The Language of Intimacy
Men aren’t always socialized to talk about what they are feeling and can feel at least a little lost getting into the deep intimacy of relationships. Fortunately, we can grow in our capacity to be intimate with one another.
I once heard someone say that intimacy as an unarmed encounter between two vulnerable individuals. Both parts of this statement are important. We need to disarm — to let go of the urge to be right and to avoid an urge to “punish” the other person, even when we feel we have been injured. Being able to assert and express ourselves without attacking the other is important in deepening our connection with others.
Appropriate vulnerability means opening ourselves, even with that presents the possibility of being misunderstood or hurt. It can be a challenge not to get defensive when we are being challenged, which is one reason intimacy isn’t always easy, even when we know we want it. It’s easier to let down your guard when the person you are with is trustworthy and means you no harm. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone whose behavior causes you to feel unsafe much of the time, you are going to have a difficult time being very intimate. (If you find yourself choosing partners like this repeatedly, consider getting help to break this unhealthy pattern.)
It’s tougher to do all this if you haven’t seen healthy intimacy modeled by adults while you were growing up. Unfortunately, many of us have found ourselves in that predicament. Regardless of what you were or were not taught growing up, you are capable of having a fulfilling relationship.
A good place to start is by being patient — with your partner and with yourself. Letting down your guard and learning new ways of connecting with another person both take time. Be gentle with yourself.
True intimacy requires knowing what is in your heart and finding ways to communicate this to your partner. Some men find that when they look inside themselves, mostly what they feel is anxious, numb or confused. Don’t let these feelings stop you. In fact, speaking about your difficulty and discomfort may be a good place to start.
If you find yourself confused, start by learning to simply take note of your feelings. You don’t always have to respond quickly to every question or statement if that means engaging your mouth before you have sorted through what is in your heart. Take a breath and learn to pay attention to what is going on inside of you. In the same way that all colors are variations of the primary colors — red, yellow and blue — all feelings tend to be variations of one of four primary emotions: sad, glad, mad or scared.
Men have sometimes been taught to fear their emotions, or to cut themselves off from emotions that cause them to feel vulnerable. “Only babies cry!” “Don’t be a wimp!” Feelings of sadness or tenderness or hurt may then become complicated by feelings of shame or embarrassment. The problem is, having feelings is a crucial part of having a deeper capacity for intimacy and of being truly emotionally healthy. While men who have learned to fear their emotions may worry that they will be overwhelmed by them, the true way to have sad emotions run your life is to feel shame over having them in the first place.
Let go of the need to have your communication or your relationship be perfect. Focus instead on being real and telling the truth.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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