Francesca and Stan Levine, run the international Psychology Counselling practice “Relationship Rescue Institute” in Melbourne, Australia, &have been married for 54 years.
They have helped hundreds of couples who have relationship issues, and so many of those couples are lacking intimacy.
What is intimacy? Many people equate intimacy with sex, and indeed sex is a form of intimacy.
However, intimacy occurs at various levels of relationship connection – verbal, mental, emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual. These are not a hierarchy, nor are they rigidly separated. The more levels of intimacy there are in a relationship, the deeper the connection and therefore, the stronger the relationship.
In order to express intimacy with another person, one needs to be able to know oneself – personal intimacy. That requires self-examination and self-awareness. “The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates
Many people have blocks to giving and/or receiving intimacy; that’s often due to childhood experiences, especially poor attachment at or soon after birth and during infancy. Francesca and Stan help their clients tofind and break down some of the blocks they have to intimacy.“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”- Rumi
All this is predicated on safety – a person can’t be intimate unless that person feels emotionally and physically safe.
You need to be able to talk to each other, without fear of rejection or ridicule. That includes talking about your hopes and fears and your feelings; also, your opinions and ideas. That’s an example of mental intimacy.
Many men (and some women) have difficulty expressing emotions; some of that is due to socialisation – boys are often taught, for example, not to cry – “that’s just for girls”. Expressing one’s feelings openly and honestly is essential to deep intimacy. This is emotional intimacy.
Sometimes we’re afraid of rejection, so we don’t express ourselves. Maybe we believe that we have to agree with our partners, so even if we feel differently, we don’t express that. What then occurs isthat resentment builds up and eventually we blow up or walk out.
When a person expresses sadness or some other distressing emotion, often the listener will try to “make it better”.That means the listeneris not validating the other person’s feelings: perhaps the listener can’t handle that expression of emotion. If that is the pattern in childhood, that person grows up unable or unwilling to express emotions.
That in turn can lead to DEpression, which can occur because of the absence of EXpression – keeping feelings locked up can cause physical illness.
You need to be able to be present and listen to your partnerand indicate not only that you’ve heard him/her but that also you “get” your partner by validation and showing empathy.
You do NOT have to agree. You need to be able to SHARE with, and not DUMP on your partner. “If two people always agree on everything, one of them is redundant” – Werner Erhard.
When you fight, scream at, or verbally abuse one another you are exhibiting NEGATIVE intimacy – an indication of the inability or unwillingness of a person to be vulnerable.\
Physical intimacy is evidenced when couples hold hands, really look at and touch each other, kiss, dance, play. For some people, they can only do that in private, finding public displays of affection embarrassing.
When it comes to sex, many people need foreplay to really be present and enjoy it: that doesn’t mean being close or loving for just an hour or so before having sex – it’s how you treat each other ongoingly in a loving manner. Good sex involves generosity and consideration of one’s partner.
Spiritual intimacy is hard to define – it’s a point at which your souls connect – you become aware of each other’s essence, stripped of all the irrelevant baggage of your lives. Examplesare where you are together & connected in the presence of some wonder, natural or man-made, like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, or the Pyramids at Giza; or in the ecstasy of lovemaking where you feel you are one being.
Francesca and Stan “translate” the word “intimacy” to read IN-TO-ME-SEE; it’s an invitation from each partner to the other to deeply understand him/her, by being available and present in all areas of the relationship. It could be described as the flow between two people.
Here are a few things you could try to enhance & grow your relationship:
- Tell your partner something about him/her for which you are grateful
- Tell your partner about a change of behaviour you are prepared to undertake that could help your relationship
- Take time out from tasks and other people to be alone for a few minutes, and look deeply into each other’s eyes without saying anything
- Recall how wonderful it was when you first realised you loved your partner, and share those details
- Say to your partner (completing the sentence): “When I touch you, I feel…”
So, if you have intimacy issues in your relationshipcontact Francesca and Stan
Early in 2023 they will be running a transformational workshop online – “Adventures in Intimacy”, based on the work of Hedy Schleifer.