I am a person of words. I have always been so, according to my mother. I enjoy taking words and using them differently than what is usual. It has always been a game for me and something that keeps an over active brain occupied. I am forever looking for ways to define life in a unique way. This in combination with my background in psychology leaves me looking for patterns in society and vocabulary in which those patterns are defined, and my current focus is on how our society is defining intimacy.
The translation of intimacy seems to have streamlined to the external and focuses on sex. Sex is certainly one expression of intimacy, but I hope we know there is so much more to it. There are words that live outside of what I hear being used to define intimacy. There are moments that far better define the act of intimacy, and those moments should be articulated in our society.
I hear people talk about love and sex as if they are mutually inclusive. You are not loving someone if you are not having sex, and maybe the most concerning is the idea that sex is the definition of love, so you can’t love without having sex.
I’m not really concerned about the sex life of the person next to me. What I am concerned with is this ideology that sex and love are mutually inclusive and yet…
We use the two terms rather easily as though they are both disposable, used and easily tossed away. It is a dichotomy that causes me some dismay and seems to create confusion. You may be reading this and scratching you head at what I am saying, so let me see if I can better articulate what I looking at here.
I can have sex. I can enjoy sex with someone. That does not mean I love them. It means I allowed them access to my body, rendered myself vulnerable on several levels to explore a physical moment. That does not mean I love that person.
I can love a person. I can feel my heart nearly explode with love every time I see them, and yet I can choose not to have sex with them. Because I did not have sex does that mean I love them less? In not having sex, I choose not to fulfill the body, soul, and mind experience that should accompany loving someone.
Intimacy is a further expression of knowing someone so well and caring so deeply for them you express that in multiple ways.
So here is the thing, intimacy is not about sex. Intimacy is defined in the dictionary as a “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group,” and, “a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.,”
I would combine the two definitions and say, “a close familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with detailed knowledge or deep understanding of another person.” The definition in the dictionary does render “sexual intercourse” and an “amorous act” as definitions of intimacy, but I should hope the term is far more dimensional than that. We have many ways of expressing the act of sex, so let’s look at intimacy with a bit more depth.
Intimacy is weathering a loss with another person, learning about them and self through the storm, and one day down the road, looking at them across the table in a group of people, and suddenly only the two of you are in the room. You and that person share a moment of such intense knowledge of one another because of what you have learned about one another through fire that you transcend the moment and physical space to become joined in a single moment through a single moment.
Intimacy is being in a place that is uncomfortable, in a situation that is uncomfortable, having your partner brush a finger lightly along the outside of your hand and suddenly everything shifts and that one action levels the playing field.
Intimacy is knowing a person so well you know what not to say to keep from hurting them and what will take them out in a fight.
Intimacy is about building something with another person, whether they be a lover or a loved one, to the point where you trust they know you nearly as well as you know yourself, and if you ever needed them to make decisions for you, you know you could trust them.
Intimacy is about sharing, sacrificing, exposure, loving, living, wanting, giving, strength, passion, intricacy, need, selflessness, vulnerability, empowerment, knowledge, patience, faith, trust, hope, longing, self-control, vitality, tenacity, perspicacity, transparency, and surrender.
Sex may be a big part of intimacy, but it is not the definition, and I feel a need to write this out, because we are losing the value of intimacy. I think people don’t want to fight for it. It is less messy and doesn’t take as much time if we do not focus on intimacy in relationships;
but then what is left?
I watched a movie many years ago. Can’t think what it was now, but what stuck with me was something the main actor said, “I want someone who knows me so well, he knows what kind of toothpaste I use,” and I remember thinking that if I were to ever commit to someone I would want him to care enough about me to learn what matters to me, my idiosyncrasies, and my processes; who I am; my details.
I have a few intimate relationships that I value above all things. They have taken time to build. They have weathered so much of my life with me. These people, I hope, I will never have to go through life without, and of course, my most intimate relationship is with my husband.
We have weathered big storms together, and though sex is certainly a part of that, what glues us together in the big life storms is not that act. It’s all the other things that express knowledge and understanding of one another. There are times when sex heals us, but far more often its a look of intense knowing, a shared history, a touch that says, “I’m here,” the hug that expels the day, the kiss that leaves the soft promise of things to come, and the verbal expression of, “I so love you,” through tears of pain and grief that somehow leaves comfort as it lingers.