We all love the intimacy in the beginning of a relationship – where we are sharing things with our partner that we don’t share with most people. We share our deepest hopes, dreams, faults, fears, failures, disappointments, etc. We are able to share these delicate gems, why? Because the other person is being tender and safe and offering loving acceptance of us as we share these intimacies. It is a delicious connection to another soul – one which we are all hard-wired to yearn for. We offer the same safe and loving environment for our mate to share their intimacies as well, it feels so good and we want more! This is the “in love” feeling that everyone describes.
So what happens? Why does this wonderful intimacy fade away the longer we are in a relationship?
Think about this. In the beginning, we are sharing such intimacies with great humility. We want our partner to like us, so we offer up our deep stuff with trepidation – “Maybe he won’t still love me if I tell him this.” In the spirit of that humility, it is easy for our mate to offer forgiveness and understanding. Additionally, when we are hearing our partner’s intimate nuggets, we are highly motivated to accept them because we are pursuing a relationship with them. We can overlook a lot when we are trying to secure a commitment!
That is how intimacy is built. Both partners are more vulnerable and humble than ever in sharing with their mate and they are both safe, loving, and accepting of their partner’s intimacies. So where does it break down?
It is not in the sharing of intimacies that it begins to break down, it is in the reception. Let’s say that a guy says something at a party that hurt his girl’s feelings. She shares it with him on the way home. He angrily defends himself. Is she being intimate? Yes. Does she get a warm and loving response to sharing her feelings? No. Now she feels attacked and views him as unsafe. She will think twice the next time that she wants to share her feelings. The slow decline of that loving acceptance they once enjoyed begins. Now compound that over the next 5 or 10 years and you’ve got a real mess on your hands!
To get the intimacy back, we absolutely have to learn how to accept our partner the way that they are. We have to be mature enough to hear what they really feel – and accept it. Matthew Kelly said it best – “Intimacy dies in the face of judgment and criticism”. No truer words have ever been spoken! And may I be bold enough to say this . . . most of us are not mature enough to handle true intimacy! I know that I was not and I am still learning. As I have changed my understanding of what intimacy really is, however, it has helped me to have more authentic relationships with those close to me.
Can you let your partner feel what they feel? Can they do the same for you? Can you grow through the differences instead of trying to change what the other person feels? Can you accept that intimacy does not always feel good, that sometimes it will hurt, but it is what you need?
When we get to the point of offering consistent, genuine acceptance once again, the soil is ready for intimacy to begin to grow and the relationship can flourish. Be patient, however, it takes time to create an environment of consistent, genuine acceptance and safety – especially in the wake of an environment of judgment, criticism, defense, lack of acceptance, etc.. If you are doing it with the right spirit and are willing to be patient, however, the rewards are worth the wait!