Emotional intimacy, too, requires shedding whatever stands between partners.
Posted September 19, 2012
Intimacy in our committed relationship. It can be so elusive. Sure, you get snippets of it here and there—enough to make you long for the real deal. You get glimpses of what achieving the Nirvana of connections is all about, You want it. You crave it. Too often, however, the desire for intimacy is overcome by fear, the fear of being naked and exposed in front of someone who has the power to hurt you when you are most vulnerable, with nothing to hide behind.
You can experience physically intimacy with your duds on—a hug, a kiss, holding hands—but the ultimate intimacy is sans clothing, skin-on-skin, lights on. To be so exposed is taking a big risk. Even the most secure will think twice about shedding jeans and tee-shirt if the last time you did, your sweetheart said, “You oughta do something about that gut.” Being clothed makes us feel protected and allows us to hide what at least we perceive to be our flaws. This is even more so when it comes to emotional intimacy.
You can—to a point—be emotionally intimate with mental “clothing” to protect those bits and pieces of your life that are painful, embarrassing, or shameful. When you are willing to go only so far, however, you cheat yourself of a truly intimate connection. It’s human nature to hide those things we fear will affect how others (especially our sweetheart) feel about us. To experience that deep connection we all crave, however, you have to strip down to emotional vulnerability, to be emotionally naked. Let me give you an example:
Julie and Darren had been dating for several months and one night were lingering over a bottle of wine, sitting on the floor of Julie’s living room, fingers intertwined. Soft jazz was playing in the background and they were talking, still getting to know each other. Darren could be described as a man’s man. Julie referred to him as her Marlboro Man, just the kind of guy she liked. He was active in sports and Julie speculated that he was the guy who always ended up as the team captain. When she made that comment, Darren went quiet for a moment, and looked at Julie as if he were engaged in an internal debate. She raised her eyebrows as if to say, “What?” Darren kissed her fingertips and then began telling the story of how, when he was in the Army going through basic training, he was chosen as the platoon leader. A couple of guys in the platoon took a disliking to Darren and one night filled his shoes with human excrement, discovered by Darren only when he put his shoes on. Threats against Darren resulted in his being segregated and protected from the rest of the platoon until the situation was resolved. “So much,” he concluded, “for being the Marlboro Man,” and then said, “I’ve never told anyone about that before. It’s such an embarrassment to me.”
In telling this story, Darren took a big emotional risk but, oh boy, did it pay off. Julie was so touched that Darren had entrusted her with this story, she fell more madly in love with him, vowed to always be worthy of his trust, and knew that Darren was worthy of her trust as well. It was a moment, for both of them, of the kind of intimacy that is the hallmark of a truly great love.
Trust to the tenth power is what makes both physical and emotional intimacy possible. To give it and to get it, you have to get naked.
Shela Dean is a nationally recognized Relationship Coach, bestselling author, speaker, and the creator of her trademarked ReDate Your Mate program designed to help all couples, regardless of the state or stage of their relationship, regain their Relationship Mojo by bringing the best of dating into their marriage. Shela helps couples have more intimacy in all areas of their life. She has an uncanny ability to make complex concepts easy to understand and even easier to apply to everyday life, and a unique blend of humor, insight, and practical meat-and-potatoes approach capped with a “cut to the chase” energy that makes it fun to embark on a self-improvement course.