Early on in my marriage, I could sense that something was different about my relationship with my husband. It felt like other couples had something different that we didn’t have, and I couldn’t really put my finger on it.
Yes, I loved this man. Yes, we shared a lot between us. But most of what was shared between us was on the surface, or just below – how we liked to spend our time, what we thought about, the overlap in what we wanted for our lives.
Other couples I knew would describe feelings of real, genuine emotional closeness with their partners. But I didn’t get it. I couldn’t relate. Like, I didn’t even realize what they were talking about. (Can you say emotionally stunted?)
Intimacy. Lots of people use it as a word to imply sex, but it involves so much more. Loosely translated, I’d call it the thing that happens when someone shares the depths of who they are and what they feel (and it is received).
What they feel?
One of the things I can see now is that I spent most of my childhood and much of my early adulthood not actually acknowledging my feelings. Yes, I knew feelings were a thing, and I’m sure I had them. But I paid zero attention to them.
So, I had them, but didn’t really feel them.
I guess that’s how my limited-capacity for intimacy came about in a nutshell. I just wasn’t paying attention to how I felt, nor did I understand how doing so would enhance my life. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
The good, the bad, the ugly.
In fact, it wasn’t until my thirties that my feelings started to become important. Having a baby and a marriage that was struggling caused pain in my body that I couldn’t ignore. What was the pain? All of my stuffed emotions.
But there were some emotions that were still off limits. I got really good at happy, excited, sad and frustrated, but was still rather terrible at shame, guilt, and anger.
It wasn’t until somebody asked about the darker parts of myself, the parts that I wasn’t proud of and kept hidden away until I realized that I even had these emotions or things I didn’t want people to see about me.
My answer of, “Oh, I don’t think there are any,” in the cheeriest voice you can imagine was less than convincing. The look on that person’s face was all I needed to know instantly what I had just said was a complete lie.
It’s really easy to show the light, the fun, the playful, the flirty, the sexy, the happy go lucky parts of ourselves. It is much, much, much, much more challenging to show the want, the need, the desperation, the shame, the guilt, the fear, the hurt, and the vulnerability associated with the parts of ourselves that don’t feel worthy of love.
In the exploration of those parts – in the absence of judgement – you get to come to terms with telling the truth about who you are, and knowing that the truth of who you are includes all those things. Learning to love those places anyway is where we find real beauty and grace.
The gifts of acknowledging all that you are.
When you look at something for long enough without judging it, you learn to love it. You notice the intricacies of it and develop appreciation for it. When you bring those hidden parts of you up into the light to be examined, you can find the love for them there.
You learn to be in full acceptance of who you are. Imagine not knowing how to breathe and then finally taking your first deep breath – it’s like this. Acceptance of who you are doesn’t mean perfect, only that you find patience with what is right now.
When you are in full acceptance of who you are, you can stop working so hard to be accepted by others, because you don’t require it. You get to slow down, do less, and rest in the full truth of knowing you are enough.
You show people that it’s safe, valuable, and worthy to be in full acceptance of who you are, and in turn, offer them the opportunity to do the same. People will trust you, share with you, open up to you.
And that is where intimacy comes from. This is where the relationships that fully serve both partners are born.