Satisfying relationships live and breathe authentic intimacy. Couples who truly understand the meaning of intimacy and who practice it throughout their relationship, day in and day out, experience real happiness, profound love. And, let me remind you that intimacy, authentic intimacy, does include sexual and physical intimacy, however intimacy and sex are not synonymous. Those who equate the two often find themselves having no true intimacy at all.
What is authentic intimacy?
While we’ve said intimacy and sexuality are not synonyms. We could, on the other hand, say that authenticity and intimacy are synonymous. You can’t actually have true intimacy without authenticity. Period. Plain. Simple. And, when you share genuine authenticity with another, you have intimacy.
By definition, authentic intimacy means we are seen for who we are. We are seen in our beauty and our mess, our strength and our weakness, our power and our vulnerability. We show our good side and our not so good side. In authentic intimacy we don’t hide. We reveal the full truth of ourselves – the good, the bad and the ugly. And, with true intimacy, there is no shame in being imperfect. There is no judgment for our so-called flaws.
If we talk about true intimacy we cannot remove authenticity from the conversation. So to reiterate the innate connection between authenticity and intimacy, we’ll use the term “authentic intimacy” throughout this conversation. Yes, using the two words together is redundant, but in learning, redundancy serves a great purpose.
What is the meaning of intimacy?
But let’s get even more specific. When people search “intimacy meaning” they’re really asking a much bigger question about love, about connection. Although some would deny it, we, as humans, all seek connection. We all long for the experience of being seen and valued for who we genuinely are. Every single human wants to feel comfortable in their own skin. No one ever wants to have to pretend to be something they aren’t.
Yet, people pretend to be something they aren’t in the name of love all the time. We call this self-abandonment, and it’s the antithesis of authentic intimacy.
While a lot of pretending, and covering up our true feelings, happens in dating and romantic relationships, people still seek intimate relationships because romance creates fertile ground for the intimacy to blossom. Unfortunately most relationships fall short when it comes to authentic intimacy.
True intimacy is vulnerable. In its natural effortlessness, intimacy can feel demanding. And still, we continue to seek intimacy – sometimes pushing it away, sometimes desperately grasping for it. Why? Because when we find it, authentic intimacy creates some of the most blissful moments we can experience individually and together.
Intimacy means dissolving all barriers of separation between us. Authentic Intimacy offers complete transparency, full exposure. It means being the true you. And, most importantly, intimacy means consciously sharing your whole self – the good, the bad, and the ugly with another. Notice that in defining intimacy, it requires nothing of the other. It requires you to be you. It requires you to allow yourself to be seen as you are.
Mathematical definition of intimacy
So many men on the path of soul love (and some women too) seek formulas, techniques, and methods when it comes to authentic intimacy and romance. Unfortunately, we can almost never provide them. However, in this case, when it comes to creating authentic intimacy, we can rely on a formula – a formula that, in its completeness, might just blow your mind.
In his book, Passionate Marriage1, Dr. David Schnarch offers an intriguing but simple definition of intimacy that explains, in simple terms, exactly what we’ve said here:
Intimacy = Exposure
When we reveal or expose our true selves – perfect and imperfect – we are intimate.
Then another beautiful spiritual teacher, Brandon Bays, founder of The Journey, describes spiritual freedom, or spiritual liberation, like this:
Freedom = Exposure
So by simple mathematics (seriously, who would have thought about using math in a conscious intimacy article!), if intimacy = exposure and freedom = exposure then by definition
Intimacy = Freedom
Wait… what? Does the definition of intimacy really include freedom? Yes. it does. And here’s the funny part.
Have you heard people, predominantly masculine people (often but not always), express their need for freedom? Maybe you’ve experienced those same people fearing commitment, or holding a fear of intimacy,
These wonderful souls have falsely imagined that if they get intimate with another person, they will lose their freedom. Just the opposite is true. True authentic intimacy engenders freedom by definition. Intimacy begets freedom. If you practice authentic intimacy wholeheartedly you can be nothing but free. Forever. Always.
And, for those on a conscious spiritual path of love, intimacy not just opens the door to spiritual liberation – intimacy, and the exposure that goes with it, is enlightenment.
You will experience spiritual freedom when you are fully intimate with everyone you meet. Or in other words, if you stop hiding, stop pretending, and authentically share yourself, you can be nothing other than free. Whew!
If you’ve been seeking freedom in your life, try intimacy for a change. As you’ve heard here before, Einstein questioned our sanity when we do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.
If intimacy requires exposure, when should I be intimate?
Acknowledging that physical nakedness is not true intimacy, just as there is a “right” time for taking off your clothes in a new relationship, there too is an appropriate time and place for the self exposure that creates full authentic intimacy. And, yes, it’s on the first date and no, it’s not on the first date. It’s all the time and it’s not all the time. We’ll talk about levels of intimacy shortly and suffice it to say for now that the experience of intimacy – appropriate intimacy – is defined moment by moment, experience by experience.
Authentic intimacy need never be forced. The minute you try to create intimacy, you’re actually blocking real intimacy. Trying means you’re striving for a future experience which means you’re not allowing yourself to be exactly as you are in the moment, which authentic intimacy requires. In true intimacy, you don’t attempt to be more or less than yourself. Intimacy doesn’t require improvement, nor perfection. It requires realness. It requires you to relax and be you. No one else can allow you to be you. Only you can do that.
Genuine intimacy just happens. It happens when someone chooses to open up and be authentic. You can let intimacy unfold naturally as you, or the one you’re with, feels comfortable to open – to open without any desire to prove, protect, deflect, or manage – to open with a desire to simply be. Unveiled. Unguarded.
And, the truth is that opening is vulnerable. To accept the vulnerability of intimacy we must trust ourselves first and foremost. Most believe that a safe space for intimacy depends primarily on trusting another, yet that other-focused attention is misplaced. Creating authentic intimacy depends on you trusting you – trusting that you’ll take care of you, trusting that you’ve got your back, trusting that you know and honor yourself by recognizing truly healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries in your relationships.
No one else can create an experience of intimacy for you. No matter what another person does or doesn’t do, you must create a space for authentic intimacy within yourself.
Requirements for authentic intimacy
As we’ve been exploring the meaning of intimacy, we’re also beginning to see the prerequisites or requirements for an authentic relationship based on true intimacy. Here are just a few of the ways you can prepare yourself for intimacy.
- Know yourself – you can’t share authentic intimately with another if you don’t know what’s true for you.
- Accept yourself – you won’t allow yourself full transparent exposure if you’re judging your own imperfections.
- Trust yourself – you must feel secure within yourself and in your relationship with you, in order to feel safe – before, during and after an intimate experience – whether it be an experience of emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, or any of the other types of intimacy.
- Relax pressure – intimacy unfolds gently, slowly, allowing you, and the one witnessing or listening, to relax into a warm welcoming energetic (not necessarily physical) embrace.
- Go slow – again, natural authentic intimacy will unfold in divine timing. It won’t be too fast because you’re trying to dump all your secrets in an attempt to get the rejection over with and it won’t be a withholding in a different kind of attempt to prevent rejection that might happen because the other person doesn’t like what you said.
To thoroughly answer the questions, “What is true intimacy?”, “When should I be intimate?”, or even “How to be intimate?”, we’ll be served by an expanded look at intimacy levels and how they vary throughout a relationship.
As we’ve said throughout our exploration of authentic intimacy, intimacy begins with you. And the stages of intimacy, or intimacy levels, correspond to the three spiritual relationship stages. Actually, whether we’re talking about love, relationships, or intimacy, the levels or stages are the same.
At the first level of intimacy, you build an intimate relationship with yourself. You do everything we mentioned above with you. You’re honest with yourself. You’re accepting of yourself. You create a safe space for you to be you and you get comfortable in your own skin. On the path of soul love we refer to this first stage of intimacy as In-2-me-I-C. You look into you.
Once you have an authentically intimate relationship with yourself, when you are willing to expose the good and the not-so-good of you, then you can step into the second intimacy level which creates authentic intimacy with another. At this stage you’re practicing the experience of In-2-Me-U-C. At this second level of intimacy your Mantra might be, “I let you see into me. I let you see into me.” You allow another to see you fully.
As you integrate self-intimacy with other-intimacy, fully seeing and being seen, you can move into the third of the intimacy levels. At the third stage, the dissolution of separation becomes more prominent and consistent. The intimacy is so deep at this point that we can describe it as In-2-Me-U-R, where you begin to lose sight of where one being begins and the other ends. Here you’ll come to know the bliss, the peace, the joy, the ecstasy that accompanies authentic intimacy and soul love. Here sweet tears of connection, tears of love, become the norm.
And, to be completely complete, it’s not quite that simple in long-term authentic relationships. As you deepen your capacity for authentic intimacy, you will actually cycle through these stages of intimacy over and over again.
With each cycle through the levels of intimacy, you will experience higher and higher expressions of happiness, love, and even pleasure. And this expanded access to, and capacity for, intimacy gives your exploration and practice of true intimacy meaning – real meaning.
Each time you deepen your intimacy with yourself, you’ll be able to offer and receive deeper intimacy with another until the separation between you continuously shrinks, dissolving, until no separation remains and all you’re experiencing is intimate divine union.
1David Schnarch, Passionate Marriage, W. W. Norton & Company, 2009
*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.
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April 28-30, 2023
April 28-30, 2023
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