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Intimacy, Coupleship; How to Build a Relationship




Excerpted from
Coupleship; How to Build a Relationship
By Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse

To cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception, it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, either in time or in eternity. - Kierkegaard

You can only give away what you have. That is the miracle of intimacy and that is the hope of every close relationship. If you have love and the ability to be intimate, you can give it away. If you don't have love or the ability to be intimate, you have nothing to give. But it's not only a matter of giving. Love and intimacy always involve reciprocation — openness and emotional sharing between partners.

Sad to say, then, that there can be much togetherness in human relationships, yet so very little sharing, so very little true intimacy. I've often seen a clinging kind of togetherness, where one partner seems to want to merge their own personality into the other partner. I've also seen the kind of togetherness where a couple lives under the same roof, but remains aloof and apart almost like distant relatives or tenants in an apartment house.

"We are all so much together," said Albert Schweitzer, "but we are all dying of loneliness."

Intimacy is a basic human need, and it shouldn't be confused with the need for sex. Sex can be an important aspect of intimacy, but sex is not the only — or even the most important — kind of sharing. We will do much exploring of our sexual selves further in this book. However, in this chapter I want to focus on our emotional selves.

Before we can find and maintain sexual satisfaction with a partner, we must develop our ability to achieve and maintain "emotional intercourse". What do I mean by emotional intercourse? It grows from the desire to connect with someone else — to learn what that person thinks and feels, and to share, in return, your innermost self.

Emotional Connecting

There are many ways of connecting emotionally with your partner. You can reach intimacy through exchanging stories, expressing feelings, listening, doing things together, being emotionally vulnerable with each other and showing physical affection to each other.

Here are a couple of examples of connecting emotionally during times of stress:

David and Karen

When David announced to Karen that he was going out of the country for a three-week business trip, Karen immediately felt rejected, discounted and angry. When Karen expressed these feelings, David felt unappreciated and misunderstood.

The tension and painful feelings could have remained deadlocked. Sarcasm and the "silent treatment" were an old pattern for David and Karen. Fortunately, once they realized just how stuck, hurt and deadlocked they were, they decided to open up — to become much more vulnerable with each other.

David explained that he felt a growing inadequacy with his peers. He was worried and felt under a lot of pressure because there were so many new, younger and seemingly brighter co-workers in his department. The competition was subdued, but fierce. To David the trip out of the country was a reassurance of his worth to his company.

"I really need this chance to show what I can do," David confided.

When David talked about his fears, inadequacy and hope for affirmation, Karen began to listen — almost for the first time — and she began to understand. This gave her a new perspective, and for once she did not feel rejected and excluded from the decision.

Karen, in turn, told David about her feelings of being left behind, which fed into her fears of abandonment and noil importance.

"Whenever something like this comes up, I just feel so lonely and isolated," she told David, without a blaming and accusing tone in her voice.

As he listened, David began to understand Karen's fear and hurt. And he began to think more about ways of staying in touch and including Karen in all of his travel plans. By actions and words, he assured Karen that she was important to him. Because of their sharing, Karen and David became closer than ever.

Tom and Kay

Tempers were short and feelings high Christmas morning at the Blockmeiers. Tom and Kay had invited their parents for Christmas and nothing seemed to he going right. There had been transportation delays, heavy traffic and very little rest for anyone the night before. Today everyone was cranks'. And on top of everything else, the furnace had broken down.

Tom felt tense as his dad peered over his shoulder and gave him advice on how to fix the belt on the furnace. "How long has it been since you had this furnace serviced?" Tom's dad asked, without waiting for answer. "That belt's way overdue for a change and there's sure a lot of dust and grime on the motor. These furnaces need a lot of upkeep — if you'd taken better care of it, the furnace wouldn't have broken down this morning, that's for sure." Tom grunted and bit his tongue. It was Christmas after all.

Kay was fixing coffee and hot chocolate and trying to keep everyone happy and cheerful and comfortable on a cold morning. Her mother kept reminding Kay that furnaces, appliances and other labor-saving devices needed attention and care. "This whole situation could have been so easily avoided," Kay's mother sighed, casting a critical glance around the kitchen as if to see what else was being neglected by Tom and Kay.

By the time the house was beginning to warm up, everyone was short with each other. Kay fixed two cups of coffee and invited Tom to the bedroom. Tom's first response was, "Now what?" Kay sat down and met Tom eye to eye and said, "Let's talk."

Each shared their reprimands by their respective parents. Tom and Kay talked about their anger at being criticized unfairly. They both felt disappointment and hurt because their parents didn't seem to be able to show any appreciation — just grumpiness and criticism.

They were able to support and comfort each other, and after 30 minutes or so of closeness and sharing their feelings, the)' both felt recharged. A bit of healing had taken place through a much-needed session of intimacy. They were ready to share in the holiday spirit.


The passionate attraction and energy between two lovers can generate a profound ecstasy and sense of well-being. Where does passion come from? A clue lies in one definition of the word "passion": To be passionate is to be "full of life". If we are passionate, we will necessarily experience ourselves as being "full of life".

Although passion can be the source of intense happiness between couples, it can also generate in times of pain and stress, the most penetrating suffering. I am fully convinced that love and passion are not fantasies or idealistic impossible dreams. Love and passion are great possibilities open to people who want to work for them. Achieving and maintaining an intimate and passionate relationship is both an adventure and a challenge.

It's important to keep in mind that the intimate and passionate relationship depends on these two things: Achieving the relationship and maintaining it. Both are essential to the development of coupleship. And both involve quite different skills. Many times people focus on the achievement of intimacy and neglect maintenance, as if once achieved, intimacy will run on automatic pilot without further attention.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless special attention is given to the maintenance of intimacy, passion wanes, indifference sets in and the honeymoon is over in more ways than one. Continued neglect of the relationship inevitably turns it from a passionate coupleship into a kind of bland pairing where only impersonal things are shared.

The Roots of Intimacy

If we want to achieve intimacy, where do we begin? Many psychologists have written about the "child within", and many therapy models are based on getting in touch with the inner child. Simply put, the child within is that part of ourself that is innocent, lovable, emotionally responsive and wonderfully vulnerable as it puts forth its effort to grow. Many people have been able to recapture some tender and compassionate parts of themselves by remembering and caring for their inner child.

The exploration of your inner child can be a helpful aid in relating to your partner — you become more aware of your partner's own inner child. To be interested in and caring for the child within your partner is a major step toward intimacy. Each partner can explore the power of vulnerability, the power and energy that is released by letting others know who you are, without defenses or excuses.



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