Intimacy is something we all want, yet it remains elusive, rare and mysterious. Some people have intimate relationships, but most don't. Lack of relationship fulfillment is the norm. Many of us want to know how to establish an intimate relationship-from single people who are wondering why they are still single to those in relationships who want a healthier, more nourishing connection with their partner. Throngs of people are clamoring for direction.
What is intimacy? How does it happen? What is entailed?
Intimacy is the coming together of two separate selves in a joint-effort creation: You and Me make Us.
Something happens in that space of co-creation where intimacy happens, something invisible and magical, something sacred, spiritual in nature. A bridge is built, upon which there is a steady stream of energy flowing back and forth, an exchange of essences, where understanding and closeness are achieved, where an indestructible bond develops. Us is sacred, one of a kind, special and unique unto itself, just as You and Me are special and unique. Us becomes an entity unto itself and a source of vital nourishment. Intimacy, the product of co-creation, is a life-sustaining force that feeds You and Me.
Intimacy doesn't just happen. It's not random. It doesn't occur in a vacuum. Intimacy is a creative process, an art. Like acting or painting, it takes years of honing your craft before you master it. Anyone can do it, but very few do, and fewer achieve mastery. It requires self-awareness, self-reliance, trust in the process, strong motivation, communication skills and steady practice.
It doesn't matter who you are, intimacy is a monumental challenge. Intimacy entails (emotional) vulnerability, and most people have quite a bit of difficulty being vulnerable in a relationship and often enter into the sacred space in a state of defense. Painful experiences from past and current relationships make most people want to protect themselves at all costs. Learning how to navigate the treacherous terrain of relationships, where experience and ability are relative from person to person, where few have the understanding and skills that make intimacy possible, takes time and experience, and self-growth.
Hope lies in the fact that regardless of your experience in relationships; doing some intensive self-work combined with relationship training may be all you need to make qualitative changes in all of your relationships.
Intimacy begins with rapport.
Rapport occurs when two people are entranced in conversation. They are listening and responding to each other spontaneously, without self-monitoring or anticipating what is going to happen next or worried about making a good impression. They are in a zone, in that sacred space, immersed in a naturally unfolding process, untainted by the wish for a desired outcome. Both people are highly interested in the process -- "unconditionally interested" in the process -- eager to engage, get to know each other and discover what they can create together. They live for realness, intensity, openness and truth, and are not likely to shy away from negative feelings, conflicts or differences. When you watch a couple in rapport, it is as if they are dancing-their postures, gestures and expressions mirror each other and they give a sense of intense engagement.
Before intimacy there is rapport. Where there is rapport, there is a connection. The question is often asked, "Is rapport the same as when there is chemistry between two people?" We are referring to the ability to interact in a way in which there is attunement on both verbal and non-verbal levels. When describing her experience when meeting someone for the first time a client said, "Something was going on. Can't quite put my finger on it. We were just able to understand each other in a very deep way." That's rapport.
Attraction, when combined with unconditional interest, heightens rapport. All the while there is the sense that something deep and profound is happening. Understanding is achieved, and like attraction, strengthens rapport.
I've heard it said and I concur, "Rapport is everything." Nothing is more telling about the future of a relationship than the quality of rapport two people who don't know each other can generate. Most people put physical attraction, great sex, common interests and a whole slew of other faulty criteria at the top of their list of what is most important when deciding whether or not to pursue a relationship.
Enter the sacred space with a ‘clean slate.'
How can you become more skilled at rapport? Cultivate the proper state of mind. Expanding on the concept of "unconditional interest," the ideal state of mind can be likened to a ‘clean slate', characterized by openness and being fully present in the moment, where there is no past or future, only the here and now. An important aspect of the ideal state of mind is the ability to take attention off of yourself and put it on the other person. Any time two people are together a whole new play is about to unfold. A ‘clean slate' will dramatically reduce the extent to which preconceived notions, inaccurate interpretations, and emotional baggage from previous and/or current relationships taint what would otherwise be pure and organic creation.
The most important relationship is with yourself.
If you want to enter the sacred space of co-creation where You and Me become Us, it's necessary to have a self to bring. Having a self is what makes rapport building, "unconditional interest" and a "clean slate" possible. At the bare minimum, self-awareness in involved. You must have relationship with yourself. You (and Me) will not need someone else to validate your existence or worth. You're entering the space as a full and whole entity unto yourself. You will not expect or depend on another to feel good about yourself and you won't measure yourself against how he or she responds to you. Your behavior is internally based and purpose driven.
Self- awareness makes it possible to accurately represent yourself. If you are out of touch with what you're thinking and feeling, you will not be seen, known or understood. Self-awareness extends to intuitive alertness as well, which enables you to pick up on non-verbal communication (attitude, tone of voice, body language, eye contact, demeanor) and danger signals. How else will you be able to take care of yourself and/or exercise healthy self-interest in any relationship?
Where there is intimacy, there is understanding.
Understanding may be defined as when one's experience registers with the other. Understanding is a basic human need and therefore provides vital nourishment to You and Me. It can also relieve pain sourced from relationships in which isolation, disconnection and the lack of intimacy and love have prevailed.
Most people can look back on their lives and relationships and can remember feeling, thinking or saying at one time or another, "All I want is to be understood."
You and Me will not be able to create an Us characterized by intimacy and understanding. Again, without self-awareness, achieving understanding when neither person has the necessary self-awareness becomes a mountainous task. How can you get to know me if I can't accurately represent myself? How can I get to know you if you can't accurately represent yourself? How can I be intimate with you if I'm not intimate with myself?
Whenever entering the sacred space of co-creation, it's incumbent upon you to be able to put whatever is going on in your life aside. If you are distracted, running on empty, overly stressed, in a bad mood, the other person's experience may not register and you may be running the risk of your mood tainting your perceptions. You may be relating to the person you're with more as an extension of yourself, than as a separate entity. Chances are you'll be in a reaction mode that takes you out of the moment and distances you from the person you're with.
The best thing you can do for Us is to care for yourself.
Caring for yourself means being able to identify what issues, struggles or challenges are yours, and therefore your responsibility to resolve and not use the relationship (Us) to do so. The key factor determining the quality and longevity of a relationship is the ability to distinguish between what issues are yours, what are your partner's and what and when the two of you must come together to resolve (Yours, Mine, Ours). It's in the sacred space of co-creation where You and Me make Us; where each person's differences are illuminated, conflicts resolved and where intimacy and understanding are achieved.