In Can You Have Intimacy In Casual Relationships I talked about intimacy and various types of nontraditional relationships. My opinion was pretty close minded, I was writing from the viewpoint of a situation I had recently been acquainted with. One should write from an open-minded point of view and let the audience draw conclusions as they see fit. So, I started looking at my life and realized most of the relations I have been in were very non-traditional. So, I decided to take another crack at this, from a different point of view to see if it captures what I want to say. With that said, the best place to start is, where else, the beginning.
Intimacy is defined as close familiarity or friendship; closeness or an intimate act, especially sexual intercourse, closeness of observation or knowledge of a subject. But is that really the full meaning? One could have argued that to have sex with someone was an act of intimacy or sharing something intimate. For gay men, intimacy, historically, wasn’t a part of the driving need of sex. Looking back, it was legal for you to be arrested for holding hands with another male in public. Sex would have gotten you put in jail, also. When it came down to it, we fought more for sex, over the years, than any other one thing. From cruising parks, to bathhouse, backrooms, and then in the modern era to apps. We became more openly sexual, opting for more racier dress styles from the 70s until the mid-90s. We talk about sex easily between one another and can be very specific about our desires, but to be truly intimate with our partner is different. We have these walls built up that we refuse to tear down. We are more driven by the physical satisfaction than the closeness and emotional contact that we often desire.
So, we have the dictionary definition of intimacy and it is great in its clinical sense, but in reality, it can be a little different. Intimacy is defined as close familiarity or friendship; closeness or an intimate act, especially sexual intercourse. These are things like touching one another, sharing deeper parts of ourselves, and closeness with the other person(s). It is about opening up and being vulnerable with someone, exposing what we may most fear to show someone. Giving it to someone who you know will not judge you for those feelings, thoughts, and etc. The disconnect may stem from the perceived notion that a “trick” isn’t worth the effort of being open with. They are there for a short time and for a specific need. It is not about sharing every aspect with that one-nighter but knowing what to share to make the act more profound. Having an honest conversation about what you expect and not treating it like a shameful need can be a good start. This sharing allows us to see the needs of the other person and can help us reshape how we view our interactions.
Men are taught to hide their feelings and bury what we feel. We are taught by our fathers and/or society that it is weakness and that only women are emotional. The problem is that intimacy is messy. It requires you to bear witness to the darker parts of you, the pain, and hardships. It means that if you are a couple you have to talk about everything that happens. Pain and judgement are part of this world, but we do not have to hold on to them. These acts of intimacy are based on the foundation of communication. Yes, you have to talk to someone. It is also okay that the other person is different than you are, and they are allowed to be. We have friends that we are completely fine with them being different from us. We know that adds new elements to our conversations and things we do.
It doesn’t end at just talking. I was reminded by someone I have met and became close with, that we do not look each other in the eyes like we did when we first started talking. As he was telling me this, I was immediately flooded with instances of where I was sharing parts of my history, but I was looking off into the distance instead of meeting his eyes. This is someone I have come to be very open with and know they do not judge me or any part of me. But as I recollected when this was happening, I was filled with the fear of being judged for my sharing and immediately looked away so I wouldn’t have to worry about seeing the judgement in his eyes. He is right, it has changed and because we can talk about it and know it’s not meant as an attack, it gives us a place to grow the bond we have. This closeness helps me in opening up the boundaries I had put in place so long ago.
Sex may be the biggest form of intimacy, but it isn’t the only one. We already know, from our own lives, that all sex isn’t intimate. To be intimate means to share yourself with another, both body and soul. It’s a connection, a means of having our value appreciated and in short, it makes us known. It takes true character to lay our soul bare, but the rewards far outweigh the short-term inadequacies it makes us feel. I have been thankful to have someone help show me how important those intimacies can be. It’s a friendship like I have not known for a very long time and one I hope last an even longer time.
Intimacy is more than just a simple definition, it is a multitude of small gestures combined with emotion, words, and openness. For any type of relationship to truly work, it has to be one of the two major foundations. Are you intimate with those closest to you? If you hear the word, does it still give you pause in how you think? Then it is time to reassess our views on intimacy and how much it is important to our well-being.