If you’re like me, you want to continue to build deeper intimacy in all your relationships, be it friends, family, and/or partner.
By intimacy, I mean a closeness. A depth. A feeling that you totally get each other and have each other’s back no matter what.
I think it’s important to bring up this topic, as many relationships are severed due to certain conversations gone awry due to not knowing what to say or do.
We ask each other all the time, “How are you?” Now, many times, this is just a way to get a conversation started and we might not really want to get a serious answer. Ever ask someone how they’re doing just to be nice, get a “Life stinks” answer and think, “Oh ok. That’s not what I wanted to hear.” Not because you don’t care, but sometimes you just don’t know what to say.
I’m here to help you with that.
Now, I’m talking about when we genuinely want to know how our partner, friend, acquaintance, or family member is doing. Maybe you notice they are not their chipper selves, or you are genuinely interested in how they are doing on all levels.
When you ask someone how they’re doing and they say something like, “I’m feeling horrible. I’m really struggling. My anxiety is high and I’m sad.”
Now, these are viable responses because you’re trying to reassure the person. However, when you say something that minimizes or dismisses the person’s feelings, you’re essentially telling them that you’re not REALLY interested in how they are feeling. This may put distance between you; not bring more closeness or intimacy.
Here’s an example:
Kelly has been feeling down lately. Her boyfriend, who obviously notices she’s not up like she usually is, asks her what’s wrong. She says, “I don’t know. I’m just not feeling myself. Maybe it’s the weather or hormones or something.” His response?
“Well, why don’t you treat yourself to the spa on Sunday? Maybe that will help. Or get a good night sleep. You’ve been up late every night this week”
Although Kelly appreciates the effort, this is not really what she needs to hear from her boyfriend. She feels that by his response, he is sort of ignoring her feelings and trying to “fix her” instead of simply acknowledging her feelings. She may simply want to be heard.
Let’s take it a bit further. Kelly’s mother, who she is not really close to anymore, would tend to respond this way to Kelly’s true feelings:
“Well, why would you feel sad? You have so much to be grateful for! Maybe you need to see a counselor.”
This made Kelly feel unheard time and time again and put a wedge between her and her mother. Over time, when asked how she was doing, Kelly simply started responding this way to her mom:
“I’m great, Mom! Everything is wonderful!” (Even though it wasn’t)
Haven’t we all done that at times? I’ve tried fixing my kids time and time again, and still catch myself at times. I’ve also gotten the “How’s life?” and responded:
“Oh, It’s great! Yep, I’m fine! Woohoo for me!” But really, I was struggling.
We’re up in our heads with all sorts of negative thoughts and feelings and we won’t fess up to those closest in our lives. Why?
Perhaps we think that being real, raw, and vulnerable makes us weak. We feel bad. We feel like others will judge us. Or walk away. We feel like feeling sad or mad or anxious or frustrated is a bad thing. Or worse - that we’re bad.
So, we are not truthful with ourselves or with others, which limits our ability to be intimate or close with ourselves and those we care about.
Take a few minutes to gauge how you respond to others when they come to you with their true feelings. Do you internally think, “Oh great. I don’t want to deal with this” or “Oh my, I have no idea what to say”?
I can say I have, but over time I’ve learned that cultivating intimacy requires some work. It requires honesty and compassion and vulnerability - even when I’m afraid.
Want to know a secret to having more intimacy in your life?
When those times come when “feelings” arise, when your partner comes to you and shares how they are truly feeling, simply ACKNOWLDEGE THEIR FEELINGS.
That’s it? Yes. It’s certainly a great start.
So, when your guy or gal comes to you real, vulnerable, and raw, and says,
Resist the urge to “fix it”.
Truly listen, and then take a moment to pause. Then, acknowledge how they feel.
Remember that may not want you to “fix it or them”. They may just want you to acknowledge that you understand how they are FEELING right now. When you do that, when you take note of their feelings, you invite a greater intimacy into your lives.
It shows that you are really listening to them. You allow them to feel heard, accepted for where they are right now, and loved unconditionally.
Read this next: 7 Secret Habits of Very Content and Satisfied People
Then, mirror back to them what they’ve just said, as this lets them know that you are getting what they are saying. Say,
Then, instead of minimizing, judging, giving advice, or blowing it off, offer your support by validating their emotions.
Let them know that it’s ok for them to feel that way. That you’re there to support them. You don’t have to say you know how they feel, because you might not know exactly how they’re feeling, but you can say things like,
“It’s understandable you feel that way. Dealing with (whatever it is) can be upsetting.”
Today, I can go to certain people when I’m struggling.
I can be vulnerable and share my true thoughts or feelings…most days. I still find myself sometimes resorting to “I’m fine” due to insecurity, but my desire to live an authentic life as a vessel of light and love beckons me to stay real and raw.
A greater vulnerability (taking your masks off) will lead to a greater intimacy, which will lead to a more authentic life full of the real-deal kind of love and joy that we all crave.
So, when someone comes to you with their “stuff”, resist the temptation to dismiss, minimize, or fix them. Acknowledge their feelings.
When you have some issues going on, resist the temptation to just say, “I’m fine” when asked by someone who really cares about you.
Take your mask off. Give them the opportunity to really be there and grow some intimacy.
After all, we can teach each other the most amazing life and love lessons, can’t we?
May 25, 2022