Intimacy: Where Trust Meets Vulnerability

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What do we mean by intimacy?

Intimacy is about being emotionally close to your partner, about being able to let your guard down, and let him or her know how you really feel. Intimacy is also about being able to accept and share in your partner’s feelings, about being there when he/she wants to let their defences down. (Relationships Australia). There is also physical intimacy (see the next ACTION topic). In fact, The Good Men Project web site says there is a whole plethora of different types of intimacies. See for yourself:

goodmenproject.com/featured-content/sexual-vs-emotional-intimacy-do-you-know-the-difference-dg/

According to Psychology Today, deep intimacy requires a high level of transparency, openness and indeed trust. This involves a degree of vulnerability that can feel uncomfortable or anxiety-producing to many of us. These feelings do, however, tend to diminish and even dissolve over time and with practice. (Bloom & Bloom, 2013)

How to build intimacy

Shana Schutte says that ‘intimacy is spelt a-c-c-e-p-t-a-n-c-e.’ ‘Because intimacy means that we allow another person to “see into” us and they allow us to “see into” them, the Key of Acceptance must be used. After all, no one wants to allow someone to “see into” their heart who is controlling, judgmental, critical, sarcastic, unforgiving, abusive, selfish or just plain nasty. 

‘…if you want others to open their heart to you, you’ve got to give them a safe place to do so… Because the truth is that …most of us … [are] fragile and generally fearful of relational pain. For hearts to thrive in intimacy, they’ve got to feel safe and accepted.’ (Schutte, 2009)

Intimacy does not happen automatically but must be built up over time. Often, the harder you work at it, the more valuable and rewarding it becomes. 

Let the other person know what you value about them and your relationship. Try to put it into words as you can’t assume they already know. In any case, everybody likes to be told that they are appreciated and loved.

Create opportunities for intimacy. Try to plan a regular evening, day or weekend for the two of you to be alone.

Practise making “I” statements about how you feel. . For example “I feel hurt you didn’t ask me before you decided” instead of “Why didn’t you ask me first?” This avoids putting your partner on the spot, and may help them do the same. (Relationships Australia)

Relationships Counsellor Paul Dunion considers that we need to develop a degree of knowledge of our OWN emotional needs- a level of emotional maturity- in order successfully to establish intimacy with a partner. ‘I was once asked in a television interview, “What’s the one thing you would recommend to men in order for them to be better equipped to be emotionally intimate with the women in their lives?” My response was: “Men need to come to know and accept their emotional needs and develop strong emotional support with other men.” The interviewer looked dumbfounded. I went on to explain that if men come into their emotional needs with no other support but the significant females in their lives, they run a high risk of maternalizing their relationships, becoming sons of these women… (Dunion, 2014)

Resources and references

Relationships Australia has a number of services available for issues relating to family, children and relationships. For couples: Consider face to face counselling or doing a course or workshop for couples. There is even online counselling available for couples:

http://www.relationshipsnsw.org.au/support-services/online-counselling/

References

Bloom, L., & Bloom, C. (2013, March 21). Stronger at the Broken Places: Emotional Intimacy. It doesn’t just come naturally . Retrieved from Psychology Today :

https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201303/emotional-intimacy

Dunion, P. (2014, March 3). Relationship Rx: 9 steps for establishing emotional intimacy. Retrieved from Huffington Post:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-dunion-edd-lpc/relationship-rx-9-tips-fo_b_4890602.html

Relationships Australia. (n.d.). What is intimacy and why is it so important? Retrieved June 12, 2018, from Relationships.com.au:

http://www.nt.relationships.org.au/www.relationships.com.au/relationship-advice/faqs/what-is-intimacy-and-why-is-it-so-important

Schutte, S. (2009). Developing Emotional Intimacy. Retrieved from Focus on the Family :

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/preparing-for-marriage/what-it-means-to-be-intimate/developing-emotional-intimacy

The Good Men Project. (n.d.). Sexual vs. Emotional Intimacy: Do You Know The Difference? Retrieved from The Good Men Project:

https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/sexual-vs-emotional-intimacy-do-you-know-the-difference-dg/

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