About 10 years ago, the man I had recently started dating was running himself a bath as I was getting ready to leave his place.
Suddenly, strong pangs of fear washed over me and I walked through the open door of his bathroom and told him that I was scared.
What he did next attached my heart to his for the years to come.
He spun around and looked at me. And then, with no hesitation, he turned back toward the faucet, turned the water off, sat on the edge of the tub and, fully naked, bore his eyes into mine and said: tell me more.
That was it.
He completely stopped what he was doing and offered me his intense, interested attention.
Just like that, I was his.
Then he listened. Without interrupting, without paraphrasing, without minimizing, without telling me about him, and without trying to fix any of it.
He occasionally nodded, never moving his eyes from mine, and let me talk until I was completely empty. At that point, he waited a little bit more and simply took me in his arms, where I allowed myself to melt into a good cry.
This bit of magic is something he repeated again and again, over the years we spent together. He did it in cars, he did it in the street, he did it in the middle of Ikea, and he did it in bed.
I don’t know where he had learned this. He was not quite 30 years old, and had not had many relationships. Somehow, it just came naturally to him. And because of exactly this, it came naturally to my heart to make a nest in his. Because of this also, I stayed by his side through some pretty tough spots. Because of this also, our separation years later was terribly painful.
Intimacy is this: staying with someone’s pain, confusion, processing, even joy, and giving it our full attention, away from our own fear, our own opinion and our own anything.
For many women, that’s the elixir. Way more than diamonds.
Many men say they want intimacy.
So, from experience, here is a little list of what not to do, followed by a short list of what to do.
When your partner comes to you and says that she is upset/tired/stressed, here is what not to say:
“What are you upset about, now?” (shudder)
“You have no reason to be upset.” Then go about the business of listing why she has no reason to be upset.
“I am upset too, actually.” Then move on to explaining why you are upset.
“What you need to do is _________.”
None of that.
Here is what would work better:
> Turn off the TV (or the bathtub), put down your phone.
> Face your partner, uncross your arms, and say the magic words: “Tell me more.”
> Then wait.
> Listen, truly listen. Stay present. Even if what she says seems silly to you.
> Nod. Ask short clarifying questions, if needed.
> Let her talk until she has nothing left to say.
> Then hold her if she lets you.
> Later on, you can ask her if she needs your help with this. And trust her to tell you whether she does or not.
That’s it. Isn’t that crazy easy?
And it will work every time.
It will help keep our hearts open, and most importantly, it will give you the privileged place in our lives of being the one we call on when things get tough. It will most likely get you (and her) lots of good sex, too.
Alternately—because we women need to have such a person in our lives—we will turn to someone else. Which you won’t like much.
You want intimacy?
Here you go.
Author: Laura Lavigne
Image: William Stitt/ Unsplash
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren