[Read Part 1 and Part 2.]
“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings,infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up – if they succeed in loving the distance between them, which makes it possible for each to see the other Whole against the sky.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
When I paused my story in Part 2, I was at home experiencing the most severe pain I’d ever known …
The next day, Saturday, after rolling out of the bed onto the floor for the seemingly 100th time, I pray, “Lord, I need your help. I’ve been down here on my knees more times in past 24 hours than I have in past five years!” I was at home all day alone since Stacy was attending our son’s father-in-law’s funeral. Then finally the third day, Sunday, I begin to find some relief. While watching a movie, with a sense of amazement, of complete surprise, I realize that I’d uttered the same words to both my wife and to God, “I need your help.” I realize that I have two persons to whom I could say those words. I weep.
The following week, we decide to go see the movie, The Butler. While riding, my wife asks me, “Do you want me to get you something for our anniversary?” To this I reply, “If you need to you can, but there is something that you need to know, and that is whatever you purchase, it will pale in comparison to what you have already given to me.” There is silence between us. We just look into each other eyes, and then we smile.
In Part 2 we also listed two of three steps toward developing intimate relationships:
- Understanding that achieving relational intimacy is messy.
- Intentionally seeking a deeper level of intimacy with another.
Now, the third step is the process of becoming a more differentiated individual. As such, we must be aware of the fact that we will discover how utterly alone we truly are. For depth – for physical and sexual intimacy to happen – it seems that self-healing of our early life’s (i.e., childhood) relational injuries is necessary. Further, this work may require us to nurture a relationship where we can be and become our true selves; committing ourselves to looking at our earliest physical/sexual encounters with honesty and openness.
Physical and sexual intimacy evolves, but not without conversation between the partners. It seems to me that the ultimate aim in this aspect of the intimate relationship is for both partners to feel mutually accepted as individuals; and, to have mutual respect for each other’s uniqueness, along with learning to respect that uniqueness within oneself and the other. Unfortunately, this process is not for the faint of heart and may only be possible in a therapeutic relationship and space of safety.
Similarly, relational intimacy experienced during times of crises creates additional longings. When we encounter difficult personal situations, (e.g.; deaths of parents, children, spouses; the loss of a job, a change in physical health, etc.), we long for our familiar other, to provide a place of safety, so that our painful emotions/feelings are free from judgment. These areas require having an understanding individual when we are experiencing periods of extreme vulnerabilities in our lives. During these moments significant others, without realizing it, can often abandon the persons in our key relationships because we do not know how to hold the existential pain of those close to us in moments of crisis.
Finally, deep relationship intimacy occurs when our defenses are relaxed enough to allow our significant others to develop a capacity for emotional openness. Further, this level of openness therefore enables our loved ones to risk being vulnerable long enough to share aspects of their psychological and spiritual pain. What is relaxed is the unsupported fear of those others who will judge us for expressing our authentic selves.
When a significant other (i.e., spouse, parent, sibling, friend, etc.) for example, is able to observe me and to be with me in my moments of temporary anguish, I am healing within my innermost being. Still again, when I have a sudden epiphany about a long-lost childhood experience that is rooted in pain and trauma, and my loving other responds with affirmation, compassion, confirmation and empathy, then I am experiencing depth of intimacy—healing. My appointed and significant other is providing for me a holding space as I work through my anguish and my tears! The following example illustrates my point:
A mother hears her son’s painful memory of not being touched or physically held by her as he expresses this memory to his significant other. His mother is present during this open conversation. His mother, in turn, offers her recollection of her son’s account of their early life relationship. She affirms that his memory is accurate and true as her son had recalled and then offers a self-disclosing fact about herself. [She admits,] “He is right; it [her inability to touch or experience physical closeness] was about me. I couldn’t be available to the touchy-feely [because I didn’t know how] because I was afraid.” To this, the son replies, “That’s right.”
In that moment, the mother openly, without becoming defensive or attempting to protect herself from potentially hurt feelings, provides a longing hunger for her son. She receives the affection that her son has for his mother. This act is a deeply healing and transformative moment for both; in short, it is relational intimacy in living color. This moment is a non-judgmental and non-anxious response. His mother is able provide, as both are now adults, an important holding space for both to heal. Every child, from infancy throughout adulthood, hungers to know her or his parent is willing to receive her or his deeply abiding affection for that parent, mother first and then father.
The quote I used to open the final post in this series is a favorite poem of mine by Rainer Maria Rilke. It sums up the level of relational intimacy to which I’ve been reflecting. Again, I share it:
“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings,infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up – if they succeed in loving the distance between them, which makes it possible for each to see the other Whole against the sky.”
Thank you for taking the time to reflect with me on relational intimacy. I look forward to being with you again soon via one of candi dugas & associates’ publications. Until then, take good care.
NOTE: In my narratives, I change the names of others than my own to protect individual privacy.
© 2016, James Bernard Kynes, Sr.
The Rev. James Bernard Kynes, Sr., M.Div., LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) practices at Crossings Counseling Center, Inc., in Decatur, GA. To read more about him and/or to connect with him, visit his website (http://www.jamesbernardkynessr.com/index.html), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (404.378.2232).
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