Remember a time that you felt an incredibly intimate connection with another human being. Perhaps it was a special moment long ago when your mother comforted you. It could have been when an intimate relationship was blossoming and you were feeling that you could share your innermost self. Or maybe it was the first time you held your newborn child in your arms.
This level of intimacy can only occur in relationships when there’s a deep degree of trust, closeness, acceptance and unconditional love. Some people had families that taught them how to be close. Others must suffer though some painful relationships until they learn how to have intimacy.
Intimacy is built with someone through a series of experiences in which you share your thoughts and feelings. Conversations become increasingly intimate if you both feel accepted, respected, and valued. Naturally, your closest relationships become those in which you feel the most safety and comfort.
Your happiness and health are directly linked to the quality and quantity of your interpersonal connections. Creating moments of emotional intimacy makes it possible to share your dreams and desires in your relationships. Intimate connections make you feel safe enough to open up to someone when dealing with the difficulties of life.
If you’re wondering why you’re struggling to sustain intimate relationships in your life, consider whether you may be stuck in one of the following 4 patterns.
First, reflect on how much negative energy you put into your relationships. If you’re prone to creating drama by getting angry, showering criticism, shouting indignities, or throwing a fit in front of others, then you’re subconsciously wondering whether you’re really loveable. You’re making it extremely difficult for anyone to get close to you, but you secretly hope that someone will find something to love about you. However, your continual testing of the relationship ultimately erodes intimacy with people.
The second pattern that can preclude intimacy involves defending your boundaries too severely. Your fear of being hurt causes you to put up walls to keep people at a safe distance, but you end up isolated and alone. You’re hard on yourself as well as others, and that makes it hard to love or be loved. You’ve probably been hurt very badly in the past, so you don’t have much trust in relationships. But you fear that you can’t handle the hurt that comes when you connect to other people, so you languish in detached relationships.
The third way in which you may be creating problems with intimate connections is by being too dependent in your relationships. You’re often passive and deferential to your partner’s desires, but then find yourself being resentful that person usually gets what they want and you don’t. You either haven’t defined what’s most important to you, or you lack the confidence to ask for it, or both. Because you haven’t defined yourself as a worthwhile person, you can’t project a clear sense of your value in the relationship. Your lack of engagement in the process of sharing what’s important makes intimacy impossible.
The fourth process that prevents intimacy is the high need for external validation. You may have gotten the feeling from your family and friends that that you’re primarily valued for what you have, how you look, or what you achieve. Having to procure material possessions or continually prove yourself only offers fleeting feelings of admiration rather than love in relationships.
To have an inner peace that’s derived from real intimacy, you must feel valued for who you are as a person. You need to learn to focus on knowing and showing your inner character strengths to feel secure enough to connect. And you must stop turning toward external sources of comfort such as food, alcohol, or drugs. Instead, turn toward people you can trust to meet your needs.
Intimacy involves compassion, caring, appreciation, and a commitment to creating positive connections. It begins by treating yourself in those ways. Start asking yourself about what’s important to you in relationships, what strengths you possess that can help you create positive connections, and what small steps you can take toward getting your needs met. Then start testing the waters to see who responds favorably.
Intimacy will arise when you find someone with whom you can share your hopes and dreams, fears and doubts, feelings and fantasies, needs and values. It takes time and trust to build an intimate relationship, so relax and look for the incremental improvements that indicate the quality of the connection is improving.