Intimacy: Connecting without fear

Carmen BryceBlog posts

When I think of every person in this world I imagine a vast inter-connected series of lines, a bit like a rail system grid, interlocking and weaving in and out and all around.

Stop whatever it is you are doing and look around you. That person beside you could be a complete stranger yet the simple fact that you are both human creates a link.

When you are waiting in the queue for your morning coffee, sitting beside someone on the train, these are all small inconsequential incidences of interaction that are shared associations.

The world can be a lonely place without the connectivity of human interaction. I was sitting on the 145 bus in Dublin this morning and a lady beside me tentatively mentioned how fantastic it will be when the Luas work is completed. So we had a little chat. It was nothing of any great importance but perhaps I was the only person she had spoken to all week.

Now think about those closest to you, chances are that the connection is deeper, there is an intimacy between you both. Intimacy is characterised by a close bond within interpersonal relationships, a shared understanding of each other along with an openness and ease with which to be themselves.

That sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

Connecting with one or more people where we can truly be ourselves without fear of judgement or rejection. Yet it is one of the most difficult experiences to achieve. A truly fulfilling relationship requires intimacy but it can be a risky state for many.

In order to achieve it we must be willing to expose ourselves and tackle the walls which keep us protected. All of our hopes and expectations laid bare. We are vulnerable. Here are my insides, now show me yours. Is there anything more frightening when it comes to being close to another person?

Oftentimes anxiety around abandonment is present. If we can keep ourselves from truly sharing and connecting with this person then when they leave us it won’t hurt as much.

There are no guarantees in life. Uncertainty and the potential for hurt is never far from close relationships. You see that couple who have been together for twenty years? There is still an element of not knowing present for them. One of the first things we must address in order to develop an intimate connection is our unwillingness to accept uncertainty.

Every time we step outside our front door we are faced with a hundred possibilities of what may or may not happen but it doesn’t stop us from continuing on with our day.

The second barrier is touch. How do you and your partner interact physically with each other? No. I’m not talking about sex.

Do you hold each other? Are hugs given, can you lie in bed cuddling without saying a word. Touch can be a powerful way to communicate when words are missing.

Trust in your relationship is absolutely crucial of course. I don’t believe it is possible to have intimacy without it. After all in order to be intimate you must feel safe, and comfortable to be authentic and vulnerable. It is very difficult to achieve that state without trusting your partner and your relationship.

Lastly make sure there are only two people in your relationship. What I mean by this is that it can be easy to share details and problems with friends or colleagues while keeping your partner in the dark. Be mindful of excluding the person you love from sharing in the details of your life. If you find yourself turning to another then perhaps that is something which needs to be addressed.

On Chesil Beach is one of my all time favourite books. Ian McEwan weaves a tender tale about two people in early marriage. It illustrates perfectly the struggle with intimacy and how our fears can hold us back. How I shouted at Edward to open up and show himself to the delicate Florence.

It illustrates perfectly the struggle with intimacy and how our fears can hold us back. There is no doubt that they love each other but the final piece for a deep understanding is missing. Remember that intimacy is really telling the truth about ourselves and while it can be scary, not taking that leap can mean so many missed connections.

Written by MyMind Dublin therapist Geraldine Mulpeter and featured in A Lust for Life