We all need intimacy. We all have different ways we receive and give intimate messages. It should be easy, as intimacy is natural and we are born needing to be intimate and close. What is challenging is that we might know what we want, but not how to get it. We may know how to give, but not to receive or vice versa. In other words, intimacy, although needed by us all, is not so easy to time correctly. Sometimes we are unable to even understand it is there, right before our eyes.
This is because we are conscious of a certain level of our needs but remain unconscious of other levels. We meet a person who becomes our partner. We assume this person can give what we require. However, sometimes what we require has remained in the unconscious and therefore we do not notice it and even might miss it. The deeper layers of our lives, although tremendously important, might have been too often ignored.
So the intimacy messages like warmth, interest, love signals in numerous forms, the various ways of nurturing; including how to listen and hear each other, have to be made conscious and almost re-learned or learned for the first time.
These messages might be like making a simple meal for our partner, or doing something out of the usual or reaching out in a normal way or in an out of the ordinary way. And, this might be what we need yet we have to be even more than a bit overt for our partner to know what we need. How complex we all are and perhaps we are even shy or uneasy about expressing what we want and need.
An oft-heard comment is that each partner expects the other to know these intimacy messages. How this happens is not clear, but it is assumed to be a normal happening when there is love. These are the kinds of misunderstandings that lead to problems and partners coming to the crossroads of a relationship, but not knowing how they got there. These moments of misunderstanding can build before anyone is aware. Needs and wants for intimacy are key. And remember, intimacy does not just refer to sex but it does refer to the giving and getting of physical attention and affection.
It means being seen and regarded by each other. Intimacy is getting close and being open with respect, honor and cherishing for each other. The messages that convey intimacy will be different for each couple. And, they will also be necessary to keep the relationship healthy and satisfying. These are part of the essential ingredients for finding ways of keeping love alive.
Susan E. Schwartz, Ph.D.