Thursday, 24 May 2018

C Columns

Understanding Relationships: Paradox of Intimacy: Separate Yet Connected

By Gary Moore

We  all  have  a  deep  desire  and  longing  for  intimacy.  And  at  the  same  time,  we  all  have  a  deep  fear  of  intimacy.  Intimacy  is  basically  a  paradox.  It  builds  both  separateness  and  connectedness.

The  only  way  I  can  be  intimate  with  my  spouse  is  if  I’m  truly  being  myself  and  she  is  truly  being  herself.  Our  intimacy  increases  as  I’m  able  to  become  more  fully who  I  am  and  she  is  able  to  become  more  fully  who  she  is.

We’ve  all  heard  it  said  that  in  marriage,  the  two  become  one.  The  follow-up  joke  has  always  been,  “Which  one?”  It  usually  only  takes  a  few  months  for  it  to  become  obvious  which  one.

Laura  Perls,  one  of  the  founders  of  Gestalt  psychotherapy,  said,  “In  a  traditional  confluent  marriage,  the  spouse  is  not  a  significant  other  but  an  insignificant  same.”This  is  a  description  of  many  marriages  where  personal  identity  is  lost  in  the  merger.  “Two  people  can  either  ‘marry’  or  they  can  ‘join’.  When  people  ‘join’,  the separateness  between  them  is  ever  present.”

True  intimacy  is  found  by  linking  not  forging.  Intimacy,  paradoxical  as  it  seems,is  increased  by  our  recognition  of  separateness,  not  by  our  denial  of  it.

Here  are  at  least  three  paradoxical  aspects  of  intimacy:

1.  A  person  needs  to  be  separate  in  order  to  be  close.

2.  The  ones  we  love  have  the  greatest  power  to  hurt  us.

3.  We  must  seek  comfort  and  healing  from  those  we  hurt  and  who  hurt  us.

Strange  as  it  may  sound,  these  three  paradoxes  are  central  to  intimate  marriage.  They  are  the  puzzles  of  closeness,  crisis  and  reconciliation.  Only  separate  selves  are  intimate  together.  In  order  for  one  to  be  close  to  one’s  partner,  one  must  become  his  or  her  own  separate  self.  Separation  and  togetherness  are  usually  thought  of  as  an  either/or  situation,  but  that  is  false;  they  are  best  understood  as  a  both/and  situation.

We  are  both  becoming  more  separate  selves  with  a  clear  sense  of  identity  and  we  are  both  able  to  come  together  without  fear  or  reservation.  So  distinctness  and  connectedness,  union  and  separation,  twoness  and  oneness,  both  self-identity  and  marital  unity  are  central  to  intimacy.

Family  therapist  Carl  Whitaker  has  written,  “As  two  people  live  together...then  they  grow  closer  together  and  farther  apart  at  the  same  rate.  This  is  a  weird  kind  of business,  but  the  closer  they  get,  the  more  separate  they  are.  If  they  don’t  grow  more  separate,  they  can’t  grow  closer.  If  they  can’t  increase  their  individuality,  they  can’t  increase  their  oneness...”

As  I  become  more  and  more  at  peace  with  myself,  my  fears  of  being  absorbed,  exposed,  attacked,  or  abandoned  go  down.  My  confidence  that  I  can  safely  and freely  be  my  whole  self  in  your  presence  rises  and  grows.  It’s  then  that  I  can  risk  being  spontaneous  —  not  knowing  what  will  come  out  but  trusting  it  all  the  same.

Intimacy  is  the  courage  to  be  vulnerable,  the  necessary  strength  to  be  weak  together.  Being  vulnerable,  as  one  fallible  human  with  another,  means  that  hurts  are  inevitable  but  not  irreparable.  We  will  be  hurt  by  each  other  if  we  live  with  each  other.  Interestingly,  in  working  through  our  hurts,  we  deepen  our  love.

Marriage  is  that  strange  and  puzzling  relationship  in  which,  paradoxically,  we  need  to  seek  comfort  from  the  very  person  who  has  been  party  to  our  hurting.  If  we  cannot  share  our  hurt  feelings  and  allow  the  one  who  has  hurt  us  to  comfort  us,we  are  endangering  the  whole  relationship.  When  we  have  hurt  each  other,  we  must  also  be  the  agents  of  healing.  Going  outside  the  relationship  for  healing  is  a  temporary  process  at  best.

The  feelings  of  fear,  pain,  hurt,  anger  and  the  anxiety  about  further  hurt  all  need  to  be  shared  if  the  relationship  is  to  grow.  The  natural  temptation  is  to  ventilate  these  feelings  in  complaints  about  the  past  or  in  predictions  and  expectations  about the  future.  Doing  so  only  intensifies  the  hurt  and  drives  the  two  people  farther  apart,  positionally,  while  enmeshing  them  emotionally.

Intimacy  is  the  sharing  of  hurt  feelings,  the  acceptance  of  the  one  who  is  hurting and  the  working  through  of  the  hurt  that  lies  between  us.  Deeper  intimacy  cannot  be  achieved  only  by  sharing  the  positive  and  bonding  experiences.  If  there  is  no  resolution  of  negative  and  alienating  elements  in  a  relationship,  there  is  no  growth.All  admiration  and  adulation  does  not  create  intimacy,  it  nourishes  fantasy.

Gary  Moore  is  currently  a  part-time  staff  member  at  Cloverdale  Church  of  God  in  charge  of  Adult  Education.  He's  served  as  associate  pastor  there  for  the  past  11years.  He's  principal  of  .003  Coaching,  providing  life  coaching,  couples'  coaching and  business  coaching  locally  and  around  the  country.  He  also  does  a  weekly  radio  program  on  KBXL  94.1FM  on  Fridays  at  8:45  a.m.  called  Life  Point  Plus.  He  may  be  reached  at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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