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wundayatta's avatar

How do you experience "true" intimacy in your life?

Asked by wundayatta (58326 points ) October 25th, 2010

Over the last few years I have supposedly been in a process which is supposed to make me understand what true intimacy is. But I still don’t feel like I have a clue. I love my kids. I love my wife. I love my friends, but does anyone know the whole me? The true inner me? Do I give anyone a chance to know me?

I’m sure some of you must be chuckling at that since it seems like I splatter all my shit across fluther, but there’s a lot more. Even in my anonymity, I can’t let myself be seen.

What is true intimacy? How do you experience it? What gets in the way of it? Is anyone else afraid to be truly known?

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16 Answers

MissA's avatar

What do you feel the value is in this quest?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

For me personally, after my experiences up unto this present time:

What is true intimacy?
Earned trust, no dark secrets to keep.

How do you experience it?
By trying to walk my talk and asking others around me to do the same.

What gets in the way of it?
Inconsistent behaviors, secrets, bad habits, outright lies, disrespect, abuse, belittling/undermining.

I’m not afraid to be truly know and feel I am by a small number of intimates in my life. I might not divulge every little bit of myself but if it’s important to them and they ask then I’ll say.

MissA's avatar

I don’t believe that I reveal every detail of my inner self to anyone. Why is that necessary? Why should anyone else need to carry others’ baggage or most personal data?

ZAGWRITER's avatar

I really couldn’t say for sure. I do not have true intimacy with my wife, that much I know. I know that my ideal true intimacy would be to combine the relationship that I had with a really good female friend in high school and the emotional attachment that I feel with my wife. I feel that if we were better friends, the other areas of our lives that have trouble would be better off. Sure, she wants to know me, but it feels like it is a surface level kind of thing, because talking about things intimately anymore makes her really uncomfortable. So, I think that this is my final answer. Or at least as good of one as I can give based on my life solely.

zenvelo's avatar

true intimacy for me is a process of exposing myself emotionally, willing to risk and be vulnerable. That is necessary for the other to trust you and expose her (him) self to you. It’s incremental, and it needs to be reciprocal. I am saddened by what @ZAGWRITER has written, but he shows the truth that both people must participate.

And building the trust to get there includes expressing our feelings, and standing up for them if they are not validated. When I first spoke up to my girlfriend about something she had glossed over, it was a surprise to her for me to speak up but it also brought us much closer because she realized I truster her, and she in turn could trust me more.

YARNLADY's avatar

For some people, it never will happen, because they are too concerned with appearances and cannot just go with their feelings. One way to overcome this is to immerse yourself in the moment, with out over thinking it, such as when dancing or running.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I have over the years been lucky to find a very few people with whom I could share all my inner, darkest thoughts. I mean everything. These are not people I have been sexual with. These are people I’ve shared everything with. And to be completely honest, I found them in the rooms of a 12-step program. We had something vital in common, and that led to opening up and sharing more until finally all the barriers were down.

For me, it took being in a rock bottom place before I would open up totally. It was a hard place to be, but I’m glad I went there and made it out.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think that “true intimacy” is about as attainable as “unconditional love.” I may come close every now and again but I have never found it to be ongoing. It feels too intense and dangerous to me. I love my husband but there will probably always be a part of me that is just for me, too fragile to let out into the light of day or the dark of night actually.

As @hawaii_jake says in the rooms I have had moments as well. That seems to be the safest place, not likely that anyone there would use any information or secrets against you because they too have bared their souls. Good place those rooms! Makes me feel like going to a meeting. I will look for one tomorrow.

wundayatta's avatar

This is really interesting and surprising to me. I was expecting more didacticism of the type @Neizvestnaya provided.

@YARNLADY I wonder if you could expand on what you’ve said. I have, of course, experienced what you are talking about in dance and music, but I think of it as a spiritual thing, not an intimate thing. Yes, we are authentic—our pure selves with no barrier of language—but that seems to me to be different from intimacy. I guess I’ve had this idea that intimacy is about being close in a cognitive way, not a way that is unmediated by language.

So if you could say more—how you came to this idea; what it signifies; I’d appreciate it. If I buy into your idea, then I’ve been truly intimate with many people. Very intensely—even with people I had never met before. That kind of link is not that hard to create between people who are open to it, if you have the right spiritual technology. I can create that for others very reliably. But it seems to me there must be more to intimacy than this “one and done” kind of thing.

cak's avatar

I think going through things that I’ve gone through has allowed me to really let my husband in, there are moments when I may have been kidding myself. Over the summer, when we found that I had a cerebral aneurysm, it scared the living shit out of me. To be perfectly honest, with all I’ve experienced, this scared me the worst. It was found quite by accident, therefore it wasn’t like hearing I had cancer. I wasn’t being tested, it was just there. BAM! I remember the night before my surgery, my husband laying next to me and not a word was spoken, but silently, millions of words were exchanged. I cried and cried because I didn’t know what would happen.

Some people seem to have the ability to allow for true intimacy; others, like me, may have it thrust upon them, not really knowing how it got there, but knowing it once it arrived.

MissA's avatar

@cak That’s beautiful. Hopefully everything has worked out for you both.

cak's avatar

@MissA – would not trade him for anything. Things are getting better and I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

YARNLADY's avatar

Have you browsed through the wikipedia article yet? That is pretty much the way I meant it.

Aster's avatar

I’m not sure it’s attainable. I mean, you’d have to have both partners seek it out and know how to do it . I guess I’ll have to live with closeness as a substitute. It’s not like EVERYBODY wants it.

Earthgirl's avatar

from the Wikipedia article that YARNLADY mentioned:
“intimacy is considered the product of a successful seduction, a process of rapport building that enables parties to confidently disclose previously hidden thoughts and feelings. Intimate conversations become the basis for “confidences” (secret knowledge) that bind people together. Developing an intimate relationship typically takes a considerable amount of time (months and years, rather than days or weeks) ...”

I think this is an interesting aspect of the whole question. To create the intimacy we have to be open to the “rapport building”. In a lot of ways sexual attraction motivates people to find this emotional intimacy but it doesn’t need to be based on that attraction. The attraction can be on a deeper felt or intuited level also. It could be through a connection found in a person’s words when they speak from the heart with no need or desire to impress. It can even be something you sense in a person’s eyes as they are looking at you.It is in their response to your words and thoughts. It happens when we let down our guard for some reason.
Cak Your story is so beautiful. It shows how sometimes words fail us. In those times the greatest intimacy is just being in the same space with someone emotionally. We feel their deepest empathy with us and we know they are there with us in every way possible. Good marriages are filled with these moments. They counteract the times when our partner may not be there for us. None of us is perfect, after all. This bond is one of the strongest. It may keep people together through all kinds of disappointments and hurtful feelings. It can also happen through agonizing over a parent,child, or loved one’s illness.

Of course, happy experiences bond us also. The birth of a child, accomplishments we share, anything we build together. I would expand the definition to include bonds of brother hood as with firemen and trauma teams. In a disaster or war situation instant intimacy is almost thrust upon us. I haven’t experienced this myself but I have seen it happen in smaller ways. I have always been amazed at the basic civility most New Yorkers evidence in times like the blackout we had and the days following 9/11.
Sorry, that I go on. I don’t mean to sit here cataloging intimacy for you.

Wundayatta You asked: What gets in the way of it? The biggest thing is non-reciprocity. One person wants to be intimate and the other person isn’t comfortable with making themselves vulnerable. They don’t feel a need for it. They may say they love you and they may show they love you through their actions but, for whatever reason, they just cannot “open up”. They may not know how to respond when faced with an intimate revelation from you. They aren’t in touch with their own feelings so they don’t know what to do with yours either.

wundayatta's avatar

@Earthgirl There is so much in what you write that helps me understand this issue more completely. I have been through a lot in the last few years—not scary physical things like @cak, but scary mental things. I was so desperate, at times, that I would develop these apparently instant intimate relationships, and then I would grow terribly needy and then I could handle it and I would blow it up. I still love those women, although in a very different way. I am very grateful for what they’ve give me.

But I’m also sad because I’m still seeking for that sense of self that will allow me to believe someone truly could care for me forever. When my wife stayed with me through my illness and all the shit I did to her, I came to believe, for the first time in a decade, that she really did love me.

But that’s different from intimacy. There were things…. are things from that period that I did not tell her. It wasn’t necessary, my therapist said. It would only hurt her, and would serve any purpose in our relationship. It would be selfish, just to assuage my guilt.

I’m not sure she was right. I think perhaps I need to be able to talk about it all—to feel safe to talk about it all—so I can work through it with someone who loves me. Without that feeling that I can talk about the worst shit without destroying everything that is important to me, I feel there is a barrier between me and my wife.

Building rapport is a joyful process. But it seems to me there always comes a time when the worst stuff—the stuff a person is most afraid of—has to come out, if intimacy is to be created. That’s a place where the relationship turns serious, or peters out.

I knew I wanted to marry my wife within a week of meeting her. I told her this, and she said she didn’t know. For a year, maybe, she didn’t know, and then one day, out of nowhere—I had just made her favorite meal—she said, “I think I’ll marry you.” To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why she decided to, but I’m glad she did.

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