For a long time, I have tried to have more authentic emotional connections with people closest to me. Of course in my marriage I have and continue to try; my codependent tendencies unfortunately sabotage my attempts more often than not. The other “proving ground” is my daughter.
She has probably been the most challenging because she was always one who needed it and would try and let me know, maybe not in the most pleasant way, but in her desperation, she would deeply challenge me. I will never forget one time when she was about 14, she looked at me screaming, ” you don’t even know me!”
I remember thinking, “she’s right… I don’t really know her.” It was easy to blame her and not take responsibility because I was the adult, she was the kid. So over the years we have spent, and still do, spend a lot of energy in learning how to genuinely communicate, ( I still have a long way to go.)
I am very grateful to her for this. (Though I am usually not very grateful at the moment). Communication is one of the big 3 areas that people seeking counseling help are struggling with. Out of desperation, they come seeking answers… how to “fix” their communication problem. I wish it were that easy. Instead, it requires a genuine desire to “know” the person, to have an authentic emotional connection with them, and enough love to keep moving forward through all challenges.
What does it mean to be emotionally intimate with someone and why is it enticing and fearful all at once? And how do you grow or maintain emotional intimacy in a relationship?
Emotional intimacy takes place when we open ourselves up to another person at a deep level. It requires a leap of faith and a lot of trust that our partner will not willingly harm us with the information that we share about ourselves. We all have things we wouldn’t share with other people, yet it is a natural human longing to be fully known as we are and fully loved in spite of it. This is why we take the risk of sharing things that make us vulnerable to rejection or abuse should our partner choose not to honor our trust. Some of the things we might share include:
- Secrets about our past such as family trauma, abuse, or things we’ve done wrong
- Our deepest feelings
- Fragile hopes and dreams that we feel others wouldn’t understand
- Future plans that others might tear down or reject
- Our inner world of imagination
- Our faults and flaws
- Anything that makes us appear weak or vulnerable
- Secrets we are ashamed of
- My deep need to be accepted and loved and fully known
Clearly, this is not a “fix it and move on” situation. It’s basically a life long commitment in relationships to keep growing in this area. It will be three steps forward, two steps back all the time… get used to it. It’s a journey!