And yet, despite all of my experiences, I am regularly reminded how narrow the common definition of intimacy is. Why do we have such a limited understanding? Man and woman and marriage seems to be the only acceptable way to achieve true intimacy and then, of course, only with each other, to the exclusion of other people.
I think I know the answer, although it doesn't sound very nice. People embrace a closed definition of intimacy to excuse their own lack of it. They dismiss the intimacy and legitimacy of non-traditional relationships so they can create or elevate it for themselves. That is foolishness, of course, but it's not surprising. We are insecure creatures seeking approval and longing to prove our own worthiness.
Opportunities for intimacy are all around us, and they don't need to be sexual. (But they certainly can be…) We can have intimate moments with family and friends and they need not have naughty overtones. But we can also have intimacies that are rooted in sexual desire, and having and desiring and pursuing those relationships need not be precluded by our marital state. I hope that everyone who is married has intimacy with their spouse. But I also want to dispel the myth that marriage is the only thing that can provide "true" intimacy.
We meet a stranger on the train and we say, "It's like you know me." We see an old friend after years of not being in contact and we say, "It's like we were never apart." We talk to a family member about moments from a shared past and say, "It's like we are inhabiting one mind." Those are all intimacies and each is as valid as any other. So why when it comes to relationships based in romantic love, do we feel so sure that it is only with one partner that true intimacy can be found?
I don't believe that only monogamy can bring intimacy, just as I don't believe that only time can bring us intimacy. Moments of instantaneous connection can occur any time we are open to having and making those connections. For those who find no need for intimacy outside of their marriage, sexual or otherwise, feel free to ignore what beckons. You likely are contented enough not to even hear its call. But for those of us who do, I see no harm in heeding it. I see nothing "lesser" about those chance, momentary opportunities of connection and meaning. Intimacy is not the property of marriage. Each of us owns our right to be intimate with whomever we want, in whatever manner makes us most happy.
If we are lucky, we have experienced all kinds of intimacies throughout our lives. The thing is, many people only accept of certain kinds and only when they fit neatly within certain boundaries. But just as those kinds and boundaries can be different for different people when it comes to relationships with family and friends, so too can it be different when it comes to sexual relationships. The thing is, we limit ourselves when we spend so much time and energy defining what intimacy "should" be.