Intimacy. It’s the ultimate in coupledom, right?

Well, that’s what everyone seems to say. But let us take pause and consider the word. What does it mean to be intimate? Is it physical or emotional? Can we explain to our partners the kind of closeness we are pursuing? Have we explained it to ourselves? If we reached intimacy, would we even recognize it? Where do we even start?

According to the esteemed author, feminist and social activist Bell Hooks, “Commitment to truth-telling lays the groundwork for the openness and honesty that is the heartbeat of love.”

So intimacy is allowing someone to see our soul?

But being intimate with someone includes more than just “the birds and the bees." It requires courage and trust. Let’s face it: once the honey is gone and we realize the bee stings to protect itself we begin to wonder if whether being close to someone is for the birds.

Creating a sustainable, loving, healthy, romantic relationship — a solid partnership — is a difficult challenge. It requires a significant investment of ourselves, but exactly what and how much and when can often be a mystery. And even getting the formula right is no guarantee: Because there is no formula.

Yet we have what it takes to reach real intimacy: our real selves. It requires our honest, authentic communication. It means looking someone in the eyes and showing them our soul. It takes courage. It takes courage because we believe we have something to hide, and that belief makes us afraid to show ourselves to our partner. We keep our real selves a secret from the one we love, fearful they will not like what they see. Somewhere along the way, we’ve learned to like ourselves so little that we cannot imagine our partner could like us, either. We are sure that if we were to be discovered, the deal would be broken, leaving us with what we dread most— being abandoned because we are not worthy.

Dr. Greg Baer, best known as a life coach and motivational speaker, writes about this in his book "Real Love: The truth about finding unconditional love & fulfilling relationships."

He says, “If the love you have for your significant other is not real, if it’s not unconditional, you will not be able to sustain happiness or your relationship.”

Being in a legitimate relationship, demands open communication. We must be accepting of ourselves to engage in an honest dialogue. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and found you were not telling the truth, responding in a way you believed they would?

Truth telling requires courage, and courage translates into something bigger: the essential foundation for your journey to self-love.

The process can be arduous and confusing, like walking a labyrinth, and demands that we proceed slowly, with patience, mindfulness, trust and self-acceptance. When we reach the center of the labyrinth we will have found self-love. It is then that we can participate in an intimate relationship.

Clinical psychologist John Welwood wrote, “When we reveal ourselves to our partner and find that this brings healing rather than harm, we make an important discovery that intimate relationships can provide a sanctuary from the world of facades, a sacred space where we can be ourselves, as we are …This kind of unmasking — speaking our truth, sharing our inner struggles, and revealing our raw edges — is sacred activity, which allows two souls to meet and touch more deeply.”

True love happens with time and our willingness to be vulnerable. Intimacy is eye to eye, soul to soul.

Follow these tips on your road to self-acceptance:

➢ Respect your feelings.

➢ Express your feelings.

➢ Speak in I statements.

➢ Remember that you matter.

➢ You are perfect just the way you are!

At times self-expression can be a challenge, especially if you were taught as a child that what you thought was not important. 

You can contact Dr. Lateefah Wielenga at The Counseling Kitchen at (562) 895-0516.

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