Intimacy is the sharing of one’s soul with another person’s, depth of trust, and profound insights into each other. That level of emotional interaction bespeaks a decency of character, focus and integrity. But entertainment outlets and social media have degraded the concept of that nobility into sexy soundbytes, ratings-driven mind games and a manipulative “What’s in it for me?” mindset. Intimacy has been perverted from its noble give and take with unconditional acceptance concept to raunchy vulgarity, getting laid as fast and as often as possible, not necessarily by the same people over time.
The popular degradation of the intimacy concept is one reason why mental health therapists have clients: People fail to mature despite the educational setbacks caused by their dysfunctional behavior. Life lessons go unlearned because they’re rejected or misinterpreted. Consider the implications of that and you might begin to understand why mental health professionals are called “Shrinks;” they can define a powerful problem quickly and succinctly, reducing unfocused client complaints to the bare bones description of the problems that the clients wittingly or unwittingly brought upon themselves.
Sex therapist Jodi Wachspress, MA, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, remarks that “True intimacy is when one’s personal strengths and sense of self are not threatened by their intimate relationship, but rather are blended mindfully with those of their partner, creating a sum that is greater than its parts. As a Couple’s and Sex therapist, my clients struggle to hold on to themselves so feverishly that they are unable to acknowledge their partners’ contributions to the “we.”
If you’re struggling through this article, stop a moment to ponder the statement, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Applicable to all interpersonal relationships in families, between lovers, employers and employees, colleagues, teachers and students, it is an apt description of intimacy’s immediate and long-lasting benefits: the lack of strife, blame, vindictiveness, etc. It implies a shared search for solutions to given problems, and unconditional acceptance within reasonable limits. Abuse is not something to be tolerated.
Humanity being what it is, though, our better selves are not part of our interactions often enough. If they were, newspapers and news sites would go out of business. Dysfunctional behaviors would end, not begin nor be relevant to anything. Clergy would be out of jobs no matter which religion was involved.
Intimacy is too often associated with mere sexual activity, not with emotional investments among specific groups of people nor devotion to a shared goal. One of the primary therapeutic approaches to restoring and/or enhancing relationships remains this: Reach a level of self- respect that enables you to treat others as you want to be treated yourself. Continue to treat the people in your life as nicely as you did when you first met, or as if you’ve met for the first time.
The reason for the above is this: The time, compassion, curiosity and generosity of spirit that we invest in new acquaintances and love interests tend to fade away among our sense of priorities over time. Familiarity literally breeds contempt, or at minimum, a lack of good manners, when we’ve known someone for months or years.
According to the findings in The Seven Principles for Making Marriages Work (Chapter Seven, 129-155), New York: Three Rivers Press (Random House, Inc.) book by Nan Silver and John M. Gottman, marital problems come in two varieties. “All marital conflicts, ranging from mundane annoyances to all-out wars, really fall into one of two categories: Either they can be resolved, or they are perpetual, which means they will be a part of your lives forever, in some form or another.”
That startling load of information applies to other relationships, too. Gottman shares more insights in his How To Keep Love Going Strong article, written with Julie Gottman. The evidence shared in the feature story indicates that forgiveness, good listening skills, a sense of humor and taking the time to nurture a given relationship are necessities for healthy, satisfying and long-term interactions, i.e., intimacy.
Some couples find that they need to improve on the physical intimacy in their lives. If the problem is a matter of social skills or sexual techniques, sessions with a competent, licensed therapist can improve things. Males might find it difficult to admit such difficulty due to mass media’s unrealistic portrayal of “Men in charge” romance. When intercourse is painful for the female, therapy can promote relaxation and orgasm in several different ways: Talk therapy focused on specific issues is one option. Cups aka dilators in graduated sizes can be inserted into her vagina according to a woman’s ability to tolerate the sensation.
The scope of intimacy and therapy for unsuccessful efforts at maintaining or initiating a relationship is too large for this article to address. Anyone who believes or suspects that they need intimacy therapy can make inquiries for help via their local mental health organizations. Even your medical doctor might be able to recommend competent intimacy therapists.
Cautions to be aware of:
- Be sure to verify state and college certification with any practitioner before investing time or money in their offices.
- Being vulnerable as a person in need of therapy is not an excuse for rushing into treatment before making certain that you’re dealing with a compassionate, decently behaved professional.
- If at any time you suspect that your therapist is a fraud, or simply someone who makes you uncomfortable, seek a different therapist.
One more thing: Therapy is a matter of time, gained insights and effort. No guarantees are involved. Your resolved determination to better appreciate the intricacies of intimacy, in any form, can improve your life – but only with conscientious effort and a commitment to practice the principles that work. Demanding that someone give you what you want because you did X, Y or Z some time ago is blackmail, not love.
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals http://www.arhp.org/publications-and-resources/clinical-fact-sheets/shf-therapy
How To Keep Love Going Strong – Seven principles on the road to happily ever after. John and Julie Gottman
Managing Conflict: Solvable vs. Perpetual Problems – Michael Fulwiler. Posted 2 July 2012
The Seven Principles for Making Marriages Work (Chapter Seven, 129-155). New York: Three Rivers Press (Random House, Inc.)