your partner. How can you do better? How can they?
We at Cornerstone Counseling of Palm Beach understand how difficult it can be to build that intimacy and we’re here to help. If you struggle to build true intimacy with your partner, our trained staff is here to help. We offer couples therapy as well as individual sessions to help you and your partner build a stronger relationship and move down the path of true intimacy.