I thought intimacy was easy. You’re just supposed to love and be loved, right? Intimacy isn’t as much about love as it is about really “knowing” a person and about letting someone else “know” you. That is some rough emotional terrain! Some people play it safe and don’t get intimate with hardly anyone, or reveal very little. Other people put it all out there, too much too soon, and get burned frequently. It’s a non-stop game of Hide & Seek because we have a deep essential need for intimacy – so we yearn for it, but it is scary – so we avoid it.
So how do we have true intimacy in a relationship? First, we have to understand our own barriers to intimacy. Matthew Kelly in his book The Seven Levels of Intimacy said it so succinctly, “Intimacy dies in the face of criticism and judgment.” When we fear judgment, we emotionally pull back. When we feel safe, we emotionally move forward. A safe environment is essential in order to grow emotionally. Period. If intimacy is demanded, it’s not safe. Left to our own devices, however, we hold back too much and therefore don’t grow. A relationship with a significant other is the key – because we desire deep intimacy, we are forced out of our comfort zones into the scary waters so we can grow personally and be fulfilled through a deep connection with our partner.
The Hide & Seek game requires a lot of energy. We put ourselves out there (SEEK) but as soon as we sense the environment is not safe, we pull back (HIDE). Our partner is playing the same game, but nobody understands the game is being played. Both parties desire intimacy, so they keep coming back for it, but they keep avoiding it because they fear rejection. It’s exhausting!
If you are sitting there thinking about how UN-intimate your partner is, I’m going to challenge you to look in the mirror. Our greatest challenge is not to learn how to have true, safe emotional intimacy with our partner – but with ourselves. What parts of yourself do you not reveal to others? Why? What parts of yourself exist, but you avoid thinking about? Why? Do you display only the best sides of yourself and keep other parts hidden in your intimate relationships? Why? What ways do you reject yourself? Why?
When we get down and REAL with ourselves, we discover that we don’t really accept OURSELVES for who we are, and that is why we can’t be fully emotionally intimate with others. We are hiding not only from other people, but from ourselves! Think about that. . . there are parts of us that we are so unaccepting of that we must hide them from OURSELVES! And if there are parts of us so undesirable that we must hide them from ourselves, we must be pretty unsafe to the people around us, and who’s going to want to have intimacy with us then?!
To achieve intimacy, you have to face your fear of rejection, but it’s not just about being accepted by others. We can’t have true intimacy with anyone until we are willing to accept and love ourselves – just the way we are. When we work on intimacy with our partner, we learn how to have intimacy that is “just right” – accepting and loving, yet challenging us to grow. And that is one of the ways we find great fulfillment on earth!