There’s one important thing women crave in a relationship that you need to understand. It’s something available to us all, that when present will transform your relationships. It will take you to places you’ve never been before and reveal parts of yourself that you never knew existed. It provides a window to your soul, adds passion to your pulses and compassion to your hearts.
I’m talking about intimacy. Intimacy is often misunderstood but a definition I like is:
“learning to know yourself,
learning to know others,
and learning to allow the real you to be seen by others”
Intimacy is a fundamental need of all human beings. That’s because it’s related to having our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs acknowledged and met, both by ourselves and others.
Women crave intimacy because it enables them to experience deeper levels of love, passion, trust, and connection with their partner. Yet so often men are unable to create it because they haven’t learnt what is required to develop and nurture it.
As a result, navigating our way to this place in our relationships can be difficult. So here are four steps to help you find your own way to developing the deeper intimacy that women crave:
Step 1 – Intimacy Requires Safety
Safety is the foundation on which all intimate relationships are built. A relationship can only be as intimate as the safety we create allows. This enables us to take risks, let loose, and explore areas of ourselves we would otherwise be afraid to go.
Safety is a basic human need, as highlighted by Maslow in his hierarchy of needs. However, in this context, it extends to both physical and emotional safety.
Many men are naturally drawn to making a woman feel physically safe by protecting her and keeping her from harm. However, it’s the creation of emotional safety where many men struggle. This is because the behaviours necessary to develop emotional safety haven’t been modelled to them to the same extent that physical safety has.
To create emotional safety in a relationship you have to create the right conditions necessary for you to connect, trust and feel comfortable with each other. This is necessary because we have all experienced various levels of pain in our lives. We instinctively put our guard up as a result and lock that part of us away, as we seek to protect ourselves.
The ability to make someone feel emotionally safe and bring that guard down requires an array of behaviours and skills. Some of these are listed below.
- Setting Boundaries – It’s important that you’re both clear on your do’s and don’ts in the relationship. Use them to agree on boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable to you both. What are your non-negotiables and must-haves? It’s important to ensure these are understood, agreed and well communicated.
- Unconditional Positive Regard – This is the ability to support and accept someone, without judgement, regardless of what the person says or does. It’s a compassionate place to come from in how you relate to your partner. This involves the ability to believe that everyone at their centre is good. It allows us to accept them for who they are and where they’re at.
- Validation – I recently wrote about the 3 magic words in relationships which are to validate your partner by saying “it makes sense”. Making someone feel wrong kills the safety in a relationship. Finding the compassion to enter their world and see things from their view is key to developing safety. Empathically stating that it makes sense gives them the validation that what they are experiencing isn’t wrong.
- Communication – Clear and loving communication demonstrates understanding and enables connection.
- Consistency – The more predictable we are the safer we feel. Mixed and inconsistent messages lead to confusion, and this stops the feeling of safety.
Step 2 – Intimacy Requires Presence
To create intimacy in our relationships, we need to develop presence so we can begin to understand ourselves and our partners more deeply. The definition of intimacy above demonstrates the importance of learning to know yourself, each other and to love what is. It’s from this place of deeper knowing and mindful presence that we can begin to know and share ourselves with each other.
Intimacy involves the ability to understand our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs. It’s only from understanding these needs that we can then ensure we have then met in a meaningful way. That starts with developing presence.
The place within ourselves that we need to go to achieve this isn’t easy. Developing presence requires the use of skills and behaviours that many men learnt to avoid since they were young.
Many men learnt to value thoughts over feelings. Thoughts got things done but feelings got in the way. As a result when difficult feelings arise they can ignore or repress them, unable to name and communicate what they are experiencing. Instead relying on their thoughts to communicate to their partner.
This is because our society encourages men to display control and autonomy to succeed. There’s certainly a place for this but many of the skills associated with this are not consistent with those necessary to develop intimacy.
Developing presence enables you to go beneath your thoughts and learn more about who you are. It helps to create a connection with the feelings you’re experiencing. This then provides you with a new language to communicate and develop deeper intimacy.
Learning to more deeply know yourself takes courage. It requires you to stay in feelings and emotions when they arrive instead of numbing them or turning to anger as that age-old release valve for undefined feelings.
By developing presence and embracing our own emotions we can better empathise with our partners. This helps to create a deeper connection, increased trust and therefore more intimacy.
Step 3 – Intimacy Requires Vulnerability
Deep intimate connection comes when we are able to allow the parts we judge ourselves for, to be seen by others. These are the parts our partners want from us most of all, and are what will bring us closer together.
The problem is that our instincts tell us that being vulnerable is dangerous, and something we should avoid. Opening up, being honest and sharing vulnerably is scary. It makes us think that if they knew who we really were then they’d reject us.
The contradiction is that we may judge ourselves for showing vulnerability but it’s this very authentic behaviour that we value so much in others. It’s why we’re so drawn to children and animals for example. We sense their vulnerability and openness without judgement. This gives us permission to be the same around them which creates a deeper connection than we could otherwise make.
The intimacy in our relationships is proportional to the gap between the true authentic self and the version we’re prepared to share. The extent of the gap represents our degree of vulnerability. The smaller the gap the more vulnerable we are which leads to deeper levels of intimacy.
Many men find this particularly difficult though as they were taught for many years to do the exact opposite. They learnt to protect themselves as they strive to live up to the expectations placed upon them.
Many women learnt to perceive men who did show emotion as weak. So it’s understandable why men would find this difficult. Yet it’s the ability to move beyond this conditioning that’s important. To show emotion and be vulnerable is what the women in our lives want most from us.
That’s why it’s important to create a safe, non-judgemental relationship, as described in step 1. It’s from this vulnerable place that both of you can go deeper into intimacy without shame or judgement.
Step 4 – Intimacy Requires Practice
The things that bring me the most joy in life are those that I work the hardest for. Anything that comes good too quickly isn’t given the same respect, care and attention as something I work for.
The time and process of creating what I want in life unknowingly prepares me to care for it better when it arrives.
This lesson is important in how we deepen the intimacy we’ve created in the first three steps. The most loving and intimate relationships I see are between people who continue to deepen their intimacy year after year.
They find the time regularly to work on their relationship. They practice developing intimacy like you practice anything from which you hope to improve. This isn’t something to try for a few months until things improve a bit or the next fad comes along.
This practice IS the relationship. It’s the place you come from in the relationship, rather than the place to get to. It’s a place where you are always practising and learning with each other,
I have described this as a series of steps, but the practice of intimacy is more of an art than a four-step process. Like with any art, once you understand the basics, it’s time to let go of the steps and feel into what is right for you and for your relationship.
Couples who are dedicated to exploring themselves and their relationship will be rewarded with the riches of ever-deepening love and intimacy. Something that comes with continued dedication to practising this art.
Credit: I’d like to acknowledge the work I’ve done with John Wineland in the area of intimacy. John has helped me tremendously in this area and this article is largely inspired by the work I’ve done with him. If you are interested in learning more on this huge topic then you can find John’s work at http://www.johnwineland.com
I hope this post was helpful. Do you agree? What has been your experience with developing intimacy? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.
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