15 Jun 2007 12:26 pm

INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS

Intimacy, especially when referring to a relationship, is often used as an euphemism for sex. When most people talk about intimate relationships they are almost always talking about sexual relations, as if the only way to experience intimacy is through “making love”.

In this chapter we will talk about intimate relationships in much broader terms. We will examine intimacy in all our personal relationships, from friendships to families to life partners. All of these intimate relationships, plus the most important intimate relationship you will ever have, that being with yourself, will be explored over the next few pages.

The desire to get more familiar with, to get closer to, is at the heart of almost every relationship we pursue and sustain in our lives. Our sense of history, forever fueling whatever meaning we find in life, is built upon the relationships we have forged during our lifetime.

Even when we do not voluntarily enter a relationship, or openly resist it, our lives are shaped by the influence familiarity brings. Some of my least favorite teachers, classmates and relatives still had a powerful effect on my life due to the time and history we shared.

All relationships, no matter how distant, have an effect on our lives. Yet, there is no denying that some relationships are more influential and powerful than others. The more that is actually shared in a relationship the greater the potential of intimacy it contains. The more we consciously strive to get closer to a person, the more familiar we are able to become with them.

We can be drawn into having a relationship for a host of reasons. The person may possess a quality which we admire, seem easy to talk to, or somehow remind us of ourselves. We can be attracted to a person because they are a challenge, seem oddly foreign, or because they are popular. We may be attracted to their minds, personality, or style.

Probably the strongest motivation for seeking a relationship with another person is when you find yourself “falling in love” with them. This desire for a loving relationship, usually with a pronounced sexual component, is one of the most overwhelming impulses a person ever feels. This is the area where love is often confused with infatuation or ruined by obsession.

Love and intimacy are very similar desires in both motivation and structure. Love, though, is mainly an emotional response and state, where intimacy encompasses the entire human spirit. The aspects of love which intimacy shares is it’s desire to feel close and connected to the object of desire. Where they part company is that love is often blind or unconditional, intimacy is always moving with it’s eyes wide open. The closeness of intimacy is based on and progresses due to real experiences and does not find pure emotional (or physical) attraction sufficient.

When viewed this way, love is dependent on intimacy if it is to grow and develop. Love is validated through intimacy, for it is through intimacy that the initial feelings of love are shown to truly exist in the real world. Without being intimate, love is doomed to stagnate, or prove to be the prisoner of a false union. One can be close to someone without being “in-love” with them. This means that intimacy is a much broader form of becoming close to people than love. Love functions as a subset or a special case of intimacy. Intimate relationships, though often filled with love, are by no means limited to feelings of love.

On the other hand, one can indeed be in-love, without being very intimate. If a person is in love with a person who ignores or abuses them, then their relationship contains little intimacy. If a person is infatuated or in-love with someone’s body but has little else in common with their lover, then their intimacy is limited. In any false or limited form of love, its very deception and limitation is recognized from the vantage point of intimacy.

Even the universal love of the Christian spirit is fundamentally different from intimacy. In Christian love, all are loved, even one’s enemies. In intimacy we are close to only those people with whom we are intimate. Our closeness to a person, though based on ideals, is in constant need to be validated by real experiences. I may succeed at feeling intimate with all of mankind, but the intimate feelings would be based on logic and experience, not assumed unconditionally.

As we have seen earlier, selectivity is an important aspect of intimacy and of human fulfillment. What a person cultivates and chooses to become close to is almost as important as the desire for intimacy itself. No matter how intimate a person becomes with trivial and useless things, they will still experience feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction. An inferior man is made as much from the projects he chooses as from his inability to become close to life around him.

The desire to love or be intimate with people is not enough, we also need to be selective. A person unaware of his real needs will often choose the wrong person to woo or love. Without an intimate knowledge of one’s real needs and desires a person is likely to seek intimate relationships in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. An intelligent assessment is not accomplished through logic alone, but is the natural outcome of a prioritized inventory of one’s intimate needs.

When I was in high school I fell in love almost every week. I was not fickle or an opportunist, but just a boy with a desire to love and be loved. In a school of near 5000 students there were many beautiful girls to be attracted to, for a number of different reasons. I fell in love with a smile, kind eyes, a great sense of humor, sweet smelling hair, or some other striking attribute or body part.

Sometimes my initial attraction would quickly fade after I had an opportunity to talk or listen to them. Yet, most of the time my attraction to a young lady lasted a fairly long time. Even when infatuated with or in a relationship with one girl, my underlying attraction to other girls never ended. If all it took for a relationship to be successful was feeling in-love I could have ended up marrying half of the female student body.

Now, I’m not going to be an extremist and deny the importance of physical and emotional attraction in most life partner relationships. I think it would be fool hardy to expect people to spend the rest of their life with someone who did not sexually stimulate them. Unless, of course, the individuals were celibate or completely asexual.

If sex is to be involved in a relationship, then physical attraction is a desired, if not necessary, component to a successful and intimate relationship. Yet, as my high school life attested to, finding people to be sexually attracted to is often not a difficult task.

The question then becomes, could I have truly married all the girls I was sexually and emotionally drawn to? Should I have married the girl I found most attractive? If so, should that be based on physical or emotional attraction?

I’m sure many of the readers out there are horrified by the idea of there being many people one could marry. The belief that there is only one person out there for you is still a very popular romantic notion. Even if one does not believe in fate, or in just one possible partner, a life partner is usually viewed as a scarce commodity.

I must admit that when I look back at all the girls I was attracted to during high school, I cannot picture myself being married to most of them. Yet, it is not because of some preconception I have regarding love, but rather because of a lack of a drive towards intimacy I perceive in them. This, of course, could be a misconception on my part and they could actually be more intimate than I remember. In that case, I probably could have chosen a good portion of them to share my life with.

Isn’t intimacy the desire to get closer to, and know another person? What is an intimate relationship if not the desire and ability to share with another? Which of you who has ever been in love did not desire to get so close as to actually crawl inside your lover? Who has not felt, if even for an instant, awe and gratitude towards a lover with whom you really felt connected?

If all those girls I loved in high school could have been intimate with me, why couldn’t we have become suitable life partners? The answer, of course, is we could. Yet, the thought of a majority of them being able to openly share with me in a way I enjoy is highly unrealistic…Isn’t it?

It is only logical to assume that if so few relationships are truly happy then finding a good relationship must be a difficult thing to accomplish. If intimacy and love were easy to attain, then why are we surrounded by so many divorces and abusive relationships? Oddly enough it is the romanticized version of true love which is sustained by this dilemma.

Though the theory of true love seems to be shot to hell by the harsh realities of modern romance, it is this same true love which is used to explain all failed relationships. There is, according to this view, so much unhappiness in most relationships because people are choosing the wrong partners. If people chose who they were truly intended to be with there would be no divorce. But why do people choose the wrong mate?

The answer to the last question is the same whether it’s answered from the viewpoint of intimacy or popular opinion. People choose the wrong partners because they often marry for the wrong reasons.

The initial qualities and characteristics which propel us to seek a relationship with a person seldom have anything to do with intimacy. No matter how attractive they may appear to us, they still are relative strangers. We are drawn and generally attracted to people for a host of reasons. Yet, even if our attraction is based on comfort and ease of sharing, our continued fulfillment depends on our unfolding that very potential.

Often a relationship is built on specific physical and emotional attractions such as beautiful eyes or a person being a good listener. Yet, these attributes, no matter how seductive, are not able to sustain a feeling of loving contentment throughout the years. Without a practical means of sharing all our dreams and desires with another person, a relationship can grow stale and lifeless very quickly.

Initial attractions, no matter how strong, are not enough to sustain a life long relationship without further growth and development. All the diverse needs and interests which make up a human life can not be served by any one quality. An intimate relationship does not necessarily take work in a demanding sense, but it definitely requires growth, sharing, and increased feelings of union.

All the relationships I had in high school look insufficient to me because none of them contained the type of day-to-day intimacy it takes to fulfill me. I, too, was not ready at that time to provide someone with the type of personal disclosure and sensitivity it takes to build a successful relationship. Though I was always a rather intense person when it came to sharing, I still had a lot to learn about my own needs and priorities before I could construct a self-sustaining and life long intimate relationship.

Though the reasons I was attracted to girls in high school were sufficient for forming friendships and maybe even fledgling love affairs they certainly fell short of what is needed for a life long relationship. Dating a girl because she was kind or because she unleashed desires in me which were beyond intense is understandable. Without such initial attractions a truly intimate relationship would be tough to form.

Yet, marrying a girl for such reasons is irresponsible. One should not marry for potential, one should marry for the intimacy a relationship produces each and every day. One should not marry in the hope of finding fulfillment, but should consider marriage after they are actively engaged in a fulfilling and intimate relationship.

Just wanting intimacy in a relationship does not make it happen. Without self-knowledge, without being intimate with yourself, it is almost impossible to be intimate with others. First of all, if you haven’t spent time getting to know what your real needs are (priorities), you will not even know what you are seeking. Secondly, until you know yourself, how can you truly share yourself with another?

Since intimacy is an endless process, how does one know when they are ready to find a life long partner? In an ultimate sense, I guess one could never know. But, in a practical sense it is not so difficult to determine.

A person’s needs do not change drastically if they have a solid appreciation of their desires and how they get fulfilled. Only the person who is a mystery to themselves will suddenly find themselves shocked as to who they are or what satisfies them. If one is sensitive to their needs and finds themselves in a fulfilling relationship based on sharing and caring, then one is fairly certain of marital success.

When an individual chooses a life partner without knowing themselves and their needs, or their partners needs, they are leaving the success of their relationship totally up to chance. Now, if they are adaptable and communicate their feelings and needs as they come up, they may end up with a fairly fulfilling partnership. A partnership left up to chance could also succeed if neither person has any expectations regarding the relationship fulfilling their basic needs and get their needs met elsewhere.

A third possibility for a chance relationship to endure is if both people are determined to stay together no matter what. These relationships, often stormy, and seldom rewarding, have disastrous effects on the self-esteem of both spouses plus whatever children they decide to bring into the conflict.

The high divorce rate seems to indicate that this third option is becoming less tolerable for many couples. Marital specialists, too, are less willing to state that unhappy marriages should stay together for the children’s sake.

Sometimes people do not get married because of an initial attraction, or an enduring state of unreflected admiration. Often people get married for reasons which have little to do with the quality of their actual relationship. Yet, in a society which seldom talks about the crucial role personal needs serve in a permanent relationship it is understandable that people will find their own yardstick for determining a partner. Without a real way of determining a partner it is easy to turn to the old one-potato-two-potato method, or cave in to some momentary or inferior needs. A list of poor and wrong reasons people get married would be lengthy and quite unnecessary to go through. Instead, we will just name a few and you can fill in the blanks.

People often choose someone they feel inferior to who can function as a personal guru lifting their self-esteem out its life long hole. Some choose a partner as an act of rebellion figuring if their parents hate him\her they have got to be the right person. Another reason people marry is oddly enough to save the relationship, as if the act of marriage will suddenly transform a lack luster relationship into one of ecstasy and fulfillment. Some marry to please others, some because it’s time to marry and they are tired of looking (waiting). Some marry to avoid loneliness, or because all their friends are married.

People marry for all types of reasons, but seldom for true intimacy. Some marry mysterious partners, whose mystery ends up being their only redeeming quality. Others are attracted to the strong silent type, only to later regret the lack of sharing such an ideal entails. Many do not even marry for any conscious reason, blindly duplicating or revoking the relationship of their parents, or just following their heart or intuition.

Most people would not object to a couple deciding to marry for reasons such as passionate love (infatuation) or compatibility. Passionate love is a romantic reason for marriage, and compatibility is the practical reason. Yet, without intimacy neither reason can depend on success.

Surely one can feel passion and be compatible with a life long partner, but being compatible or passionately in love is not necessarily a sign of enduring intimacy. Passion and compatibility may be desired elements in a permanent relationship, but they are not enduring elements on their own.

Through time, passion can wane and compatibility can slowly digress into battle. Living with someone for the rest of your life demands that you not only get along, but almost become the same person. Yes, a life long partnership takes compromise, but it also takes a lot of common ground.

If a relationship’s survival solely depends on compromise, then it is bound to fail. When a majority of the issues and decisions in a relationship are resolved through compromise both parties will soon tire from the strain, and decide to attack or jump ship.

The flourishing of a long term relationship is greatly assisted when a firm common ground exists between a couple. When two people see the world through similar eyes, speak the same language, share like interests, and their basic needs make sense to each other, they are in a good position to maintain a fulfilling relationship.

Compatibility is often based on some inherent commonality between a couple. Yet, this commonality may be on the surface and have little relationship to some of the underlying long term needs which only become apparent through the years. If a person entered the relationship blind to these needs until they became points of frustration, or is unable to communicate these needs to their partner, the compatibility factor of their relationship could be in serious jeopardy.

Passion, too, when not fueled by self-knowledge and sharing can quickly fade. If a couple is blind to the source of their passion, or if their intense attraction is steeped in transitory things like a pretty face or perfect body, their passion can evaporate or even turn to disgust.

When passion is based in intimacy it can last a lot longer then when it is not. An initial attraction to a person’s body can pass the test of time if it is nourished through one’s changing needs being shared and appreciated. A perfect body is bound to age, but if that age represents a memorable history of joy together, the wrinkles and realities of gravity will not be a detraction, only a kind reminder of the beauty of human experience.

Passion is not the sole property of youth any more than wisdom is a necessary element of old age. Passion and wisdom are both privileges of life which can be nurtured or abused. Through vigilant intimacy desired qualities such as compatibility and passion can sustain themselves in a marriage for an entire life time.

Sharing, communicating and expressing are essential components of an intimate relationship with another. Without these skills one will be unable to establish and maintain intimacy with a life partner. Un-intimate relationships can and do endure, but the desire for intimacy in a relationship is becoming a standard more and more people are sensing if not demanding. The amount of sharing and communication a relationship contains is fast becoming the standard by which they are being evaluated. Even when a true definition of intimacy remains unrecognized, the expectation that couples communicate and share now predominates in modern society.

As we have seen any experience or desire not secured and steeped in intimacy is able to be abused. Does this mean that essential elements of a fulfilling relationship such as sharing, communicating and expressing can be abused?

Yes, just as love and even happiness can be misused so can sharing, communicating and expressing. One can spend a majority of their time expressing, sharing, and communicating some of the most useless thoughts and petty emotions. Though intimacy requires sharing, we are definitely not advocating that a person ramble on and on about every little thing which pops into their head. The quality of what one communicates is more important than the quantity.

Intimacy demands knowledge of oneself, and knowledge of ourselves is obtained through reflection. Sure we learn about ourselves by what we say as well as what we do, yet we learn these things not through speech itself but through reflecting on what we have said.

Words are not the only way we learn about yourself or become intimate with another person. I can express my love to another human being in a number of ways. I can say it, make a gift, express it through music, or show it through a thousand different actions.

An intimate human being shares and expresses the very desires and needs which make up their existence. Though they often verbally share their thoughts and feelings creating a mutual history, they also take time to reflect about themselves and their friends. An intimate person takes as much joy in quietly learning about life as they do in revealing themselves to their life partner.

Friends and Family

Our lives are composed of many different relationships. We use a number of terms to distinguish the varied styles used when relating to others. Sometimes these terms focus on roles people serve in our lives and sometimes they designate the degree of closeness or involvement felt.

A term such as business-partner describes the social function a person has, but says little of the quality of the relationship. If someone is an acquaintance of mine, they are someone I acknowledge knowing, but are not necessarily part of my close circle of friends.

Many titles relate specifically to social roles. Mother, father, brother or sister are terms we use to describe members of our family. These terms usually designate biological relations, but also help identify the people we grew up with or lived with in the same house. Step-parents and step-siblings are also titles of identification which show a specific social relation we have with a person.

We also have an entire list of terms identifying relatives. Usually terms such as cousin, uncle and aunt designate specific biological and familial relations a person has, yet these terms are often loosely used to designate familial closeness. We often called close friends to our parents “aunt or uncle so-and-so” even though they were not truly related to us.

Privileged relationships in our lives are usually designated by some form of friend. The terms boyfriend and girlfriend are the standard way we declare having an exclusive relationship with someone. From early puberty till the day we die it is common for us to identify, somewhat territorially, the person we are closest to as our boyfriend or girlfriend.

Only when we make some form of commitment to a person as a life partner do we discard or replace the boyfriend\girlfriend identification. At such a time of commitment a person becomes one’s fiancĂ© or some other such term of exclusivity. Though the term lover is often used to place emphasis on sexual involvement the global terms boyfriend\girlfriend still suffice when referring to a sexual relationship.

Friends who are not lovers or potential lovers are usually distinguished by different adjectives. Some people are just a friend of mine, while others are close friends, childhood friends, a good friend or my best friend.

All terms we use to describe and identify the people we know assist us in expressing each persons relationship to us. Though many terms like classmate or barber blandly name a person’s function in our lives, many other terms try to capture the quality and intensity of the relationship. Just as we prioritized our needs and interests in life, so do we spend a great deal of time prioritizing people.

During the first couple years of school little children spend an inordinate amount of time seeking and identifying best friends. As parents it is not unusual for us to hear our child change best friends more often than their clothes. One day it’s Ted, the next it’s Raymond, and a little later on that evening it could be Ralph. My efforts to get my son to enjoy All his friends and not worry from moment to who was his Best friend were generally unsuccessful. He needed, like most people, to have this whole friendship thing make sense. His entire social universe hinged on knowing where everyone stood in his life.

As we grow older our closest friends usually last more than a day or so, yet our personal world is still oriented by our knowing where we stand with our friends. We are the sun and people are arranged like planets around us. Our best friends stand closest and each person is positioned according to how much they mean to us and influence our lives.

Friendship and intimacy go hand in hand. Those we are most invested in and care for are our best friends. The closer the friend the more intimate and open we are with them. The average person would not reveal their deepest feelings and vulnerabilities to a stranger, these most intimate possessions are only shared with our closest friends.

A friend is someone we feel relatively comfortable with, and enjoy being around. The closer the friend, the more connected we feel to them. This is why people want their life partner to be their best friend. It would only make sense to spend your life with the person you feel closest to, and with whom you spend the most time.

Ideally our world of friends would radiate out from the center. Closest to us would be our life partner. After our life partner would come a few very close friends, some good friends and so on. The quality and quantity of our intimacy would decrease as they get farther and farther away from our lives.

Intimacy, not bloodlines, is the ideal criterion for friendship. One of course could be close to their mother, brother or any relative, yet biological closeness does not necessitate practical closeness.

Though it’s logical we spend the bulk of our time with the people we feel closest to, such a goal is often unattainable. Many of life’s obligations, such as our jobs, place huge restrictions on our time and who we spend it with. We often have little or no control over who we are with during a good portion of our day. Even on weekends social obligations and family activities may soak up a great deal of our time. People who we feel closest to may live miles away, or function on radically different schedules than ours. Practical restrictions on our ideals should not discourage us from doing our best. Intimacy, being both an ideal and a practical way of dealing with life, is adaptable to the realities of life. When we prioritized our needs we might have been surprised to find out that many of the restrictions on our time are not necessary. If we make intimacy and personal needs our number one concern many of the obligations we used to feel constrained to do, no longer seem necessary.

When we reflect on our lives we almost always find it contains a lot more options than we had anticipated. The prisons of obligation we see forced upon us are hardly ever as pervasive as we assume. Yet, in the end, it is up to us to stop making excuses and start constructing a life capable of fostering intimacy.

Time for ourselves and with our closest friends is an essential component in our quest for personal fulfillment. Intimacy breeds fulfillment and intimacy demands we feel closer to the world around us. We can experience intimacy through many things which do not include others, yet it is through other people that this intimacy is shared and expressed.

An intimate life existing without the recognition and sense of co-existence we get from other people is almost impossible to imagine. Nature, the animal kingdom and even books can provide us with a strong sense of camaraderie but in no way does it approach the familiarity unleashed by human contact.

Friendship is a very important aspect of intimacy. Friends give us the common language and vision it takes to feel close, to feel satisfied and fulfilled. Friends validate all the meaning we find in life, and give us the impetus to dig deeper. Friends make language necessary providing us with not only a way to think, but define the entire way we approach and interpret life.

Intimacy is just as much an element of friendship as it is for marriage. What then is the difference between a friend and a partner? Is a wife or husband nothing more than a word we use to express an exclusive relationship with another person? Is marriage nothing more than verbal and legal ownership?

There is no inherent role or specific purpose for a life partner, their function, like everything else in life, is mainly what we make it. Even though it is logical that a life partner be the closest person in our life, we do not have to treat them as such. A life partner can just be a living companion, a person to have children with, or even an economic team or source of emotional security.

A life partner does not even have to be the person you spend the most time with, or with whom you share your deepest needs. A life partner could just be a title or a possession which we utilize for personal comfort.

A spouse or life partner can fit any role we assign them. Yet, since they are who we live with, they hold a privileged position of opportunity. They can function as our extra set of eyes, and because of their superior proximity can give validation to our daily lives like no other person.

Why would we choose to live with a person who wasn’t the most important and intimate person in our life? Why would we choose to have children and share the responsibility of parenting with anyone but the person we respect and enjoy the most?

If our life partner is not the most intimate person in our lives then we are only blowing the opportunity to maximize intimacy in our lives. We should construct our lives so that personal fulfillment (intimacy) is unfolded with the greatest frequency.

The person we are most intimate with should indeed be who we live with. Living with a life partner is just a natural outcome of wanting to share every aspect of our life with the source of our fulfillment. Since fulfilled intimacy implies a sense of feeling close, why wouldn’t we live with the person we feel closest to?

Some of you might be asking how is it possible that a life partner will always be the most intimate person in your life? If one is always seeking maximum intimacy wouldn’t they occasionally find a better partner?

No matter how close we are to another person, it does not preclude us from feeling intimate with others. The moments of closeness with others may even seem refreshingly beautiful due to the novelty of sharing with a new person. Yet, a moment of ecstasy does not measure up to a life time of intimacy.

The more consistent we are in sharing our feelings with our life partner, the less we feel a need to express our inner most selves to others. Yet, even the most intimate couple will still take pleasure at meeting other people of like mind and heart.

The difference between a new friend and a life partner is history. The more a person values their history of sharing with their partner the less likely they would be to act in any way to jeopardize that relationship.

What one could share with another without harming their primary relationship varies from relationship to relationship. Many would say a friendship poses no threat to a marriage until sex becomes involved. Others would point out that even if sex is not involved, the new relationship would be considered destructive if it effected the routine of the marriage. As an example, a new relationship would be destructive if the amount of time donated to the new relationship caused a mother to ignore her children, or the needs of her spouse.

There is no one activity which all couples regard as taboo, or inherently destructive to their relationship. Though most couples demand sexual fidelity, some couples do not make sex an exclusive activity, allowing each partner the freedom to share themselves physically with others.

One way of determining if a secondary relationship is potentially harmful to a life long partnership is when a friendship takes on the roles which were previously considered privileged by a couple. Another way would be when something is being shared in the friendship which cannot be relayed or shared with your spouse. A need for secrecy, in direct opposition to intimacy, is made necessary when one is engaging in activities with another which the life long relationship values as an exclusive element of their relationship.

An intimate relationship is highly dependent on sharing. Only though sharing does a couple maintain the closeness needed to keep a relationship intimate. Any additional relationships become dangerous when it deprives the primary relationship from sharing at it’s most intimate level.

In an intimate life meaning and fulfillment are acquired through time in all of our experiences. Our personal history is, therefore, a very important treasure. The recognition and understanding which only time can provide is central to the fulfillment we derive from a life long partnership.

A truly intimate relationship, where everything is shared, has little to fear from additional friendships. Additional friendships are not inherently a danger to an intimate relationship but rather a source of stimulation providing more things for the life long partnership to share.

The lack of true intimacy in relationships is central to it’s demise. Life partnership’s do not fail when a person’s number one priority truly is their marriage, or sustaining an intimate relationship. Though most people would state that being close to their spouse is a high priority, their day-to-day lives would seem to discredit that notion.

Often times an individual’s career goals overshadow their desire to succeed in an intimate relationship. The amount of time and energy it takes to attain success in the business world often leaves the average person with little left to give to their spouse. Tired, worried, and forever vigilant of maintaining their position, even the most successful businessman can never give a spouse the quantity and quality of time the relationship needs. Even when their heart is in the right place, competing with ambitious single and divorced people can soak up all one’s time.

In today’s world of specialization a person often does not have the opportunity to spend their time doing more than one thing. This is especially true of anyone who desires to be highly successful in any competitive business or technical field. When wealth or fame are involved there is seldom anything else you can spend your time doing. Sure there is the occasional genius who can live off a couple of profitable ideas, but for the most part monetary success is acquired through self-sacrifice and availability created through many long hours.

In an intimate relationship, both the quality and quantity of time spent together is important. No matter how intense you share, an intimate relationship will have trouble surviving if each week you only have a few moments alone together.

There are only so many moments in a life, and because of this, one needs to be selective about where one seeks fulfillment. We must always balance our desire to learn new things with our desire to be as close as we can to a particular object. A life devoted to only one object will be blind, and a spirit wanting to experience everything will lack a certain depth. A person who spends his life trying to get close to everything, will never get close to any one thing.

A person will always feel closest to those who best understand and appreciate them. If one spends all their time at work, they will find people at work who share their interests and goals. It is quite understandable that many ambitious men and women have office romances or find their relationship with their spouse lacking when compared to their friends at work.

The high divorce rate is understandable when you think of the number of marriages in which one or both of it’s members are spending the bulk of their waking hours at work. When at home, these individuals lives are often dominated by work concerns, making time at home nothing more than a distracting obligation. When both adults work, family responsibilities and chores often become a resented time consuming obligation providing neither spouse a source of enjoyment.

Even when one is not terribly ambitious, finding enough time for one’s spouse and other interests and obligations proves to be overwhelming. In a large family, time alone with your spouse is at a premium. Unless your kids are total vegetables, you will definitely spend much of your time carting them to activities and providing for their many growing needs. Much of the time spent with your spouse and kids will be busy time, extremely functional and devoid of any sharing of substance.

This is not to say that all large families are doomed, for many big families function very well together. Yet, just because a marriage survives it does not necessarily mean it is intimate. A big family may provide many pleasures a small one cannot. But there is no denying that the bigger the family, the harder it is to be intimate with your spouse, or with each of your kids. Splitting yourself and your time between two or three people is hard enough, but sharing intimately with a half dozen or so people of varying ages is unfathomable.

When one’s goal is to be as close as one can to a spouse, it is best to keep the number of children down. I myself have only one child, and can’t imagine adding any more people to our household. The joy I get from sharing with my wife, Dayna, and our son, Lucio, fills my life and provides it with meaning and fulfillment. The sense of history and closeness we generate together has added much to my life. Yet, expanding the number of members in our family would make it impossible for us to share as intensely as we do. Sharing with a fourth person would demand me to spend less time on my own personal interests, or with Dayna or Lucio, a sacrifice that would definitely detract from the quality of intimacy I seek.

Children and Intimacy

A strong and intimate relationship with your child can be a rewarding and comforting extension to your relationship with your spouse. Your children’s values and lust for life can validate much of what you believe in while demonstrating the beauty and rewards of living an intimate life. Though children can be a great source of personal fulfillment and life long joy, the extra responsibilities and obligations each child adds to your life is a very important consideration.

With each child born there is less time left for yourself or for your spouse. Family activities, though potentially very rewarding, will never take the place of time spent alone with your spouse or children. Each child you have is a precious individual needing and deserving your individual attention. The more children you have the less quality time you will be able to spend with anyone, including yourself.

Ideally, having children should be an expression of the love you feel for your spouse, and the intimacy you share. The tragedy is that all too often people have children in an attempt to find intimacy or save a marriage.

Occasionally it is true that having a child brings people to their senses having them appreciate how precious and miraculous life is. It might make them more determined than ever to share life intimately. Yet, more often than not the birth of a child, no matter how inspiring, does not improve the marriage. In fact, the emptiness and dissatisfaction with life and each other often becomes intensified by the presence of a child.

Just as in the case of a cathartic experience, the birth of a child does not transform one’s life. It is still up to the parents to change their priorities and find ways of making their lives more fulfilling and intimate.

The responsibilities and needs of a child may even make it more difficult for a couple to get along, or find time and ways to be intimate. Instead of solving tensions or providing joy, a child may make it easier for a couple to busy themselves in parenting and (at least on a surface level) avoid the lack of intimacy in their relationship.

In such a marriage it is not unusual for one or both of the adults to try to have the relationship with their child replace their unsatisfying relationship with their spouse. The child, almost from day one, becomes the center of an emotional battleground forced to take sides or choose between his parents in almost every conflict. A parent’s expectations on the relationship with their child, therefore, become over invested and age inappropriate. The child is tacitly asked to be a life partner and never allowed to make their own life.

Children should be a product of an intimate and loving relationship. When our needs are not being met through our spouse we should not look to begin a family as a solution. A baby born as a means to bring a couple together is a dangerous experiment in which the child’s life is being reduced to a Las Vegas gamble. Seldom does the birth of a child create intimacy in a previously troubled relationship. More often than not it only makes a troubled relationship more strained and intolerable. Children, therefore, should be an extension, not a supposed origin of joy.

Another concern regarding large families surfaces when one looks at life from a global perspective. The planet is in no need of more people, and every addition to the world population is potentially very hazardous. Every person born demands that more trees be cut, natural resources such as oil, coal and fresh water exhausted, and land provided to store the garbage he creates.

Every advance in numbers of people demands more land be farmed, clear cut, mined or otherwise altered to meet our needs. Pollution (whether it be water, air, noise, radioactivity or radio waves) are all a necessary growing by-product of increased population even if we were to drastically scale back our lifestyles.

With big families come larger populations, with larger populations come urban areas, with urban areas come many disasters. Pollution and disease are two very destructive by products of large populations. Overpopulation severely limits the quality of life, and therefore, is a major obstacle to intimacy.

Big families are not only a limitation on the amount and quality of intimacy attainable amongst it’s members, but also endanger the very quality of life available for everyone on the planet. In a large family the quality of intimacy shared has to be altered because of the quantity of demands being placed on the adults. A parent in a big family must choose at every moment whether to focus on just their spouse and maybe a child or two, or superficially share with all it’s members.

One can only cultivate in our children what we know about them and a large family limits what we can know about each individual child. Just as in a large society it is impossible for a government to know the individual interests and needs of all it’s citizens, so too, in a large family it is impossible for parents to know six children as well as one or two.

Intimate Relationships: A Summary

Unless one is a hermit, cultivating intimate relationships seems to be a necessary part of human life. The desire to be close which is central to intimacy, is vital to every intimate relationships. Sharing with another human being provides feelings of fulfillment unmatched by almost any other activity. Feelings such as recognition and understanding, obtained by the common eyes and language fostered in an intimate relationship, provide our lives with meaning along with emotional security.

A life partner, though not necessary for fulfillment, is a natural by-product of intimate relationships. When a person is your anchor in the world (sharing dreams, fulfilling needs and unfolding potential) it is only natural to want to live with and spend the majority of your time with them.

Since we desire to be close to many things and we only have a limited amount of time in this life, it is important for us to be selective in both what we do and with whom we share. We should arrange our social universe so that we spend most of our time with those we feel closest too, and progressively less time with those further from our hearts.

If one truly enjoys being intimate with the world they will most likely enjoy sharing with more than one person in the world. A person with only one intimate friend is in danger of isolation and a person with over a dozen intimate friends will often have to sacrifice depth for variety. Too big a family, like too many friends, can often dilute the quality of the intimate relationships we cultivate.

Our careers, though often a source of feelings of accomplishment and success can become an obstacle to our keeping an intimate relationship alive and fulfilling. In today’s society there are many demands on our time, energy and attention making it difficult for us to properly cultivate and maintain intimate relationships and life partnerships. Yet, when we truly make intimacy our main priority we find we have many more options than first thought.

Intimate relationships and feelings of self-fulfillment are often hard to separate. Even though one can cultivate intimacy in their lives in many ways and through many activities, sharing one’s innermost thoughts with another is often the glue which makes life truly rewarding. Intimacy, without intimate friends is definitely possible, but intimacy shared is the most precious form of intimacy.

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