“My friends tell me I have an intimacy problem, but they don’t really know me”
Love Songs, Ballads & Bullshit…
“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” With this opening lyric of a cover song made famous by Three Dog Night, reminds us in a vividly emotional way of the incredibly deep need to be seen, recognized, valued and connected with others, and in particularly, our choice of a paired mate. In fact, the need, desire and ambition of experiencing this level of intimacy is driving a multi-billion dollar segment of the music industry. While we can guffaw at love songs and ballads as bullshit, we wouldn’t be human without them. Love songs are not the only art form to recognize the power of intimacy and the primacy of touch; Michelangelo deftly depicted this when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where he chose to showcase God extending his hand and touch towards Adam to depict touch as the gift of life.
Our Biological Nature
We are a social creature by nature. It is part of our mammalian heritage to exhibit non-independent organizational patterns and to act in a social cooperative manner, seeking companionship, refuge and rejuvenation amongst members of their own kind. As a social species, we are ill-equipped to deal with all of life’s ordeals in a solitary manner and in its absence, it will adversely impact the quality and nature of one’s physical health, welfare and longevity, as many highly public health studies have pointed out.
Babies who wither and die and other not so happy-endings
Touch is a deep primal need. It is reflected in the manner in which we raise our young and while science is just getting around to formally recognizing this, it has long been understood that babies who are held, touched and caressed thrive, those that are denied tactile stimulation wither and die, as 13th Century German Emperor Frederick III, so callously observed in conducting empirical research during that time. While we appreciate an infant’s need to be held and touched in order to appropriately grow and develop emotionally and physically, we fail to realize that the need for connection and physical tactile stimulation never goes away, but don’t take my word for it. Even for the Manosphere this post struck a deep chord that resonated with many of us, because we know it to be true. We know of the dark places and of the abyss of isolation, alienation and desolation. Even if we’ve never been there ourselves, we know it exists, but never has it so openly been addressed, so directly within the community from someone who has journeyed there and returned. “Misogyny. No child was ever born with it”. Misogyny isn’t the worst that happens when we send our boys along this path. We should be lucky if misogyny is the only result.
In a world of 7 Billion people
In a world of 7 Billion people we are awfully alone. Technology has provided us ways in which to stay informed and abreast with society and culture at large and to create and to tap into social networks globally and locally, all the while increasing the rate of personal autonomy. Strangely the Information Age and Service Economies within it are driving and vastly increasing the emotional quotient requirements and proficiencies needed to succeed in them, yet we are progressively feeling more alienated and isolated from each other all the time, because we have not appreciated the fundamental shift taking place. Furthermore our criteria for intimate relationship development has shifted generationally from security, stability and child rearing and has moved into meeting our base emotional, physical and psychological needs for love and intimacy, with all things being equal with regards to attraction. If that wasn’t enough, there is a sexual based differentials in regards to needs when it comes to men and women; men are more visually, tactile and sexually based having an emphasis on physical intimacy and women have more need for emotional, intellectual and spiritual connection with their partner. All these factors are putting men squarely behind the power and learning curve and at a major deficit for dealing with relationships and women in their lives.
The quality of our closest relationships is often what gives life its primary meaning. There are few gifts more precious than listening to another person with empathy, especially during times of stress, anxiety, loss and uncertainty. While it is easy to recognize the value of close trusted relationship during hardships, we fail to appreciate that having the skills of empathy, understanding and compassion, in addition to managing those on a regular basis, actively plays a protective role in reducing stress, anxiety, anger and frustration within our partners. A lot of us avoid intimacy for any number of a variety of reasons, justifications and simple omissions. It’s natural to focus upon oneself, the issues at hand and the obligations of life, but when we do, we lose connectedness and intimacy with our partner. Done chronically and it can cost us more than just our relationship; it can cost us our families, our homes, our projected futures and can be the difference between a life of middle class and poverty for us and our children.
The Onion Theory
There’s a theory that intimacy is very much like an onion with five major wedge segments;
Intellectual– the sharing of thoughts, ideas, concepts and beliefs.
Social– the act of spending time together. Consider this portion to be a ‘verb’ , these are the things you do together. Focus on the ‘doing’.
Emotional– This is the sharing of the emotional responses we go through within our lives. How you feel about something.
Spiritual – While this is the least researched, it does pose significant impact and relationship with the other major segments of intimacy and thus overall relationship health and success. A mutual agreement with regards to spirituality isn’t a requirement, but an understanding and acceptance of your partner’s beliefs are.
Physical – sex will reign supreme here, but it is about all of our senses, their psychological and psychological responses and not just physical stimulation.
These segments researchers will consider the ‘breadth’ of intimacy when looking at the range of topics in which people share understanding and compassion with each other. This would be the ‘outside’ skin of the onion. The layers of the onion would be described as the degree of which trust and depth of sentiment that has been shared within a major segment and subject matter. When evaluating the degree of intimacy shared, this is commonly referred to as of ‘penetration’ which ranges from the superficial, intermediate, personal and finally to the core of one’s beliefs and being.
Intimacy therefore is not just a single element, but a range of major segments with infinite possibilities of subject matter and the depth for each is variable as well. We may open up about one subject deeply and on another subject, with the same person, not nearly as much. It is important to not to make sure that we’re intimate with our partners evenly across each wedge segment, but that we are intimate with our partners in the segment and manner of their preference and your partner should be attempting to meet your intimacy needs within the range in which you need and desire. Generally speaking men tend to value physical intimacy, which means our partners should focus upon the sensual feminine nature of the five senses; sight, sound, smell, touch & taste (hear that ladies?). Women generally tend to value emotional intimacy and the bonding and companionship that develops when we hear, comprehend and understand what they are experiencing, it’s impact on them and how that makes them feel. As men we’d do well to channel our inner Dr. Phil here.
Beware of the ‘Over Share’…
As with most elements within relationship building, we need to understand that there is an acceptable tempo at developing these relationships and levels of intimacy. Worse than having a deficient of intimacy (a lack of sharing) will be the dreaded ‘Over-share’, when someone advances the speed and depth of intimacy in too great of detail that we are comfortable with and accepting of. It will cause rejection, alienation and isolation as a result. We must fine tune our ability to read not only our partners, but the context and situation, as well, to give us clues as to the degree of appropriateness for disclosure. A supplicating beta male for example will have no problem over sharing emotionally with an immediate willingness to commit and as a consequence lose whatever attraction and desirability he may have had going for him. Likewise when a woman over shares sensually and physically she’s relegated to slut-dom.