What Is Intimacy?

By | 23/05/2016

Intimacy is the delightful feeling of closeness and connection that comes from interacting with a special person, whether they are friends, relatives or romantic partners. This kind of relationship is only formed under certain circumstances; the most important is a similarity in the way their system of thought is formed.

Everyone develops their own way of connecting words and thoughts that is more original than they imagine. Although people might speak the same language, what one says does not necessarily correspond to what the other person hears and, what’s more, what has been said is often not even in sync with what was in the speaker’s mind. So, since every brain is unique, what I am writing now—which is the result of an effort to put what’s in my mind into words—will not be what you, the reader, will understand. It’s not only because I might not be communicating well, but also, because there are important differences in each person’s system of thought.

However, sometimes what a person has written or said seems to be exactly what the other understands; this is a very pleasant sensation, because it makes them feel properly understood, and signals a relevant affinity in the way they think. This connection is essential to create intimacy. When people communicate successfully, they feel comforted and less lonely in the world.

There will, of course, still be differences of point of view, and even in reactions to events, between people whose system of thought is similar. Their fluent and easy channel of communication must not close, though, and this depends a lot on their ways to approach differences. It is all about, first, how people behave when there is a disagreement. The best way to talk about it is by using “I statements”; using the second person, that is, “you,” to express displeasure can easily be understood as recrimination, criticism or accusation. It is better to say “I am upset when this or that happens to us,” instead of “I don’t think you should do this or that.” It is even worse saying, “I don’t accept—cannot admit—that you do this or that.”

Nobody is entitled to demand anything from anyone else, much less from those with whom they have a close relationship. However, everyone has the right and duty to inform others of the consequences of their actions: “When you act like this, I experience these feelings.” If the perpetrator wants to appease the person who complained, they’ll abstain from acting that way again. If not, it’s up to the upset person to decide if they still want to remain close to someone who has hurt them.

The absence of criticism is yet another ingredient I find essential to maintain relationships based in respect and intimacy. Being reprimanded, after all, is very unpleasant, and even more so when the rebuked person had expected understanding or some relief from the feeling of a making a mistake. When a person expects open arms, yet is reprimanded instead, they tend to go silent—not only in that situation, but at any other time in which they might fear reproach. For instance, if someone tells their romantic partner about one of their failures, or about a dream or thought that is not particularly uplifting, they don’t want to hear something like “wow, I never thought you’d do something this silly or think that way.” Of course, the next time they do anything censurable they might just keep it to themselves.  A critical and reproving attitude coming from a person from whom approval is essential is what most often interrupts communication. If, instead, the response is “you know, I once did something similar, and I completely understand how difficult it is to make a mistake. I can imagine how you’re feeling, but don’t worry, it will go away,” intimacy will grow and strengthen.

To sum things up, good relationships happen between people who have similar ways of thinking and being, and are very mindful when talking about their differences—always by emphasizing the consequences of actions on themselves, and not the other person’s mistakes—and, especially between people who do not appoint themselves as the other’s judge, but instead, their accomplice in life.

Tradução: Amanda Morris