All relationships start from a place of effortless intimacy. It is exhilarating to talk for hours on end, disclosing your innermost thoughts, dreams and desires. It is like someone you have been waiting for your whole life has finally arrived. The conversation flows like water with the excitement of sharing yourself while having the other’s full attention and presence. It feels magical to have that instant rapport with someone who wants to know you, your beliefs, passions and goals. So much more that words are engaged: Eye contact, feeling their body warmth, smelling their perfume or cologne bring your all your senses alive.
This is how relationships begin and that magic feeling, “being in the love bubble” can last for the first year or two. It begins to break down when we start to realize that the other does not like all the same things that we do; they have different interests, preferences and goals. Perhaps they have friends that are not to our liking or want to travel to places we have no interest in going.
All those experiences bring us to the awareness that “they are not a mirror image of me” and the bubble that held the two of you, insular from the reality of separateness shatters. This can come as a huge disappointment but it is only the end of the first phase and the beginning of the second which is where the work of creating true intimacy begins.
Yes, the work of intimacy is hard but it pays dividends when you work through the hurts to create closeness based on truly knowing the other person and learning how to negotiate your wants and needs. Intimacy involves vulnerability and that means being honest, sharing insecurities and owning up to your shortcomings. If you offer heartfelt apologies for your missteps and discuss better ways of handling those issues in the future, you can renew your affection and trust.
Men, and at times women, struggle with being open when we feel like being closed. If we want to be close, we must let go of being right and expecting to always get our way. It requires us to see that we have a shadow side and we can be mean spirited, hostile and distant. That acknowledgement does not eliminate our goodness, it just makes us human. And if we can embrace that then we can accept our partner’s flaws and keep loving them. To create intimacy we need to take ownership of our behaviors and their impact.
The closeness we crave can be a regular part of our relationships but it requires being vulnerable and open. It is the way we can reestablish the trust that gets damaged. And with the trust back in place each person can feel safe enough to put their ideas, dreams and desires out on the table to be expanded on and then becomes a mutual exploration where we can discover who we are through sharing ourselves with our beloved other.
A good place to read further on intimacy in relationships is the book “The Dance of Intimacy” by Harriet Lerner.