'It is like a man who looks in the mirror and,
when he walks away, immediately
forgets what he looked like.'
Often we hear couples complain about a lack of closeness or intimacy in their relationship.
After listening to them for a while, it soon becomes apparent that what the male partner means by intimacy is quite different from the female.
Generally, most males identify intimacy with sexual activity while, for females, it is about connecting with each other by communication and self-disclosure.
Getting couples to communicate does not necessarily solve the problem of closeness. The truth is that they are communicating all the time either by verbal or non-verbal conveyance. For instance, they communicate when they refuse to talk to each other.
However, this is not the type of communication that brings closeness or intimacy. So the problem is not communication but what is communicated.
We all know people who avoid intimacy and closeness by not disclosing their true feelings and thoughts. Instead, they tell us what they think we want to hear and pretend to be whoever they think they have to be to please or avoid conflict. They don't value their own opinions and feelings enough to be their own person. To avoid closeness, they wear many disguises. They are like actors who play different roles and wear many masks in order to keep us at arm's length.
It is like a man who looks in the mirror and, when he walks away, immediately forgets what he looked like! There is no definition because a different face is present each time. After years of relating this way, not only do we not know who the person is, but they don't either.
There is a trust issue. How can we believe or trust a person who tells us what he or she thinks we want to hear? How do we know when that person is being honest and upfront? It is difficult to distinguish between what is a false presentation and what is real disclosure. There is no credibility or integrity.
Then there are people we do feel close to and trust because they disclose what they feel and think. They are keenly aware of what goes on inside of them and they choose to share themselves even under the pressure of conformity and sameness. They are upfront and honest even at the risk of having to answer more questions, upset feelings or disagreements. They trust themselves and the relationship enough to be vulnerable.
With this article, I am starting a series on the twelve parts of intimacy. Next month I will have a questionnaire that will be help you in determining how intimate you are in your relationship.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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