Intimacy: the Oxford Dictionary is pretty sketchy in its description of the word.
1) “Close familiarity or friendship.”
2) “An intimate act or remark”.
A pretty broad description using just words.
But that’s not surprising because intimacy is one of those things that transcend a definitive description. Intimacy is an intangible. Most of us know it when we see or experience it no matter if we can actually put it into words. It’s more of a feeling that warms us inside and those kinds of things can be hard to describe because they are experienced on such a personal level.
I see intimacy displayed everywhere I go. I see it on the beach between two elderly people, sitting hand in hand, peacefully sharing a sunset at the end of their lives. I see it in the loving gaze of a newborn’s mother as she looks upon the wonderful creation in her arms that has just begun its life. It’s two kids on a date, stealing that first kiss and the last kiss of a father giving his daughter away in marriage on her wedding day.
Intimacy can be the feel of a raindrop on your nose in a warm spring rain and the smell of the grass after the rain is over. It can be the way two people casually slip their hands into each other’s while standing in line at the movies. It’s a simple smile that says volumes but needs no words. A child and a puppy know what it is though neither is capable of articulating a verbal description of it.
One thing for sure is that it’s as necessary to the human spirit as sunlight is to a garden. It’s what feeds our souls. Without intimacy we wither and die spiritually. It’s what gives our lives validation. Intimacy assures us that we are not alone on this frightening, chaotic, journey through life. The best thing of all it’s free. Intimacy doesn’t cost a dime.
But not everyone understands it or is capable of distinguishing it from other things they mistake it for. Sex is often confused with intimacy. Although sex is an intimately personal act, without passion, it’s just a mechanical release. Many couples can have great sex but terrible personal relationships that ultimately result in failure.
Many older couples find that as their body’s age their diminishing sex drive is replaced with an even greater degree of intimacy just as they see the end of the lives they shared together for so many years drawing closer.
Intimacy can be a kind word of reassurance just when someone needs it most. A friendly arm around the shoulder of an old friend. Reaching out with an act of unselfish personal kindness toward a stranger is intimacy.
Most importantly, intimacy is the one constant that is required to keep any relationship healthy and alive. A person who can’t share intimacy is more crippled than any quadriplegic, incapable of giving emotional sustenance to those around them. Any relationship involving this type of person is going to be emotionally draining for their partner and will inevitably end in crushing failure. Like emotional parasites, they feed on their partner’s intimacy and suck the life out of them.
People like this can be hard to spot because intimacy can be faked to a greater or lesser degree. Just as people can laugh at something they don’t find amusing they can pretend to be intimate. But they can’t sustain the ruse. Eventually the veneer will crack and the signs show through. Avoid these people, despite their physical attraction, as if your life depended on it, because it does.
Intimacy is an easy and natural thing in most people. The secret, as James Taylor writes in his song “The Secret to Life” is in opening up your heart. Don’t be afraid to do it. Sure you can get burned…but the rewards are beyond any description. Intimacy in a relationship is the key to giving loved and feeling loved when the intimacy is returned.
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