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How To Nurture Intimacy In Your Relationship

Wood carving of couplePHIL: In one relationship, I felt that sex created intimacy, but my partner needed intimacy to precede sex. (This is what programmers call the bootstrap problem, from the expression “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” How do you read the first program into a computer when it needs a program in the computer to do the reading?)

In another relationship, my partner traveled often, and on return, there was a hesitancy between us until we became used to being with each other again.

This is not a problem for Maude and I. We do not have the experience of a loss of intimacy that needs to be reconstructed each time. I think that this is because neither of us feels that the other is necessary to complete ourselves. That is not to say that we don’t get exquisite pleasure from each other’s company, but it is an addition to, not a filling of something missing. This is a challenge to describe accurately because when one of us dies, they will be terribly missed by the other. But a separation in life is not a deprivation. There is no loss of closeness other than geographical.

Trouble emerges when you feel your partner completes you in some way. They can’t fill that hole within you. You impose a demand on them that wears over time. Separation becomes a loss, a wound that must be healed to allow closeness again. People deal with that wound by closing up, withdrawing. Every cycle reduces trust. Meanwhile, your partner needs time away to recover from the obligation of taking care of you.

Perhaps you are both dependent on each other for this kind of support. That is an equitable contract to have, but it is still a codependency that can weigh on you. Find the place where your giving comes from love, not obligation. In this place, you can experience the paradox of being free and close at the same time.

MAUDE: One of the most important aspects of a peaceful relationship is maintaining your connection and the deep intimacy that it creates.

I was in a relationship that was almost the opposite. My partner had issues which caused him to retreat completely into himself. He would literally disappear without any explanation, becoming impossible to contact for varying periods of time, sometimes quite lengthy. I felt extreme distress and a strong sense of abandonment. Since I didn’t know when or why this would happen, I never felt safe, and as a consequence, that feeling of sublime peace that Phil and I experience could never be fully present in this other relationship.

If, in order to have personal space, you need to withdraw or block off the connection, this will almost invariably cause a rift, a tear in the fabric of your relationship. No matter how small, these rips remain and they set up a potential thumbtack on the dance floor of your relationship. Even one can keep you from prancing about freely.

Phil and I always feel like we are connected, no matter where we are physically in relation to each other, and we always know we are on the same side. When functioning in our day separately, or when one of us is traveling (in days gone by), we do not have an experience of withdrawal. Neither one of us disconnects, but then we don’t have any reason to do so. If your separateness is not a threat to your partner, if your individuality is honored, acknowledged, respected, then there is no need to pull back from your connection.

Sometimes one partner will interpret the other’s need for time alone as a pulling back from the connection where the relationship lives. Watch out for this and communicate about it when it occurs. This cannot be done successfully with blame or accusation. The partner who is feeling deserted or confused needs to share personally, speaking in the I about how they feel. This kind of sharing can lead to even deeper intimacy and awareness. What is happening can quickly be cleared up, allowing each to learn something important about the other and their connection.

Be aware of this vital connection and nurture your intimacy. It is the most direct place to learn about yourself and your partner and where the vulnerable places of insecurity and misunderstanding may lie.

Photo credit: Phil Mayes

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we wrote about how to nurture intimacy in your relationship. Here are some articles with a variety of suggestions on what you can do.

Nourishing the Different Types of Intimacy in Your Relationship "When we talk about being intimate in a romantic relationship, we often equate it to sexual intimacy. But sex is just one form of intimacy. 'Intimacy is a process whereby we feel truly seen, known by and connected to our partner,' said Jennifer Kogan, LICSW, a psychotherapist who provides individual and couples counseling in Washington, D.C. And this can manifest in many ways. Here are other types of intimacy and how you can nourish each one."

The check-in: an exercise to nurture intimacy and the tolerance of deep connection "In my experience working with couples, it’s not uncommon to find that partners have a considerable difference in their need or tolerance for emotional contact and intimacy.  One partner may be more emotionally expressive and generally talkative, while the other may be less emotionally expressive and less comfortable with one-to-one contact with their partner."

How to build emotional intimacy with your partner — starting tonight "When we discuss intimacy in a romantic partnership, what usually comes to mind are physical acts, such as holding hands, cuddling, kissing and even sex. While physical intimacy is integral in any romantic partnership — it’s one of the primary factors that sets it apart from any other type of relationship — fostering emotional intimacy is just as, if not more, important."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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