We all long to find that special person who makes us feel unequivocally loved and accepted. We want an amazing connection with our partner where we get each other, it flows and feels easy. Many people consider this perfect fit a soul mate relationship. In fact, 74% of people believe in soul mates yet over 50% of marriages in Canada end in divorce.
Its not easy finding that person that we are attracted to, compatible with and who leaves us feeling swept away in love, but what’s even harder is staying in love with that person for the long haul. This is where most experts chalk it up to issues with communication. While communication is an important part of the equation, it goes a little deeper than that. It’s actually about intimacy.
Intimacy is defined as closeness, rapport, familiarity, affection and friendship. It requires exposing who we really are and this includes our thoughts and feelings. After all, how can we ever hope to feel unequivocally loved and accepted if we’re hiding parts of ourselves? By the same token, how is our partner going to feel unequivocally loved and accepted when they only allow us to see the parts of themselves that they feel good about? Perhaps the bigger question is how do we forge that deep connection when we can't even love and accept ourselves completely?
Probably the simplest answer to this question is to be gentle and compassionate with our weaknesses. After all, we didn't just pull our deepest insecurities and shame out of thin air. We came by them honestly through our experiences. Society has taught us to hide our weaknesses, but in order to experience deep connection with others we're going to need to befriend all of who we are--the good and the messy. Its only then that we can allow others to really know us and love us.
There’s three very important things that set the stage for intimacy:
Feeling safe. Creating a safe space that allows each partner to express thoughts and feelings freely without fear of rejection or judgement is going to be critical for building intimacy.
Giving and receiving love. So many of us are good at giving but we struggle with receiving kindness. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to receive love is a must for building intimacy. It reminds me of the dog who rolls over for the belly rub. The dog is saying, "I trust you enough to allow you to love me." If you hurt the dog at this point, its unlikely to be vulnerable with you again.
Taking accountability. This may be the hardest thing to do but taking accountability for how we feel and not blaming our partner is crucial to building intimacy. When we hold someone else accountable for how we’re feeling, we’re setting up the relationship for a dependency rather than love. For instance, expecting someone else to change their behaviour because we feel insecure isn’t suddenly going to transform us into secure people. That’s not to say one needs to tolerate being treated poorly but owning one’s feelings is an absolute when it comes to building intimacy.
Intimacy isn’t something that magically appears, its developed. Long term partnerships aren’t static. Just as a plant is either growing or dying, we’re either building up our relationships or tearing them down by the little choices that we make every day in every interaction. When we shut down, withdraw our love, hide who we really are, avoid honest and heartfelt communication, criticize or disrespect our partner, we tear down intimacy and close the door to any chance at a soul mate relationship. When we're on the receiving end of this behaviour, despite our best attempts for connection, its time to pay attention because our partner just might be telling us that they're not interested in sharing a deep soulful connection.
Marriage isn’t a once in a lifetime vow, but rather, a day by day, hour by hour choice to let your partner into your inner world. We are in a constant state of either building up our relationships or tearing down what we have built. Whether good or bad, its a dynamic we create together. Our relationships over time reflect these small daily choices. Perhaps what’s even more true is that the quality of our relationships reflect how we feel about ourselves and what we deserve but this is another article.