Are you interested in having more intimacy in your life? It's certainly one of the issues that many of my couples and singles want to work on when they see me for private counseling sessions. The first thing I like to do is to define our terms. When some people talk about intimacy, they sometimes mean emotional intimacy. Some people mean sexual intimacy when they raise the issue. And some refer to both the emotional and physical aspects of intimacy.
Let's being with the emotional aspects of intimacy. A long time ago, I heard a clever definition of intimacy by re-languaging it as Into-Me-I See. This defines intimacy first as an inner process of self-discovery and of self-knowledge.
Now let's apply this lens in the context of an intimate partnership. So in this partnership, we begin to discover new parts of ourselves. Or perhaps we uncover parts that are gradually revealed to us in reaction to our partner and the relationship. And then, we can begin to share these discoveries, these insights with our partner. It can be a very exciting process, this sharing of ourselves.
To me, being in partnership provides the environment, the soil for me to grow, for me to discover parts of myself that I wouldn’t know otherwise. This comes from the safety and the trust that builds over time that allows me to become more open and more vulnerable.
So my partner is the stimulus to me, allowing me to uncover parts of myself that I would never have discovered on my own. Some of these are the so-called good parts; some are what we label the bad parts. If we take away the labels and judgments, they are all parts of myself, parts that need to be revealed and illuminated, so that I can make choices about which parts I want to feed and water and nourish and which parts I want to let hibernate, and go dormant.
And in a loving, accepting partnership, I can allow those parts to come out as they are stimulated and I can share them with myself and my partner. That is true intimacy to me. Discovering parts of myself I didn’t know I had and sharing them with someone. That is true growth. That is how I view emotional intimacy.
Sometimes we use the term “intimacy” as a polite way of speaking of sexuality and physical connection with a partner. The sexual act, and sexual connection CAN be an extremely intimate connection. It isn’t necessarily, yet it CAN be. And in the context of a loving partnership, the emotional intimacy can fuel the sexual intimacy. And the sexual intimacy can fuel the emotional intimacy. And they can feed upon each other to create an expansion and growth to the relationship.
We know the old saying that women need love to connect to their sexuality and men need sex to connect to their love? While I avoid generalizations, there is some truth to this statement. Perhaps you have experienced this in some of your relationships.
I’ve spoken before about the two styles of connecting to sexuality: the autogenic, which is more typically masculine, which is more the direct physical connection, and the psychogenic, which is more typically feminine, which is the mental, emotional connection. For some, desire creates arousal. For some, arousal creates desire. Both are true when they are true. Both work. Both are valid.
To bring more sexual intimacy to your relationship, I think it is good to take both routes. Sometimes it is good to surrender to the physical and let the pure arousal take you over.