Each relationship’s intimacy is going to look uniquely different. However, there are reoccurring themes that we see in healthy relationships. I consider these themes the key components to intimacy. Without these things, our relationships tend to suffer (to varying extents). With these components applied properly, our relationship has a much better chance to run smoothly. So, without further ado, let’s find out what these components are and explore why they’re essential for intimacy.
Communication: Almost everyone has heard the saying “communication is key”. Well, it’s a saying for a reason. It’s true. There is no good relationship without good communication and that’s the case for just about any relationship you’ll have in your life. When most of us think about communication, we focus on the words or content that is being said to another person. However, verbal communication isn’t the only thing that we need to focus on. Nonverbal communication also plays an integral role to our success. Both verbal and non-verbal communication with our partner need to meet a certain standard. And who determines what that standard is? You and your partner do. So, it’s important to be clear on the ways in which you and your partner seem to be hitting and missing the mark in terms of your communication skills.
Curiosity: A wonderful and possibly under-utilized relationship component is curiosity. Lots of couples tend to fight over who is “right” about any given topic and it can cause lots of unneeded contention. However, if we can put our ego aside for a moment and take the time to get curious about what our partner is going through, it can help ensure that every experience in the relationship isn’t one-sided. If you’ve been experiencing a bit of tit-for-tat with your partner, the next time you go to have a conversation with them, try getting curious about what they’re experiencing. Better yet, ask them to explain their point of view so that you can try to understand. Just like we appreciate when someone genuinely wants to know how we’re feeling or what we think, our partners appreciate it too.
Compassion: This component kind of goes hand-in-hand with curiosity. After we feel that we’ve gained an understanding of our partner’s point of view, apply a little compassion for them. We don’t necessarily need to agree, but we also don’t need to be dismissive. We should give compassion to others the way that we would want to be given compassion ourselves. This is a spin on the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way that you want to be treated.” This component of relationships really shouldn’t be too hard because showing compassion toward the people you love shouldn’t be a difficult task. However, let me be very clear that being compassionate doesn’t necessarily mean giving your partner a pass for unacceptable behavior. Compassion and boundaries can co-exist (which is a TedTalk for another day). Nevertheless, compassion toward your partner goes a long way and without giving it, don’t expect it in return.
Connection: Most people begin a relationship based on connection but in order for that relationship to be healthy and sustainable, we have to have a few other tools (i.e. the other relationship components). Connection can be a fickle thing. It’s not uncommon for the sense of connection in our relationship to ebb and flow like the tides. By giving our attention to the connection that we have with our partner, even if all that we have to give are little moments, we are choosing to focus on something that truly matters. We are showing our partner that we notice them and they are worth of our time. With meaningful connection in a relationship come moments of intimacy, which is something that we all need to be at our best.