Intimacy is something we all yearn for, yet are somehow deeply afraid of. Someone once said that intimacy is spelled into-me-see. Thinking it of it that way sheds light on why it frightens us.
Letting someone see into us when we are afraid of letting them see our hidden "faults and foibles" can be frightening. How can we be intimate with someone when we are trying to "look good", trying to appear "perfect", trying to appear to be the person of their dreams? How can we be intimate when we have something to hide?
Intimacy is More Than Intimate Bodies
Intimacy implies 100% honesty, and that is probably why it is absent from a lot of relationships. Of course, people say they are intimate, but they are usually referring to sexual intimacy. We have come to equate having sex with being intimate. Now of course, intercourse is intimate in many ways... but intimacy is more than intimate bodies... it needs also to include intimacy of mind and spirit. Even the word intimacy refers to the blending of the inner. It is defined as "innermost", "private". It refers to letting others see into the innermost part of our selves.
Yet even in intimate sexual situations, people turn off the lights, close their eyes, and refuse to open up and really be intimate. I remember feeling embarrassed thinking of what my face must look like in the throes of orgasm -- thinking I would look stupid or ugly.
How can one be truly intimate if one is hiding and afraid to let the other really see them? How can we become "one" with someone when we are only letting them see the part of ourselves we approve of? How can we attain "union" with two incompletes?
Letting Others See Who We "Really" Are
We are afraid of not being loved if we let someone see who we "really" are... or at least who we think we really are. We suck in our stomach when walking around naked where our lover can see us, we "put on our best face", we hide the parts of us that we feel are unacceptable.
The reason many relationships end up in divorce is probably because after a while, we discover that we are not living with the person we thought we married (and vice versa). Two "personas" met, "fell in love", and were married. But because neither truly loved and accepted themselves completely, neither divulged the truth of who they were to the other... neither was truly intimate.
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Then when we start "being ourselves" and the other does too, all of a sudden we are both surprised by who we are living with... We wake up married to a stranger. Where were these two other people during courtship? Hiding, that's where they were. Hiding so they would be loved. Pretending to be "better than", holding back from expressing themselves 100%, "being nice", etc. Then once the marriage takes place, all needs for pretense disappear... after all, the "fish has been hooked". This is a very sad commentary on relationships and our society in general.
Choosing to Be Real
Is there hope? Of course! There is always hope. I like to say that while we are still breathing, there is still hope. We can always change. We can always make choices that take us in different directions. We can choose to be "real", and let the others "into-me-see". After all, if they're not willing to accept you 100%, then do you really want to be around them "until death do us part"?
Now, "accepting" does not mean thinking everything they do is perfect (or vice versa). There will be things that you disagree with, or even things that you out-rightly think are in need of "healing". But even with that, you are still loving and accepting of the whole person. The whole package, with its warts and foibles, is what interests you.
The first step into intimacy is to love and accept oneself. If you are not able to accept yourself 100% and love yourself unconditionally, then you won't be able to let anyone in your life that will love you unconditionally either. You will attract people who will criticize you for the same things you criticize yourself for... You will never let them really see into you, for fear that you will be giving them "more ammunition" to criticize you. You will always hide those things that you feel are "not good enough".
Being Honest With Yourself
So to open yourself up to an intimate relationship, start with the one you're with. You! Start being willing to acknowledge lovingly those things that you've been trying to hide from yourself and from others. Start being real!
Be honest with yourself first, and then extend that to the people close to you. You might want to explain to them first that you need their help on this. That you're feeling insecure about letting them see all your "weaknesses" and that you will need their unconditional love and support in this process. You can ask that "nothing you say will be used against you".
Our great fear is that once we open up and show our "true" selves, that people will turn it against us, that they will then look down at us (as we do on ourselves), that they will abandon us, that they will reject us (as we reject ourselves).
It takes courage to let intimacy into our lives. It takes a strength of purpose... our purpose being to create relationships that are truly loving, supportive, and comfortable. Yes comfortable. A relationship where we can really be ourselves without fear. Somewhat like with a friend that we've had "forever"... with these old friends we can let all aspects of our personality act out, and know that we will still be loved.
We need to develop that intimacy with everyone in our lives (at least those people close to us), so that we can be comfortable living in our bodies... not always looking around the corner to see who is watching and make sure that we are "putting out our best side".
Letting Others Express Their Realness
I am not implying that intimacy is a license for being a complete jerk. Of course not! But then, none of us are "complete" jerks. Yes, we may have a part of us that can be a jerk at times, another part that is frightened, another part that is arrogant, but we also have the major part of us that wants to be loved for who we are... a major part of us simply wants to love and be loved.
We must become real, with our foibles and hesitations, with our imperfections, with our hopes and dreams, and let the other people in our lives express that aspect of themselves as well. One can only love a reality, not an illusion.
Until we can feel safe being ourselves, and let others be themselves, then intimacy is not possible. While we are still trying to only let the "other" see the "good side" of us, then we will have a flat relationship, not a three-dimensional one.
We are not cardboard characters -- we are not the flat image we see in movies, or read about in fairy tales. We are real, we are multi-faceted, and we are experiencing life in its many aspects, with its many personality traits and patterns and ups and downs.
We need to be willing to be ourselves, to be real, and to let others get close enough to "into-me-see" -- and then we'll have relationships that are intimate, that are grand! We'll have relationships where we can finally feel at ease, and be able to receive support and love in our path towards greater and greater Love of self, and Love for all.
The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved
by Matthew Kelly.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
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