Aspects of Healthy, Generative Relationships
We all have a biological and psychological drive towards Intimacy. It seems like part of our DNA and is related to our deep desire for connection. Here we will look at different components of intimacy that can be practiced in our relationships.
“Nothing in this world was more difficult than love.”― Gabriel García Márquez
Intimacy has many dimensions and domains and include: physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, spiritual intimacy, and energetic intimacy.
Physical intimacy includes lovemaking and touching. Touch includes things like snuggling, spooning, offering massages, hugging and kissing for no reason, and holding hands. Lovemaking is, well, making love. Humans crave touch. In an article by Dacher Keltner, “research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.” Partners can make it a practice to touch, and touch in a good way. Random touch, when for no reason or occasion, can provide comfort and peace. Touching more can add to the aspects of trust, connection, and care.
Emotional intimacy is one of the ways to produce strong connection between partners. This is the sharing of feelings and emotional states, both as a kind of report, like sharing how the day was, and also as an expression of being authentic in the moment. Being in a regular practice of sharing “real” feelings offers both partners a clear insight into the emotional wellbeing (or not) of each other. It offers a closeness and connection that the lack of reporting and sharing can nullify. Having difficulty sharing with one’s partner is not unusual. It is not unusual that our historical shaping will organize us to have difficulty with authentic sharing.
Intellectual intimacy is the sharing and/or discussions of what you know intellectually with each other. Talking about the news of the day, or having conversations when finding out about things one might be curious about are examples. Intimacy is created here when this becomes a shared conversation, shared knowledge, and it is not unusual for one person to know more than the other in particular areas. Intellectual intimacy is not about having a one sided conversation or teaching the other person. It is best to include each other, asking for the others opinion or insight.
Spiritual intimacy means being in a spiritual practice together and sharing what it is to be in the practice individually and together. Many relationships share a spiritual practice, and many do not. What becomes important for intimacy is sharing. If the practice is jointly practiced, then it is best to practice together and to speak to each other about how the practice affects their life. If partners don’t share the same spiritual practice, it can still be shared and discussed. Breakdowns can happen when there is lack of acceptance, ignorance, a lack of sharing, and pressure for someone to change their practice or beliefs. Acceptance and honoring each other’s practice produces intimacy.
Energetic intimacy and connection shows up in our “felt sense” of things, often referred to as our sixth sense. That phrase has become analogous to a thinking that something mysterious and obtuse exists that we can’t understand, and can even discredited as non-existent. Energetic connection to others exists continuously. Energetic connection to all life exists continuously for all of us. Our western culture has worked very hard for millennia to disconnect us from our energetic self in favor of our intellectual self. We suggest energetic connection is a normal part of our existence as human beings and most of us have an experience of this on a regular basis. Like any other muscle, it requires practice to be used well. If partners assume it exists, then it can more easily be cultivated and used as a way to create more intimacy in relationships. This is the thing we feel with each other when we know something is off, and we can’t exactly place what it is. Intimacy is created when we acknowledge this “sense” we have about our partner and express it as a concern or as just a noticing. We might ask our partner if everything is OK, or if they are all right. We suggest this dimension of relationship be expressed as a natural part of what exist between partners.
Related to all the domains of intimacy, there is friendship. A “friend” is someone you know and trust, and then there are our “close friends.” Naming friendship as “close friends” goes beyond just knowing and trusting. It elevates the friendship to a much higher level of sharing that happens, a much higher level of support that is offered, and higher level of connection both when together and when apart. When deciding what kind of relationship you want to be in, it will be valuable to consider what will be expanded in the relationship if you are partners, lovers, AND friends.
For physical intimacy, touch more. My partner and I have a practice of kissing each other every time we part. It may be that one of us is just going to the store or running an errand. When we walk together, we almost always hold hands, and we have been together 40 years. What is your practice for physical contact?
Have a conversation about lovemaking. Are you both honestly satisfied? This is a practice for honesty, authenticity, and transparency. Try new things.
Share your feelings. Have a conversation about what you both want the sharing to look like. Some aspects of these kinds of conversations can be easier or harder for some people. Give your partner space if it is difficult, and be willing to allow some time for your partner to be fully expressive. Sometimes people will want to over-share. Be aware of what is too much and what is not enough, noticing what is easy and/or hard for you.
Have a conversation about your spiritual practice. Is it shared? Can you share it more? What ongoing practices do you want to be in together? Name them and decide when you will begin. If you don’t have a shared practice, is there a way you can share with each other what you practice and what it means to you? Is there common ground within the two practices that you can share? Notice when and where the sharing is easy or difficult. Also notice if there is openness and allowance of each other’s practice.
Practice your energetic connection. The more you stay in touch with your own aliveness, the more you will feel each other. If either or both partners are not connected to this aspect of themselves, make a commitment to learn. Practicing together is another good practice for intimacy. If you are connected, every so often either together or not, see if you can “feel” your partner. This practice will produce, over time, a deeper connection between partners. Have a conversation with your partner about what you notice. Note: This is a skill to develop. It may not be useful to assume that if you get a certain kind or hit or message about the other person that it is “true.” Check it out with each other.
If you see a recurrent issue that is difficult or seemingly impossible to shift, the practice is revealing a place for your continued self-work.
We would love to hear your experiences and comments about this!
Cartoon courtesy of Meredith Broome http://www.relevantelephants.com