Speaking on intimacy

Rob Coombs ID. Min. Ph.D.
Posted 10/8/17

Family Works [October 8, 2017]

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Speaking on intimacy


“I wish we spent more time together.”

“He took me on romantic escapades before we were married, and now all we do is hang around the house.”

“I wish we trusted each other enough to share our deepest desires. Instead, he does his thing and I do mine.”

“Just one weekend without the TV on. Is that asking so much?”

“We never really talk anymore. How did we end up this way?”

“If he knew the real me, would he still love me?”

All of these statements reflect a desire for deeper intimacy. Wanting intimacy and not receiving it can be one of the most frustrating and disheartening pieces of our lives.

Is there hope? Perhaps, but an unqualified yes would be misleading. You see, intimacy by definition demands a minimum of two – a spouse, a friend, an associate, a confidant – two individuals who are willing to share.

Unfortunately, some are more willing to share intimacies than others. For a variety of reasons, many become satisfied relating on a level of intimacy which may be frustrating and even irritating to a spouse, a friend, an associate or a confidant who wishes to have more.

If you are in a relationship and wish for greater intimacy, I may have some discouraging news for you. Heartbreaking as it may be, the person who has the lesser desire for intimacy in a relationship determines the level of intimacy. This is called “the principle of lesser need,” which simply means the person with lesser needs controls the level of intimacy in the relationship.

If you are the one who wants more intimacy and your partner wants less, you can readily understand how effectively this principle operates. One wife said it well . . . “If he doesn't share his secrets and desires, no matter how open I am, the intimacy in the relationship is blocked.”

There are, of course, many levels of intimacy. A problem occurs when one person wants one level of intimacy and the other wants another. Understanding different levels of intimacy is important, but learning how to be satisfied with someone who wants less intimacy than you is a very difficult challenge.

For the sake of illustration, lets look at a few different levels of intimacy encountered in a single day.

Traveling down the road, I experience a level of intimacy with the guy coming toward me in another car. Although, I don't know him by name, I do believe (and hope) that he will stay in his lane and I feel certain that he is believing the same about me. Our intimacy is built on a basic level of trust.

When I reach my job, the level of intimacy I share with my co-workers is at a deeper level. I do know their names and they know mine. As we collaborate, intimacy grows along with trust.

However, even that level of intimacy is not at the same level I have with the good friends I may join after work. They know and understand much more about me than I feel appropriate to share at work. For this reason, they share an even deeper level of intimacy and thus become a greater source of support and strength.

As good as it is to share this deeper level of intimacy with friends, it in no way compares to the intimacy I share with my family when I reach home. But, even within the family intimacy levels vary. I share much with my children, but even more with my wife, who knows more about me than anyone else – the good, the bad, the ugly – and even so continues to love me. Amazing.

How much intimacy can you stand? Depends on how honest you are, and depends on how honest your spouse, friend, associate or confidant chooses to be.


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