To many people, intimacy means feeling so deeply connected that you finish each other’s sentences, like those early days when you first fell in love. But in a long-term relationship intimacy is more complicated. Understanding this can be super helpful if you’re missing the closeness in your relationship, or arguing a lot.
When we are close to another person, we are aware of how connected we feel to them. Sometimes, especially at the beginning of a relationship, closeness is a heady experience. We may be delighted that we share so many things — a fondness for chocolate milk, cycling, jazz clubs. All those popular songs about “two being as one” seem to have been written just for us.
Sometimes, though, we may end up overwhelmed or frustrated by so much closeness. It feels like an intrusion or a demand. Stifling.
That shift is a natural stage in a relationship, but it’s not the end of the story.
A truly intimate relationship contains both closeness and distance. When we are intimate with another person, we are able to connect with them while maintaining our own sense of identity. We accept that we have common ground and also differences, and we are willing to be curious about our partner’s experience and thinking. We are not only sharing our thoughts and feelings with the other person or listening to their thoughts and feelings, but each of us is in touch with ourselves. We are separate people who have developed our own ways to both nurture and confront ourselves. When the focus is less on closeness and more on gentle, authentic being and relating, intimacy becomes a rich and very alive experience.
As Thomas Patrick Malone and Patrick Thomas Malone say in their book The Art of Intimacy, “Intimacy is a remarkable experience. Usually I know myself only in my aloneness, my dreams, my personal space. But to feel and know myself in the presence of another is enlivening, enlightening, joyful, and most of all, freeing. I can be who I am freely and fully in the presence of another.”
For over twenty years I have been helping individuals and couples in New York develop satisfying intimate relationships. To set up an appointment for a free consultation, call me at 914-941-6478 or 646-801-8550 or fill out this contact form.