This is the first post in our “building intimacy in your relationships” series
Many people search for that special intimacy in their relationship.
Some of us search our entire lives for a feeling of oneness with another person. It’s hard to describe, really, what we search for, but we know it when we finally achieve it. Maybe we tire of that dark feeling of being ultimately alone as we struggle through life. If only there were someone else here, we say to ourselves, who could understand and share these burdens. Then it wouldn’t be so lonely. It wouldn’t be so hard. Or perhaps, in our more positive moments, we want to share not just the burdens but our pleasures too, our strength and beauty. We want the powerful impact of our internal experience to have an impression on someone else, as if to say that we count, we are whole, and we want to impart this feeling to another person.
Humans are social beings. Is that why we search for intimacy with others? Is the quest for intimacy the reason we commit ourselves to another person in marriage or some other public declaration of loyalty? In trying to find intimacy, are we simply searching again for the ultimate feeling of bonding that we felt toward a parent during our infancy? The search for intimacy may be one reason we form social groups, and it may explain why we quest for spiritual fulfillment in our lives.
Many people in contemporary society feel lonely. For all the benefits we derive from living in a highly technological world, with seemingly instant and complete communication with others, we still may find it difficult to discover ways to form intimate relationships. In fact, our high tech society seems to fragment our social connections, to drive us away from other people.
For example, e-mail seems to make connecting with other people much easier, but in truth our messages are usually just flashes of ideas – briefly written, briefly read, and instantan-eously deleted – and they barely fulfill our desire for more complete relationships based on our inner experiences.
In our modern society, we lack ways to see, hear, or touch other people – not in person and not to the extent that humans have in the past. What our high tech world has brought us is an abundance of stress. And stress and intimacy are hardly compatible bedfellows.
To form an intimate connection with another person requires first that we have access to our own personal emotions and ideas. We cannot expect to be intimate with another when we are out of touch with our own internal experiences. We must explore and become familiar with our own personal thoughts and feelings before we can share them with someone else. Our intimate experiences may involve our emotional, cognitive, social, physical, sexual, and spiritual lives. Two people, each of whom is in touch with his or her own internal experiences, may be able to share an intimate relationship on any one of these levels. True intimacy is one of the ultimate expressions of the human experience. And that may be why we strive so hard to find it.
Individual therapy, relational therapy or Couples therapy can allow you to explore your own deepest and most intimate feelings in a safe and accepting setting with a professional trained to understand these inner processes. The psychotherapeutic relationship allows you to learn to stay true to your uniqueness and feel comfortable in sharing your authenticity with another person. You can explore who can be trusted, and who can’t, as well as the features of your life that may have led you to hide yourself from others. Individual therapy, relational therapy or couples therapy all have the potential to teach you how to break out of isolation and loneliness into a world of love and acceptance. It prepares you to explore an intimate relationship outside of the therapy setting.
Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT