Are you someone who turns the lights down or off to have sex?
Tragically, this is all too common. A couple starts off with a good conversation. They feel comfortable. There's a physical attraction, and the next thing you know the lights are off, they're fumbling to remove their clothes, and then excitedly exploring each others' bodies—in the dark.
The last part doesn't sound so bad if you like exploring while blindfolded. But as a metaphor for intimacy, searching for a deep connection in the dark is a recipe for short-term, and certainly long-term, disaster.
Why? Because instead of turning the lights down, we need illumination. Intimacy is about seeing truth, and being vulnerable and willing to express our needs and desires openly together. There are different levels of emotional and sexual intimacy, and a host of reasons for why we need both types. Intimacy does not come naturally, which is one of the main reasons why many men and women in their 20s and 30s struggle and fail in their relationships.
20-30's: The Impressionable Years
A National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study found that peoples' brains are not fully mature until they reach age 25. Between the ages of 15 to 20 our prefrontal cortex continues to mature. This is the part of our brain that allows us to create long-term strategies, anticipate the future consequences of our decisions, control impulses, and compare risk and reward. We ask important questions about where we're heading in life.
Between 20 and 25 our brains are still forming. We're highly impressionable. Fantasies and other peoples' beliefs have a major impact on our decision-making, focus, and direction. Our idea of intimacy and knowledge of sexual fulfillment is borrowed from religious doctrines, movies, books, games, the Internet, family, and friends.
Between 26 and 30, we may have discovered that our years of education didn't land us the job of our dreams, and we are now reexamining what we want to do when we "grow up." The deeper question of "Who am I?" is tabled in favor of financial independence from family and financial obligations. By now most of us have had one or two serious attempts at relationships.
Psychologists have established five levels of intimacy that a couple needs to progress through together. Most 26-to-30-year-olds get to level two—or maybe three. At these levels, we are moving away from other peoples' opinions and beliefs to come to know our own. Instead of saying things like, "I read that good foreplay must have…" we begin to express our own beliefs about love, sex, and more.
The most dramatic shift that happens is we move away from a high sensitivity to criticism and rejection to a place where we are more willing to be vulnerable. But we still reserve the ability to change our opinion in an instant to avoid pain or conflict. Many of us end relationships abruptly, moving on to the next without a lot of self-examination. Wisdom around emotional intimacy comes slowly. Keep reading...
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