Most people instinctively know that on a first date, you don’t spill all of your guts immediately. Picture the guy or gal who divulges all their wildest dreams, darkest secrets, best successes, and worst failures all before the appetizer! Too much, too fast! No, intimacy occurs through an instinctive process of knowing what to share and when to share it. Intimacy might be defined as fully knowing another and being fully known by them as well.
Hopefully you’ve never experienced the first type of date. You’re probably more familiar with the type of first date that proceeds a little more like this. You meet your date and are pleasantly greeted. You exchange small talk. Before long you find a common interest. Perhaps you divulge a future plan or far off dream. For a brief moment you wonder, “What will they say?” Hopefully your date responds with encouragement, admiration, or some other form of affirmation. The first date may not go much deeper than that. But in this first interaction, a process toward intimacy occurred. You risked a little by sharing about yourself. If it was accepted, you risked a little more. You went a little deeper. If they responded neutrally or negatively, or just focused on themselves, you probably picked up on a cue that this was not a person you could safely share your very core self with someday.
Sex in its best form is often connected with intimacy for reasons similar to what has been described. You’ve found someone that it is safe to, literally, bare all with. They do so in return. It is a mutual baring, seeing, accepting and celebrating of a person as they truly are.
This process of intimacy is not just related to romantic relationships however. It applies to parent/child relationships and friendships as well. Is your teen reluctant to share about themselves with you, the parent? Is your spouse stand-offish with you? It could be that they perceive that is the deepest level it feels safe to divulge. Ease off the pressure for immediacy. Accept what they do currently offer. The more the other feels unconditionally accepted, the more likely it is that they will risk sharing more. You cannot control what another does, but you can control how you respond. One step at a time.
Resident Therapist at Fuller Life Family Therapy Institute