It’s an interesting time to be a human, and certainly, a good one to be a pet.
We have much less contact with the people who we intentionally choose to meet with - colleagues, work contacts, and friends. We’re also seeing a lot more of those who are, for most of the time, just there.
Partners, roommates, family, or importantly, ourselves; these are all people who too often fall in the ‘just there’ category. Some of us may be flourishing with this reversal and others will experience a shift in how they view themselves and each other.
Exploring the changing nature of the ways we interact with ourselves and others invites us to reflect on how we create and preserve intimacy in our lives.
Intimacy means ‘closeness, connectedness and bondedness’ in loving relationships. Intimacy is experienced in different ways, including emotionally, physically, intellectually and experientially. What’s interesting about this definition is that it includes intimacy with self. Being self-aware or ‘connected’ to your own emotions and thoughts, caring about them, practising self-compassion; are all elements of creating a loving relationship with self.
This sort of self-intimacy, knowing and liking yourself for who you truly are, creates a strong foundation for intimacy - for truly knowing others. In fact, it’s often cited in the medical literature as one of the four characteristics of intimate relationships.
Creating intimate relationships with others
There are no hard and fast rules for creating intimacy. Intimacy is both a complex, multifaceted concept and a vague one. Knowing others is both an essential part of being human and a fundamental need that speaks to our evolutionary origins. The thing about being human is that no two people will experience intimacy or value the different types of intimacy in the same ways. However, intimate relationships do share similar characteristics.
Aside from knowing and liking yourself, intimacy is about trust and caring. Trust means that two people feel secure to disclose their true feelings without fear or expectation of a negative reaction. Research tells us that trust grows alongside sincere investment in a relationship. Showing you care by fulfilling another person’s needs and interests (and wanting to) builds trust and creates an emotional bond that strengthens intimacy.
Honesty and clear communication
Part of being intimate is communicating expectations about honesty in a respectful manner and following through with them. Being honest with others and with ourselves helps us to make informed conclusions and choices. Honesty is like communication in that, both parties must come to the table for it to work. Communication involves both sending and receiving of cues, which can be verbal or non-verbal. Often, the best communicators are the best listeners. Good communication builds intimacy by averting misunderstanding, increasing relationship satisfaction (and sexual in certain intimate relationships), and alleviating frustration.
Embracing your own style of intimacy
Intimacy is best experienced authentically. Whether that’s taking a bath for self-intimacy, having a deep conversation with a loved one, or enjoying a comforting hug. Embracing the style of intimacy that suits you will help in living life to its fullest, which Oscar Wilde defines as giving “form to every feeling, expression to every thought…”