The Challenge of Intimacy

Published by Andrew Aaron on Wednesday, 29th March 2017 - 3:57PM in Help for Couples

["couples therapy", "therapy", "intimacy"]

Few will dispute the importance of being in a love relationship; and few will argue that being in a bad love relationship can be highly painful. The trouble is that many people who attempt to create a satisfying love relationship, whether it be a marriage or not, are not very good at it.

The divorce rate is approximately 50%, suggesting that half of all marriages end before “death do they part.” If the same percentage were applied to the number of people getting infected with the flu, the outbreak would be viewed as an epidemic of historic proportions. And the 50% that are able to make their marriage last, their togetherness indicates little about the happiness of those in marriages that remain together.

For those in a committed love relationship, the security provided by the commitment, makes possible deep intimacy. This represents both a blessing and a curse. When we embrace the challenge by allowing ourselves to be really close to our partner, and fully open to them, we allow ourself to be completely vulnerable. It is part of the human experience for vulnerability to produce fear. In our openness, our sense of self is tested because the limits of our self are gone. Merging becomes likely. This is intimacy. It is a quality that most lovers say they value, until the opportunity to experience it is available. Then most lovers shut down and run away.

People in love relationships are infinitely clever in ways to seem to be close to their partner while keeping themselves sufficient safe distance. For many, especially if he or she has been deeply hurt in the past, the more real the opportunity for intimacy, the more they will distance themselves emotionally.

Many people find that it is easier to be sexual with a stranger than with a partner in a long-term committed relationship with whom there is much history. Many people become aware that it is easier to feel very open and close to the stranger they have never met, but with whom they chat on the Internet. Connections with people with whom there is no history, but with whom there is also no risk of real, deep closeness can feel very satisfying, but in these connection we are not truly challenged because we are not truly seen or known. This is easy. Having a relationship day in and day out, while fully sharing who we are, our strengths and weaknesses, creates an environment where we must be honest with ourselves; where we cannot easily run away from ourselves. It is work, and not always fun, but it makes us strong and self aware.

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