“The true meaning of intimacy refers to trust and honesty in a relationship. It requires that you let your guard down and trust that your partner will not take advantage of you.” ~ Dr. Seth Meyers
I’m a recovering intimacy escapist.
I used to crave a connection that would be out of this world, and wish that I’d bump into a handsome stranger who would sweep me off my feet. Well, at least until it would happen. Then, I would run. I would run as fast as I could, and shed a couple of tears out of gratitude for having met that person.
The emotional rollercoasters became so predictable that I learned to simply observe my freaking out, journal about my twisted logic, take contemplative walks to revel in it, and then shut all emotions down. It turned into a talent.
When I freaked out for the first time, I concluded there must have been something wrong with me. Maybe I’m antisocial—not made for a relationship, I wondered. Maybe I don’t know how to give. Maybe I’m not enough, and that was way too much.
Later, I learned that I’m pretty loving and socially adequate, no matter how introverted I feel. I learned that I’m a giver, no matter how much I love to receive. And I learned that I’m worthy. Yet that knowledge wasn’t enough.
Many of my younger years were consumed by brief relationships based on physical attraction for sexual satisfaction. That translated into the inevitable lack of knowledge about emotional intimacy.
Intimacy should be a subject taught in schools. We ought to teach how to trust the opposite sex, communicate our feelings, and find comfort in vulnerability. You know, so that people like me, in their 30s, don’t have to learn these things by feeling as if we’re jumping off the cliff into the sea—naked, on top of it all.
Some time ago, I set out on a quest to face my fears of intimacy, hoping to learn in a peaceful but controlled way. I microdosed myself with dates. Sometimes the person would be so wrong for me that the lesson couldn’t be more right: stop dating unavailable or unemotional people to remain in an intimacy-free comfort zone; instead, go for the open ones. I pep-talked myself.
Now, I understand that with radical self-love—not just knowledge—come more suitable choices.
Self-sabotaging by dating jerks is only a reflection of what we believe we deserve. We must learn to see the value of our uniqueness. If we compassionately accept our background stories and our quirks, we’ll automatically want someone who can match that love we can give to ourselves.
I spent some time getting to know my last crush—a first for me. I inspected him like the police, questioning his relationship history and checking every detail about his psyche. I was looking to see if he was avoidant, as we tend to attract our mirrors. Not sure how far I was ready to take it, I slipped back into my old pattern. I ran back to my shell. Then I ran toward him. Then I ran away again. You know; that pattern.
In the end, I concluded he was exactly what I needed and committed to being interested. That’s when it started. A different pattern.
One evening, he shared something he doesn’t usually talk about. Hesitantly, I reciprocated with a similar secret. After the exchange of trust, he drew me close for a hug. I felt safe. My was heart open to both giving and receiving.
It wasn’t sexual at first, but as it turned out, the emotional intimacy that preceded the physical made way for the presence to smell his hair, feel his stubble prickling my cheek and his warm lips kissing my neck.
The physical bodies disappeared, and left were only two masses of energy intertwining in a dynamic play. It was all about the hearts anyway.
What a change from that reverse order of my youth. When we place physical intimacy before emotional, we can feel depleted of energy and leave an encounter or relationship more alone than before. This is a frequent mistake of intimacy escapists.
So, I tell you, fellow intimacy escapists: real intimacy is not as scary in practice as it is in theory. Vulnerability is attractive. I encourage you to take the plunge. Don’t be with someone who isn’t willing to dive in with you. Be patient, and embrace the journey.