So what’s the first thing that comes into your mind when I say intimacy? That’s a clue as to what’s healthy or unhealthy about your attitudes and approach to intimacy.
Now, what’s the first thing that comes into your mind when I say Healthy Sex? Is it vigorous, racy or is it soft, tender?
There is no one way or style to have healthy sex, but there is a healthy approach to intimacy – and it the basis of really good and great sexual intimacy.
For some people, intimacy means being close in the sex act. For others, intimacy is being close with someone outside the sex act (like you can talk to the person about personal things and get closer to each other). And for others, intimacy is what takes physical intimacy and sex to the next level, so you build a greater bond – that can keep you bonded for a long time.
In modern relationships there is a lot of pathology and out of control behavior going on with sex because we are missing on spending time finding and making deep or true intimacy in our lives. Casual sex is on the rise, but it doesn’t mean it is better.
Dr Rosevear from Australia says that dating apps have increased access to casual sex and the users of these apps are socially isolated so they “arrange multiple sexual encounters to fill the void of intimacy that their lack of social interactions created”
(quote from http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/dating/as-many-sexual-partners-as-they-can-get-dating-apps-fuelling-rise-in-casual-sex/news-story/7bb94ffbf5ddec69fd5a114aabed54db)
A healthy approach to intimacy – is to answer the cause of the problem that these people are facing – a lack of intimacy.
Where does intimacy start?
Intimacy starts with the relationship with those who take care of us. It starts from the first touch we receive, the first look in the eyes and the first sounds we have echoed back to us from those who care for us.
When the child is young so much is going on with how intimacy is developed. Eye contact may be one of the most powerful ways for a mother or father to make that natural connection to intimacy for the child. Attachment theory has found that when a child has a secure attachment to their parent they build secure love relationships. But how many of us grow up with 100% secure attachment? Not a lot. Attachment and intimacy is also very much an exploration of what didn’t work for you in your parent-child relationship – so you can overcome this challenge – and build a deeper connection to yourself – and in your adult love relationships (including being a parent yourself).
Intimacy is developed at that unconscious physical level from birth. And the next level of intimacy comes from when you learn how to verbalize your feelings – or not.
If you grow up in a family or culture that supports you to understand and then verbalize your feelings, you can have a lot more resources to safely express yourself intimately – and then when it comes to sex – you will more easily find partners – who listen – because you are primed to understand your own feelings and able to listen to others – so they will naturally relax around – and feel more bonded to you.
One of the most powerful methods for overcoming the short-comings you may have in finding and developing deeper intimacy is to become aware of what you are looking for when it comes to filling the void of friendship and social intimacy in your life.
If you are feeling lonely, struggling to find social contact and social intimacy – looking for a sex partner may be a quick fix. But – if you want to solve a deeper need to get true intimacy – then looking at what you want from intimacy is important.
Here are qualities to look for to build intimacy:
Someone to listen to your feelings (and doesn’t talk over you or about themselves mostly)
Someone to be is interested in you as a person
Someone who you can share similar interests, passions, hobbies, sports, activities, fun with
Someone who you can enjoy a similar sense of humor with
Someone who you can share your spiritual beliefs or practices or ideologies
Someone who can stimulate you and inspire you to know more about them
Someone you can inspire or share your experiences with
Someone you can give to – whether that’s tenderness, gifts, fun, quality time or physical touch and pleasure
Someone you can build friendship with over time
Intimacy is not about someone telling you that you are desirable, attractive or good in bed. That is where some approaches about sex are becoming overly physical and forgetting about the whole person. If you are looking for people to say you are good enough or desirable it actually stops intimacy developing further. It’s a very superficial layer of getting to know someone. But some people get stuck there.
We all have insecurities about intimacy and about our body and it is natural to want others to like you. But when you give friendship or importance to a person based on what they think or say about you such as: that you are better than other people, you are better than their ex, you are the one and true love they have been looking for, it can actually interrupt a natural process of getting to know someone.
Intimacy is something that develops over time. However, people who just want to be seen as attractive often find they have expectations about how the relationship should develop. This is not honoring what is going on for both people in a relationship.
Some people are just scared of true intimacy and will naturally retract or pull away if you get to an area where they feel vulnerable. And the test of the relationship is: do you want to get to know this person in spite of their vulnerability? Is there still a bond between the two of you that draws you to know more or stay friends with this person?
One of the unhealthy approaches to intimacy that is sexual is that you addicted to the rush that someone had sex with you or that they find you sexually appealing. Some women are now admitting that they have sex just because someone was flirting with them and they liked the fact that someone found them attractive. It is very common for younger women to have sex, simply because the man wants sex and she’s trying to make sure he stays with her or keeps liking her. Underneath this is a feeling – that you are not attractive – so the moment someone pays attention to you – you get excited or feel compelled to make them like you. But that is not romance – it’s a need to feel valued.
And the need – to feel valued – is still coming back to the lack of intimacy you may be having in your life. It also can be you really just don’t feel attractive enough. I’ve found in my practice that all the feelings of not being attractive are deeply connected to not wanting to share yourself in case you get hurt or someone rejects you or judges you.
Too often we rush into sex, without thinking – am I really wanting to know this person? And if you really just want casual sex that’s fine but if you want to build a longer-term friendship or relationship consider what do you really want.
Some final questions to contemplate so you can start a healthy approach to intimacy:
Are you sharing yourself enough with people in general?
Are you staying at superficial level when you share yourself with people? Is this enough?
When you share yourself – do you feel you want to go deeper?
If you were to share more or go deeper, what is one thing you would like that person to know or experience of you?
What may be a benefit the other person would experience if you could be more open with them?
You may not be aware of what you can bring to a relationship that adds value to the other person, but what may be a personality asset (besides your body) that you would like to share with them?
Finally what are you looking for in your relationships? Is it sex, is it connection, is it a friend?
Don’t be guilty about your desires or your choices – just be clear. The clearer you are in what you are looking for in relationships, the easier it will be for you to make choices about what to share, how much you can expect from people based on how much you are prepared to share and also to not expect others to play some role that they are not ready for or want to play.
Real intimacy is discovering what others want and what you want and finding the bridge between those desires so that both of you can be felt, seen, recognized, heard, celebrated and loved.