Understanding IntimacySo what is intimacy all about?
Sharing, trusting, and engaging in any relationship involves a risk. A risk that one could be hurt, rejected, used, disappointed and more. Yet if we do not open ourselves up to the possibility to love and be loved we would miss out on the benefits relationships have to offer, joy, excitement, containment, support, encouragement, and growth. Intimacy is a process and relationships are dynamic, both require time and energy to develop.
One needs to understand that intimacy cannot be found, created, or possessed straight away. It is a dynamic process between two people which needs to be constantly negotiated.
Sharing and involving oneself completely in another too soon in the relationship can be overwhelming and possibly a sign of defence or anxiety. The level of intimacy of each partner may differ. If this is the case this needs to be recognised, so that each partner feels able to move forward at a safe pace. Take time to measure your partner’s responses and talk about how you both feel. The relationship needs to be strong enough in terms of trust, understanding, and security to contain and manage the exposure and vulnerability which intimacy brings.
As you begin to open up and become closer to your partner, resistance may be experienced. At this point we realise that we are vulnerable and there is a risk of getting hurt because we have started to invest in this relationship. This may be the time when you or your partner experiences doubts about continuing the relationship or seems distant. This is where the risk involved in trusting, relying on, and exposing one’s self to, is realised. It is also a point of opportunity, where further growth and enrichment can ensue. It is a crossroads which is both scary and exciting. Trust and security are an essential part of any relationship and it is important that time is taken to ensure both parties feel comfortable with the pace and level of intimacy as it develops.
The trust and commitment one places in their partner becomes paramount as you grow closer. This is when you truly open yourself up and show your feelings of vulnerability, bringing your needs to the forefront of the relationship. Expressing one’s vulnerabilities is part of revealing to the person all that you are. This can be particularly difficult for those who are anxious, shy, and/or isolated.
Being real by showing all that you are might feel exposing and it is what makes Intimacy both frightening and rewarding. Expressing one’s needs, directly or indirectly, raises the fear of not getting your needs which runs alongside the possibility of them being fulfilled. To shut down at this point can reverse the steps you’ve taken so far and possibly the end of the relationship.
Some relationships are unsuitable, inappropriate, ill-advised, or even toxic, and warning signs are feelings of resistance, uncertainty, emotional and psychological stress, anxiety, and behavioural change. Unconscious patterns of relating, learnt from our past experiences, play a part in any relationship. How we have learnt to relate, what we need and expect from relationships, and what we are able and willing to give, may not be compatible to everyone. Open communication from the start of the relationship is key to understanding both parties’ wants and needs. Some incompatible relationships can be damaging, addictive, and all-consuming in which we find ourselves unable to detach from. These are not healthy relationships and are a sign of dysfunctional relating which is either learnt or personality based. Recognising our pattern of relating helps us to make better judgements when it comes to relationships and guides us towards more suitable partnerships.
Get in touch if you need help in processing past experiences or wish to work towards a new relationship.
Meet Sophie Barrett MSc, BA (Hons), Dip, CertHE
I am a qualified Counselling Psychotherapist, accredited member of the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP). As an accredited member I am recognise as having achieved a high standard of knowledge, experience and development in counselling and psychotherapy through my accredited MSc qualification as well as a through a separate rigorous application and assessment process within the BACP. As a BACP accredited member I receive supervision when in practice and am bound by the BACP Ethical Framework.
I am a qualified Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) registered Pilates andPre and Postnatal Pilates instructor and a Level 4 Sports Massage Therapist with membership of the Association of Soft Tissue Therapists. REPS is an independent public register which recognises the qualifications and expertise of health-enhancing exercise instructors in the UK which provides a system of regulation for instructors and trainers to ensure that they meet the National Occupational Standards. All professionals on the Register are appropriately qualified and have the knowledge, competence and skills to perform their role effectively.