It is the beginning of a New Year, a time that most of us take personal inventory of our lives. Part of that self-evaluation usually concerns our relationships. Maybe you are like many who experienced a lack of fulfillment in your relationships in this past year. Maybe you are so turned aside with relationships that your New Year’s resolution is to completely disassociate yourself from everyone! But wait! Before you pack your knapsack and find a nice dark, emotional cave to live out the rest of your days as a hermit, let’s consider a few things.
First of all, do you even know the meaning of intimacy? When I ask the question, “What is intimacy?” what is the first thing that comes to mind? By looking at a number of different definitions, I was able to conclude that intimacy can be comprehensively defined as: A loving, affectionate, close and familiar personal relationship; with detailed knowledge and deep understanding of another person; and furthermore expression toward that person serving as a token of the state of being intimate.
Notice that the definition of intimacy has nothing to do with sex. Perhaps the first clue to the lack of intimacy in your life is your misconstrued understanding of what it truly is, and how to apply it in your relationships. Intimacy is not something that you act out behind closed doors, in a candlelit room, on satin sheets. Intimacy is a nature that you have to walk in daily, with those whom you choose to share intimacy with. Intimacy is not something that you do – it is rather something that you are: intimacy is not an activity – it is a nature. Let’s look more closely at the words in the definition for intimacy.
Loving – as in “a sacrificial commitment toward a person’s betterment”. Love is a SERIOUS ACTION WORD with a defined series of what you need to do, and what you definitely should not do. Love is patient; it is kind; it does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud; it does not dishonor another; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs; it does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth; it always protects; always trusts; always hopes; and always perseveres.
Affectionate – as in “releasing warm energy toward a person”. Affection is the emotion that gives you that “gooey feeling” inside. Affection is a genuine warmth that you feel toward a person, on a heart level, that causes you to seek out ways to be near them and show expression. Affection is infectious! Affection has a strong drawing power. It makes a person want to be near you.
Close – as in “being connected to someone on an emotional level”. Being close means being vulnerable. You cannot be close to someone and protect yourself from getting hurt at the same time. Closeness requires giving of your deeper self and receiving of another’s deeper self.
Familiar – as in “awareness of someone’s way of being, their habits and methods”. Familiarity requires a time investment. You have to consciously observe someone over an extended period of time, in a number of different scenarios, in order to become familiar with the person. Case in point, you cannot have sex with someone you just met in a bar and call that intimacy because developing intimacy takes time.
Knowledge – as in “processing on a conscious level your familiarity with a person”. After investing the time to become familiar with a person, intimacy requires you to make use of that familiarity through knowledge. If you know someone’s habits and methods, you should put forth effort to accommodate them in a useful way – help them in their weaknesses and accentuate the person’s strengths.
Deep Understanding – as in “the wisdom to combine all of the above elements into a comprehensive knowledge and conscious awareness of who a person truly is on the deepest level, at the core of their being”. This requires you to have an intricate knowledge of a person’s hopes, dreams, wounds, weaknesses, strengths, fears, struggles, desires and qualities – in essence, the inner workings of their heart.
Expression – as in “finding it easy and enjoyable to share physically and outwardly the love, affection, closeness, familiarity, knowledge and deep understanding of intimacy”. There are plenty of ways to express intimacy without sexuality being involved. The first and most powerful expression of intimacy that most people experience is in the delivery room on the day of their birth, when they receive their mother’s first kiss and stroke on the cheek. This should help you understand that sex and intimacy are not synonymous, and in many cases have nothing to do with each other.
By the above explanation, it may be painfully obvious to you now that you are not experiencing true intimacy in your relationships. Perhaps there is a “coldness” in your relationship with your spouse. Maybe you have dated a number of different people over the years and just have not been able to connect with anyone in a meaningful way. But how can you expect to have intimacy with someone you are dating, or a spouse, which you have known only a portion of your life, when you are not intimate with the parents you have known your entire life? How can you expect to experience intimacy with a girl or guy you met only months ago, when you have no intimacy with the parents that raised you or the children that you raised?
If there is no genuine intimacy in any of your relationships, then you must realize that the common denominator is YOU. You are the problem; not the person you are married to or dating! Intimacy should exist in every important relationship in your life and be expressed in non-sexual ways. Intimacy can be expressed through how you look at a person, the tone in your voice, or even in how you hand them a plate. It is expressed through gifts, words of honor, surprises and sacrifices. It can be expressed through hugs, kisses and gentle touches. These are the first and most important expressions of intimacy that can be shared with any and all of your loved ones.
And guess what… YOU CANNOT EXPERIENCE SEXUAL INTIMACY, IF YOU HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED NON-SEXUAL INTIMACY! Sex should be reserved for and revered as the Ultimate Physical Expression of intimacy; not used to create intimacy, but instead to share intimacy that already exist. Instead of using sex to cover over a lack of true intimacy in your life; instead of trying to use sex to fill the painful void in your soul that exists because you are trying to protect yourself from getting hurt, by keeping people at a safe distance – learn how to create intimacy outside of sex this year!
Start in your relationship with God. Next, learn how to be truly intimate with yourself. Use the guidelines in this article to take on the nature of intimacy in your relationship with your parents, children, and close family members. Share your new intimate nature with your friends, co-workers and church family. It is not until you learn the nature of intimacy, that you will be able to enjoy the experience of the Ultimate Physical Expression of intimacy with a significant other. So become intimacy – be an overall intimate person, and experience true intimacy in all of your relationships in this New Year. Enjoy the enrichment that intimacy brings into your life. Then you will be able to enjoy rich meaningful connections, even if you are single!
In the Power of Love,
Prolific Author and Speaker Specializing in Sex, Intimacy and Relationships from a Holistic Perspective – Spirit, Soul & Body
Copyright © 2011 by Laneen A. Haniah “Dr. Intimacy”. All rights reserved. Please see full copyright notice on front page for more info.