Intimacy; The Art of Distance- Musings from a Psychotherapist on Couples Counseling
August 15, 2014 by Stephanie McCracken counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy 0 comments
/ˈɪntəməsi/ Show Spelled [in-tuh-muh-see] noun, plural in·ti·ma·cies.
1. The state of being intimate.
2. A close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving relationship with another person or group.
3. A close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject.
4. An act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like: to allow the intimacy of using first names.
5. An amorously familiar act.
Those in staunchly well mind and body are often motivated for enjoyment, the want to enjoy good food, good love, and good sex. Most ideally we are able to enjoy closeness with our family and friends, mutual pleasures with ones that we love. Yet it very well may be possible that for all of our satisfied physical urges we may still be missing the ship on nurturing intimacy. You see, while intimacy may be fostered within the context of lovemaking it is most readily sustained within the mundane moments of other parts of the relationship. Intimacy is where all of this “relationship stuff” really melds into a complex interplay, intimacy is the nectar which offers fluidity to our love. The gazing into each other’s eyes, it’s the subtle touch of the arm while walking down the street, it’s the intermingled limbs awaking at dawn, the secrets that you know of each other.
What if I told you that the secret to sustaining intimacy is in how well your relationship tolerates distance? Intimacy may be well known by its opposite which for the intention of this cursory summary, is distance. We and our lover are always in the eternal dance of closeness and distance. We meet at home and spend our lives in different jobs or completing divergent tasks, we may share friends but we have our own as well, we converge and diverge. How close we become as years unfurl around our partner and our self. Yet too, how much can we allow and encourage some space between us before feeling that there is a chasm. Often in psychology we see a range of personality disorders which are challenged by forging emotional closeness and distance in interpersonal relationships. When we allow our partner the safe space to separate autonomously and then reemerge into the sanctity of our love we will often be thanked by abundant closeness.
Imagine this, you go to the grocery store and run into a college friend in the isles, you chat for a while about the pledges of your sorority and are feeling fabulous as you go home to your husband to enjoy a quiet evening together. Your husband is seated brooding when you enter the house, accusations begin to fly about why you are home a half an hour late. “What were you doing? How could you be so thoughtless to not text or call that you would not be on time? Were you with someone else?” Perhaps in years one through three you used to defend and explain but that leads to no solution, over time you shut down and swallow tears, sometimes wondering if you should be doing all of the things that you are accused of, it sure would beat the loneliness of your quiet sulking. Hours later, your husband, feeling guilty for his explosion, eager to close the chasm between you, reaches to touch you and begin making love when you crawl into bed. Now you are brooding and squirm away from his touch, he accuses yet again, “What is wrong with you? Why are you so cold to me?” In his mind he is now certain that you are cheating and you are certain that he is a Neanderthal. The couple exemplified here is suffering greatly the lack of trust and diminished communication among possible other hypothesis. I wonder how different this interaction would look if distance was encouraged between the two? It’s vital to remember that the moment that we step out of the habit of encouraging our partners autonomy and space we become something different and distance will inevitably begin to replace our longed for closeness.
Its most important to keep in mind that a relationship is made up of multiple components and the way that you and your partner are relating is an ever malleable matrix, influenced and influencing a multiplicity of domains from the physical, emotional, psychological, social, spiritual to name a few. With this in mind, hold fast to hope. The maintenance of a marriage or relationship occurs by a specific skillset which for some of us is natural while for others it may take a bit of work, like all aspects of our relational style we can always learn how to do better. If you are a part of a romantic relationship or if you are thinking back to other relationships, you may want to ask yourself, how well do you and your partner relish distance and what does that do to the intimacy between the two of you? A little intimate secret for you is that we can only allow to come close that which is existent within from its own context, from its very unique and nurturing distance.
In love and light,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy 1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling