Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a 4-Day Infant Massage Educators training. Going into the course, I was expecting to learn massage techniques, but in reality I learned so much more about parenting, connection and bonding, the importance of touch and even intimacy. I will gradually write a series of posts on these topics, but today I want to focus on intimacy. The idea of intimacy provided me with the most insight into my own life and actions. First, I will share with you what I believe intimacy is, then why it’s important (in a variety of relationships), and finally how I plan to focus more on intimacy in my own life.
So What is Intimacy?
Did you notice that sexual intimacy is the last item listed? It’s a sense of closeness, comfort, warmth. You can experience intimacy with anyone close to you, family or friends, and it often is not sexual in nature. As we begin to understand what intimacy is, we can start to figure out how we express and receive intimacy. So what are things you do with people you are comfortable with? Do you hug or kiss them, hold hands with them, snuggle/cuddle with them, share secrets or deep emotions with them? In general you get to just be yourself. Maybe your way of being intimate is just being present with someone in sweats without make-up on. (Although in my case then I’d be intimate with everyone I meet!) There are so many more ways to show your intimacy; this list is just to give you some sort of starting point.
Why is Intimacy Important?
Expressing intimate behavior builds trust and sets a level of comfort for those close to you. For a life partner, intimacy be the keystone in the bridge between you. With your children, sharing intimate moments can teach them what it is like to feel safe and how to build intimate relationships in the future. With friends, intimacy is essential to building lasting true relationships that provide healthy outlets throughout life. Your intimate behaviors with your friends may be different from those with your partner or children, but they don’t have to be. For instance, infant massage and using a touch is a great way to form an intimate bond with your child. You may also share intimacy with your friends by giving each other back or foot rubs (massage chains anyone?) or even just hugs when you see them. Massages with your partner might lead to sexual emotions, but the intimacy itself is still the forerunner of this action. As our relationships with our children grow with them, the way we show intimacy with them will have to change. Creating a strong foundation of intimacy for our children we allow us to learn about intimacy ourselves.
My Difficulties with Intimacy
I’m getting a little personal and vulnerable here. I feel very comfortable with intimacy with my child. We hug/snuggle, kiss each other, look into each other’s eyes and are generally very comfortable in a level of physical and emotional closeness. I struggle with intimacy in pretty much every other relationship I am in. My husband knows that I ‘don’t like to be touched.’ He’ll reach over to give my back a gentle rub and I get squirmy. I used to blame this on my profession of having no personal bubble all day long, but I don’t think that is the whole story. I have trouble opening up to people. I have some extremely close friends, but it is a very select few. Somewhere along the way, and I truly cannot think of any specific triggers, I struggled to trust others. I began to over think intentions. There was a time when I was younger that co-ed gentle back rubs often had underlying tones of sexual intent, or at least I perceived they did. So I learned to shy away from them to be sure not to lead someone on or let things go a way I didn’t want them to. Despite being with my husband (in a very safe and trusting relationship) 9 years next month, I haven’t evaluated these emotions enough to address why I still shy away from platonic touch.
I know that I can be intimate. I can do it with my child, and it isn’t a lack of knowledge or skill. I need to truly let go of emotions from the past that have no place in my current relationships. I choose my friends wisely, I chose my life partner with care. But, it is SO MUCH HARDER to build intimacy with adults when you have kids. Kids are innocent, they have no bad intentions, and they often request intimacy frequently through their words or their actions. For instance, once I started performing massage techniques on my child she now requests it. She is holding my hand more, she is resting her head against me a little longer and she just seeks my touch a little more. It only took 2-3 days in a row of massage along with my general awareness in providing touch connections. It can’t be that hard to rebuild intimacy in other relationships.
We may not have hours of alone time like we used to. Social activities with my ‘mom friends’ are often 30 conversations started and then interrupted by either person’s child, so we just need to make those minutes count. For my partner relationship I need to find the intimate moments. Grazing hands as we walk past each other, looking into one another’s eyes even when we ask something as ‘meaningless’ as “can you take the trash out”, maybe it’s playing footsie under the table at a rushed family dinner, or holding hands down the street.
There are so many ways to continue intimacy once you have kids and it is often thrown to the way side. You are never to old to get it back, but waiting until you’re an ’empty nester’ just isn’t worth it. Find a way to increase intimacy in your own life. If you’re struggling; look to how you interact with your kids and they with you, and try it with your friends and your partner.
I decided on a word of the year in January but I didn’t write it down and it just didn’t stick, so now I am going with intimacy to be my focus of the year. Intimacy with my partner, my friends, my child(ren) and above all, intimacy with myself.