Saturday, December 22, 2007

Intimacy Starts With "I"

A little something for couples (written to men, but applies to everyone):

The most vital, passionate, intimate relationships are experienced by two people who know who they are as individuals and who have a deep desire to share their self with their partner. Intimacy is not about being dependent on one another or completely independent. It involves true interdependence: two people coming together to support and love each other deeply while still maintaining their own identity.

Think back to the beginning of your relationship, when you first got serious. You couldn’t keep your hands off each other. It didn’t matter if you were in the car, in the movie theater, or in her parents’ living room. You were thinking about being with her, and she was thinking about being with you. School, work, friends, sleep—nothing else mattered.

Let’s explore the circumstances for a moment. You had your life, and she had hers. You had your own place; so did she. You had different friends. You had a deep, rich history that was brand new to her, and she had her own interesting past. You talked about all sorts of things, agreeing on some, disagreeing on others. You were different people with different lives, and that’s part of what made your courtship tantalizing. You were crazy about each other. Her stories fascinated you, and you were eager to tell her yours. The two of you looked forward to all the incredible things you were going to experience together, especially sex. You were free to be yourself, and she was mesmerizing.

As your relationship progressed toward marriage, the two of you drew closer to one another and you shared more and more of your lives together. You may have found that you were willing to spend less time with your own friends, and she was too. Instead of “I,” “me,” and “mine,” the language of the relationship changed to “we,” “us,” and “ours.” Because of your love and desire to make each other happy, you occasionally put your own needs and wants on hold to accommodate her. These personal sacrifices are some of the most loving acts we do for one another.

Over time, however, this accommodation can have its downside. Surrendering your own wants is not always best for the relationship. For example, it may not be a big deal for you to agree to spend your vacation with your mother-in-law this year, but spending every summer with her for the next forty years may cause some problems. As a couple, you face numerous situations that require each of you to state your honest opinion rather than to acquiesce. Issues such as where you’ll live and how many children you’ll have require both of you to express your opinions. When you develop a habit of accommodating rather than stating your feelings, resentments build and the passion can start to fade.

Accommodation and diminished passion are normal in marriage, and many couples accept these patterns as facts of life. But you want more than normal or average. Passion comes from taking the risk to be emotionally vulnerable in your relationship. Therefore I invite you to be open and honest with each other, to be who you really are, to rekindle the flames of your romance. When you hold back, you are cheating yourself of the joyful, passionate intimacy that keeps love alive and makes sparks fly in the bedroom. This active, alive, intimate, and honest connection is called a vital marriage and is possible only when a couple is willing to face their fears of vulnerability.

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