Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keep your friends close and your lovers closer

Dear Danielle,

I am 23 years old and have never had a serious long term relationship, although I go on many dates and have dated guys for a few months at a time. What I am wondering is - what exactly is intimacy? Not physical, but more emotional/romantic intimacy. Although I have been with men I have never felt what it is like to be in an intimate relationship. I am starting to feel like I don't know what intimacy is and I definitely feel like I don't know how to find it.

"Seeking Intimacy"

Dear "Seeking Intimacy,"

Imagine being in a crowded cocktail party at a friend's home. The room is full and there is a fun buzz in the air as friends mingle and laugh. As you are discussing politics with an old high school friend you haven't seen in awhile you catch eyes with a man across the room. Your heart skips a beat. You don't speak, and don't even really smile at each other, but you feel each other's presence and continue on socializing with others at the party. Throughout the night you don't interact much with the man you caught eyes with, yet you feel so connected and one with him. This isn't a stranger, but rather the man that you came to the party with. This man is your boyfriend or possibly your husband. And although you spent the whole night doing your own thing, you couldn't have felt closer to each other...Intimacy to me is sharing a bond and feeling a sense of shared experience even in moments when each person is living their own life.

Intimacy can mean different things to different people. "Knowing it when you feel it," pretty well sums up the search for intimacy, yet, that doesn't mean you should sit back and wait for an intimate relationship to come find you. I have always known what intimacy means to me, and thankfully married a man who I know I can share such intimacy with. It takes work to maintain a constant sense of connection with someone, and small intimate acts can encourage that all around sense of closeness in a relationship.

Intimacy cannot be had with any Joe you find in a nightclub, therefore you are correct about questioning how intimacy can be found. When you meet a man that you really think you have potential with, meaning there is chemistry and mutual respect and affection - the process of intimacy cultivation can begin. I know what you're wondering, what do I mean by "intimacy cultivation"?

Intimacy cultivation refers to the process in which an individual and a couple set the foundation for an intimate relationship. Closeness between a couple must exist not just in sexual or specifically romantic situations but during normal life. Not every grocery store trip with your spouse will feel like fireworks and/or extreme intimacy, but that's just the point. Intimacy doesn't mean anything out of the ordinary. Intimate relationships are one's that uplift day to day life and find special moments during unlikely times.

So, when you begin dating a guy that you like, I suggest that you focus on truly getting to know this person. Intimacy can only occur in a deep way when a sense of familiarity exists. Listen closely to your partner and try to understand him/her on a level that the rest of the world might not. After awhile, this sense of knowing will result in private jokes or you just knowing the right thing to say at the right time to make the other person feel acknowledged.

Intimacy also is achieved by striking the right balance between private couple time and socializing with work colleagues, friends, and each other's families. It is one thing to make eyes at each other in private, but it is another thing to mediate a new relationship within the larger world. Even during "public" moments the challenge is to stay connected to each other. Whether it be by a sexy gaze, holding hands, etc. Not every couple is comfortable with the same levels of PDA. What's important is that each couple finds a way to relate regardless of the setting.

If you get to know the depths of someone and are comfortable exhibiting closeness with them in private and public then you are on your way to an intimate relationship.

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