Intimacy in relationships
Intimacy is the feeling of a sustained close shared connection with someone that leads to experiencing and maintaining a deep rapport with another person. This is being open to being vulnerable, letting down our defences and allowing people in to see us for who we are.
We first experience it as a baby when it is modelled by our parents. It is a fundamental part of the bonding that takes place in later life in the forming of lasting adult relationships. Without this early experience of stable, unconditional acceptance and love it can be difficult to form enduring and fulfilling adult committed relationships.
Intimacy is a look, a touch, a shared experience, a meaningful conversation and in a committed adult relationship includes sexual activity. Being intimate develops a strong relationship and a strong relationship leads to intimacy.
It will often start with sharing time with each other on a one to one basis that include thoughts, feelings and behaviours. What then usually differentiates friendship from a committed relationship is sexual activity. There are always exceptions as some couples may not engage in sex due to various reasons be it preference or medical reasons.
After the ‘honeymoon period’ of typically between 12 and 24 months, the relationship naturally cools in its intensity. What was a relationship of two begins to expands as each partner starts to redevelop their individuality and seek external friendships and, experiences.
This natural and normal phase of the relationship is known as the the differentiation stage. When each partner redevelops their individuality and a sense of’ I’, but still within the relationship.
This stage is vital though so that individual wants, desires and needs are rediscovered. Leading to a maturing and enhancing the potential of the relationship.
Where both partners move into differentiation at the same time this can brings new things into the relationship whilst enabling individuals to continue to grow and develop.
When rediscovery of individual thoughts, feelings and wants occurs first in one partner and not the other, then this can be experienced as a threat to the bonds of the relationship. It extremes is can lead to one person feeling abandoned and the other person suffocated.
Lack of Intimacy
The individual partners can be focussed on careers, children, friendships, pastimes or other interests. Intimacy requires time, attention, energy and a feeling of togetherness. It may be that at this point one or both partners lose the drive to maintain intimacy.
Where one person seek intimacy and the other does not then this can be distressing for the partner that wants intimacy. The one that does not engage in intimacy may not feel inclined to do so and may not be a conscious decision leading to confusion and guilt.
It may also be about an attempt to maintain control over the relationship by seeking to influence the other to change or to stay as they are. This can take some unpicking to bring into awareness what is happening in the relationship.
Where both partners move into differentiation this can lead to the feeling of being friends rather than being romantically and sexually involved. Wondering what do we have in common any more.
I can work with you as a couple or individually to explore the relationship and determine where the intimacy was lost and is it possible to get it back.
It is necessary to reconnect with the ‘I’ and rediscover the self. Recognising this individual aspect separate from the partner in the relationship has to be carried out to avoid being stuck and a loss of identity.
The new sense of self can enrich the relationship bringing new experiences, thoughts and feelings that re-energises the awareness and potential for intimacy.
Differences and conflicts can be learnt to be handled openly rather than avoided and ignored. In this way you find your voice and ask for what you want. The other person is not responsible for your happiness and needs; however they can chose to respond of their own free will and volition.
Listening, becoming interested in each other, being curious and finding your voice are important elements of rekindling intimacy.
Where a meaningful intimacy cannot be established within the relationship after attempting to do so means you have a decision to make.
Do you stay stuck and unhappy? Or do you take responsibility for your own needs and the ability to value yourself including meeting your needs in the most positive way open to you.
It may mean a new focus on existing relationships i.e. friends and family. It can also lead to forming new relationships with people who have similar values and interests.
It can also lead to new initiatives and endeavours. Setting out to do those things you had planned to do years before but never quite got round to doing
Intimacy is sharing who you really are with someone else and they share themselves right back. In that space you both feel alive.