By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
Most of us would say we want intimacy in our lives. But, is it really true? Are we really willing to know and be known? Are we really willing to let our soft underbellies be known by others?
Sadly, most of us claim to want intimacy, only to spend much of our lives protecting ourselves, denying our vulnerability. This hiding causes us to be very separate from others. It causes others to pull away from us, sometimes seeking intimacy from someone else who is willing to be vulnerable and open with us.
If intimacy really is our goal, and I challenge you to decide if that is really true for you in friendships and marriage, I believe authenticity is the path to get there.
What is authenticity? Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit or character, despite external pressures.
Let’s break this down:
- Authenticity is the degree to which we are true to our own personality.
- Authenticity means being true to our spirit and character, the very fabric of our True Self.
- Authenticity means being who we are, despite external pressure!
Being true to what we believe when times are good and when times are bad, when we feel accepted and respected and when we feel rejected and disrespected. We must learn to stay fluid and open in spite of troubling circumstances.
Staying open and receptive to others is particularly difficult if we sense they are critical of us. We are often vulnerable to feeling shame. Notice what happens when someone tells us, whether it is true or not, that there is something wrong with us:
- We don’t measure up to the standards of our parents--SHAME.
- Or the kids at school make fun of us--SHAME.
- Our mate is angry with us, and for at least partially good reason--SHAME.
- We come to believe we are inferior--SHAME.
SHAME causes us to hide and hiding is a huge problem. As much as we talk big about being vulnerable, transparent, authentic, and intimate, it may not be true. We hide to protect our egos.
What are some things to do if you decide you are ready to be more vulnerable, open, and authentic?
First, make a decision to risk intimacy and authenticity. Risking intimacy (into me see) is a big decision. Just as you decided at some time in your life to protect yourself, you can choose anew to be more open, vulnerable, and engaged. You can choose to “be real,” sharing real feelings and deeper thoughts with your mate.
Second, start slowly and gently. Spend time knowing who you are, what you think and feel. Set small goals such as talking vulnerably for 10 minutes a night with your mate. Practice sharing feelings you have about events that have taken place during your day and seek to know what your mate thinks and feels.
Third, agree to practice with your mate. Share these emotions only with your mate. Create a safe place to be open and transparent, free from any form of judgment. To be emotionally vulnerable with anyone other than your mate would invite danger. Reserve your most vulnerable self for your spouse.
Fourth, encourage one another. Catch each other doing it well. Emotional closeness can be contagious. It feels good to feel close, if not a bit scary. Offer encouragement to one another as you practice this vulnerability, ensuring that you have done your part to create safety.
Finally, notice and celebrate the new closeness. Intimacy feels good, if not a bit scary. Notice the warmth and acceptance you feel from being vulnerable with one another. Notice that intimacy is contagious---one person really can begin a process that becomes reciprocal in the marriage.
Do you want greater intimacy in your marriage? Begin by leading the way. If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group, Thrive, for women struggling from emotional abuse.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/GeorgeRudy