“We have an amazing connection”, said so many people who are struggling to understand why they’re not experiencing deep, committed, loving, progressing, balanced, consistent relationships with the very people that they’re referring to.
“But, we have so much in common!”, said many a confused person who doesn’t share the common ground of the same perception and commitment to the relationship. All the mutual pain, admiration, shared experiences, attraction, hobbies, interests, orgasms etc., in the world, will not make a difference if when it all boils down to it, you don’t share core common values and are not copiloting a mutual relationship together.
Having a “connection” and “so much in common” doesn’t cut it. These are not the same as truly knowing a person or being truly vulnerable and yourself within a relationship that has grown and fostered deep emotional intimacy.
If you are not being authentic, so showing up as you and being emotionally honest in your own inner relationship never mind with your partner, you will have a lot of the hallmarks of an intimate relationship without the intimacy. That means that you could love and care for a person, enjoy sex and other aspects of a relationship but fundamentally be afraid of the consequences of closeness – that fear that if you’re you, vulnerable and essentially emotionally available (willing to feel all of your feelings and be rooted in reality instead of ducking behind a wall and struggling with boundaries and commitment), that you will allow somebody to get close enough to you that it might hurt if they leave, disappoint, criticise, argue/fight with you, or reject you.
It’s that that you being you is going to be “wrong” and that you won’t be able to cope with their response that you’ve predicted or with your own feelings and thoughts. You don’t want to be under scrutiny, to be judged, to put you out there or reopen an old wound.
You may not know what intimacy is, possibly due to not having relationships that you could truly observe and learn from, and you may have assumed that once you felt like you loved and cared for someone and were in a relationship, that you’d either be able to automatically know what each of you wants or that a void you had would be filled up and you’d feel confident and in possession of the skills to forge closeness.
I know I’m not alone in having believed that being in a relationship, talking even if it’s not truly communicating, and being in great turmoil due to the rollercoaster of drama, is intimacy. I’m also not alone in having felt a ‘connection’ to people because of what they ‘activated’ in me that reminded me of one or both of my parents or that tapped into old issues. Hell, I thought that if a person cried on me, told me about how their pet budgie died when they were seven or how much they disliked one or both of their parents, or even wanted to get into my pants faster than the speed of light, that these were ‘intimacy’
Intimacy takes time, experience, and vulnerability.
We can have intimate moments with people, we can share intimate pieces of information, but that doesn’t mean that we’re experiencing the intimacy that many of us actually desire in our relationships. This misunderstanding of intimacy is why many people wake up in relationships where they feel quite attached to somebody and feel as if they have “so much in common” but they’re hungry and either not going in the same direction or feeling an ever-growing void emerging. It’s confusing, disconcerting, and frustrating.
They think that they’re deep in the ocean when they’re actually just beneath the ocean’s surface.
When we don’t truly understand what intimacy is, an imbalance will exist in the relationship because one person leads and one person takes their cues – the whole driver and passenger issue that permeates every unhealthy and struggling relationship.
We will lack self-awareness and self-knowledge so in not having an intimate relationship with ourselves, we won’t be able to distinguish between emotional and sexual intimacy as well as talking about stuff versus showing up with both feet in and deepening the relationship and how we relate over time. If we have a habit of not knowing where we end and where others begin, we will mistake the boundary issues that result from this as intimacy. We’ll think that letting the other person direct and even feeling excessively emotionally reliant on them to feel worthwhile and purposeful, is intimacy when it isn’t; it’s faux intimacy.
- Connection isn’t the same as intimacy.
- Common ground isn’t the same as intimacy.
- Liking a person because they appear to be the same as you is a connection not intimacy, and it can make for dangerous assumptions.
- Sexual intimacy isn’t the same as emotional intimacy.
- Talking about certain things but ultimately holding aspects of you back out of fear affects and in fact undermines intimacy.
- Speeding through the early phase of a relationship (Fast Forwarding) isn’t intimacy.
- Talking about things that you don’t have the goods in the form of deeds and actions isn’t intimacy.
- Backing away every time it feels as if you’re overheating in terms of commitment or closeness, isn’t intimacy.
- One of you being the driver and the other being the passive passenger isn’t intimacy.
- A feeling of closeness in the moment doesn’t make you close.
Here’s the truth: A lot of us can talk about and do a lot of things.
Think back to a past relationship with a Mr / Miss Unavailable:
Maybe one of you talked about your problems or ideas more, and even played armchair psychologist. Maybe you were a Florence Nightingale trying to fix/heal/help/change them with an underlying desire and need to fill a void and be validated.
Maybe you also had trouble distinguishing between your respective feelings and behaviour.
Maybe you could talk about work, politics, the environment, your intelligence levels, or text morning, noon and night.
Maybe you were indispensable as a substitute for being vulnerable.
But ultimately, could you hold down a relationship with this person?
When all was said and done and they were right in front of you, and you had the choice between putting you out there based on the past, or fantasising about the future, or being in the present and true, were you able to just be you with no ifs, buts, maybes or censorship? Were you only putting out as much as you might get back or putting out extra in the hope that it would create a tipping point where they might be more available? Had you taken to pussyfooting around the No Fly Zone topics? Had you initially been able to open up but then subconsciously (or possibly quite consciously), taken a step back and closed up somewhat because of the lack of response you were getting or not wanting to rock the boat?
And you’d be shocked at the amount of people who feel a connection and “so much in common” who recognise on reflection that they may have ‘known’ a person but they didn’t truly know them. They were getting a mask.
These relationships can leave you feeling lonely due to the lack of deep emotional connection as well as feeling adrift from your core self, even though you might now know what that is due to always playing roles.
We need to change the way that we think about intimacy. We need to recognise that some of the things that we’re hung up on that blind us like the “connection” and the stuff we claim to have in common, are not only ways of justifying continuing to invest in something that isn’t going to nourish us, but they can also be ways of avoiding intimacy.
You always know that you’re experiencing truly intimate relationships when you feel nourished by the relationship not malnourished or riding rollercoaster.
We also need to be more emotionally smart and go through the discovery phase of dating and build a relationship over time rather than trying to force ripen an involvement with Fast Forwarding, which in itself is also a means of avoiding intimacy and realness that ultimately ends up leaving you feeling empty due to the lack of substance.
If we do not know the difference between us and another person, if we are in unhealthy relationships, and if we are ultimately basing who we are around possible reactions, we are not experiencing relationships with intimacy. But we can.
Love, trust, care for, and respect you first. Listen to you. Show up for you.