This guest article from PsychCentral was written by Suzanne Phillips, PSY.D., ABPP
While the definition of intimacy may vary depending on the relationship, it is generally felt to be the “authentic” connection between two people. As such, the connection reflects a mutuality of loving feelings shared and expressed in thought, affect and behavior.
A host of factors including safety, trust, effective communication and sexual exclusivity have been identified as important for intimacy between partners.
Less discussed and perhaps surprising, is the importance of the “capacity to be alone” in establishing true intimacy.
What Is The “Capacity To Be Alone?”
- Originally coined by the British pediatrician/psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, the “capacity to be alone” refers to the development of individuality that starts with the infant’s ability to be alone in the presence of the mother.
- It is the child’s ability to move from the sense of the mother’s compassionate, comforting and loving presence, to his/her ability to hold on to her presence, even when alone.
- This internalized sense of the comforting mother develops into the psychological capacity to regulate anxiety, self-soothe, and experience a true authentic self. In essence, this is the capacity to be alone.
Why Is This an Asset To Intimacy?
- True intimacy starts with a comfort in your own sense of self. If you like yourself and feel comfortable, you will be able to relate in a real and genuine way with another person.
You won’t have to be what someone else wants or needs you to be.
- True intimacy is possible when you have the “capacity to be alone” because it implies choice. You may want to be with someone. You don’t have to be with someone because you fear that being alone leaves you without stability or value.
You don’t have to cling to someone to avoid abandonment or avoid someone for fear of rejection.
- True intimacy is possible when there is psychological separation or room for partners to come and go from each other physically and psychologically.
- Couples often report that when they are apart from each other during the course of the day, they think more positively and romantically about each other than at any other time.
Neurochemistry supports this idea with findings that separation actually revs up dopamine and epinephrine, the hormones associated with sexual desire.
Do You Have The Capacity To Be Alone? Does Your Partner?
Most self-growth starts with self-reflection that leads to self-awareness.
The following list is a translation of the “capacity to be alone” into thoughts, feelings and behaviors that occur in the day-to-day lives of partners. They may be with considering.
If you have the “capacity to be alone”….