Intimacy is not purely physical, It’s the act of connecting with someone so deeply, you feel like you see into their soul. – Unknown
A great many things and experiences have shaped my life. Love and pain. Fear and excitement. Life is full of bumps. As species, I believe, we are only just starting to discover one of the last truly great, genuinely human frontiers that shape who we are; the art of intimacy.
Throughout our lives, significant relationships turn out to be so much more than physical – they’re about removing the mask you wear and revealing yourself to another. Something we rarely feel safe enough to do.
I imagine many people reading this have had multiple sexual partners on the road to where you are today. I myself have slept with 12 men since I was 15. It’s probably not a leap to assume that some of the experiences you might have had were just primal, raw and straight-up physical sex. Many of mine were and will be in the future. Hot, beautiful, unadulterated intercourse between two mutually consenting apes. There is nothing wrong with that. Do not feel ashamed. In fact, many scientists say that it is good for our wellbeing to share physicality with another person.
But if you stopped to think about all those encounters, how many of them would you, genuinely, classify as “intimate”. How many of them have you forgotten about completely? You may have had many lovers, yet not ever experienced something as fundamental as an “intimate” connection. What do we mean by that? It’s a magical closeness. A total togetherness and affinity that we feel with someone very special. The rapport and attachment that makes a minute feel like an hour, or vice versa. Something so familiar (even the first time) that it feels confidential and emotional. Sex, even great sex, is not always that thing and probably not the same as intimacy.
As a species, we often use the term “intimate” in a purely sexual context. We think we’ve been “intimate” because it helps us to express something when in reality it was just a sexual thing.
When a real, intimate, connection is made, it is:
Intellectual (a vibrant meeting of two minds)
Experiential (a closeness in activity such that you are in sync with someone)
Emotional (characterized by shared feelings, trust, vulnerability)
Spiritual (your consciousness becomes collective for a period)
There are times when we desire pure sexual connection, and the longing is purely physical. Not only might we yearn for intercourse, but we hunger for another person in all his or her dazzling splendor – the tastes, scents, sounds, textures – and the naturally occurring visual aspects that enhance the experience. We should celebrate those moments, but never mistake them for intimacy.
It’s very rare that during sex, we let down our barriers, and we permit another person into our most private personal spaces. But when we do, that’s when we find real intimacy. Of course, sex is a close cousin to intimacy. That’s obvious. But a lot more focus is placed on sex in modern society, and not so much on intimacy.
Have you ever wondered why a “quickie” with some of your clothes on may be “sizzling” but not as intimate as slowly undressing with someone? Think about it. It’s about pure vulnerability and slow exposure.
There are times we want sex, but not intimacy. This may occur because we want no “attachment” whatsoever. Just some affection, or with friendship (friends with benefits).
As adults, we understand the nuances of sharing parts – not hearts. It’s possible for us to have sex without intimacy, just as you can have intimacy without sex. But when we put the two together you have an experience that is different and more fulfilling.
I remember my most intimate moment to this day as if it was yesterday. The act of intimacy ended in sex, but it’s the intimacy that remains as the enduring memory of the man and the moment. We sat on the bed and stared into each other’s eyes for a long time. It might have been 30 minutes; it might have been two hours, I still to this day do not know. At some point during this meditative exercise in connection our clothes were removed, but this was almost a secondary act.
The core component was the art of staring into each other souls. The intimacy of contact came through eyes. It was a moment purely about intimacy. We did not touch. We did not let our hands wander. Just our eyes wander. When we finally led each other from sitting to lying, and those first touches came, the connection of intimacy was so thick that the sex became a bond, because the promise of trust had already been established. He treated me with respect, and we felt like two people who had known each other forever.
Many people have never been to bed with someone who looked them in the eye, particularly at the point of orgasm. That most intimate connection and moment. On the occasion I described above, our eye connection lasted from those initial moment all the way through to that final, joint, climax. A magical bond that did not break. We weren’t afraid to share that vulnerability because we had an intimate agreement. An unspoken contract of trust. He trusted me and I trusted him It was intimate, not primitive.
We often use misleading words to describe this connection of intimacy that put people off discussing it. Words like ‘tantric’, in reality, prevent many people (especially men) connecting intimately to a person, in a moment. My recollection of my moment with that person was not tantric; it was intimate. We were mated by our souls, and we formed a relationship of trust, not carnal lust.
Some of us may never end up with the one we were the most intimate of our lives. Some lucky few may do. Intimacy is the rarest of the delicacies and should not be squandered. Make an effort to find those intimate moments with someone whenever you can.
The risk of the modern world
There’s a risk than in the modern world, we think of love and intimacy as an app on our phones, but in fact, it’s a model of ethical relationship. I worry that some people never find true intimacy because of the glass screen in their hand, rather than the door they shut to hide away with another human. Or the floor they sit on undressed and in a sacred moment.
Intimacy has become a real taboo in our society – it’s the thing a lot of people fear because it’s about stripping off the layers that most of us hide behind. And I don’t mean just clothes either. Because intimacy is only about letting go. Being free. Intimacy is about being happier and more alive and once we’ve experienced the feeling of being intimate with someone, that person and that moment will be a part of us forever.
Intimacy needs to be more visible in our culture, and that means drawing everyone in. Intimacy is something everyone can gain from, whether they are in a relationship or not. Why not children the art of intimacy as part of sex education at school? Would teaching the difference between sex and intimacy not help some people not fall into bed with the wrong people?
There’s something miraculous about intimacy, which allows us to care for someone to whom we are not genetically related. Intimacy isn’t some sentimental thing; it’s about recognizing this miracle for what it is and using that for the rest of our lives. It’s about that once in a lifetime bond with another soul. So don’t take it for granted — find another soul and share an intimate moment.
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