Last weekend I was going through a particularly rough patch about love and relationships. I was asking myself, when will I be with someone special and have a deep, intimate relationship?
That’s when I noticed a small book tucked on a shelf titled “How to Love” by the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
The first passage I read was off the charts spine tingly.
"Everyone of us is seeking emotional intimacy. We want to have real communication, mutual understanding, and communion. We want to be in harmony with someone."
Don’t you just love when the universe gives a supportive message?
It’s like a little high five from the universe. Yo! I’ve got your back. Here, read this. It’ll help.
The synchronicity was bittersweet.
On one hand I was nodding in agreement and on the other, I teared right up.
That’s exactly what I’m looking for!
I want to be in harmony with a partner.
Which got me thinking about my past relationships. But I stopped myself. No use beating myself up. I learned a lot from those partners.
I learned we don’t need to agree on everything. I am my own person, and they are too. What was missing was we demanded and expected each other to be a certain way. Then our communication became fake. Neither of us wanted to show or share who we really were.
Over time our resentments brewed and arguments grew. But I didn’t see this or understand it at the time. Eventually we broke up.
However, during my healing(s) I started to see, I couldn’t be myself and share what was true to me because it wasn’t safe.
Safety must be part of emotional intimacy.
To me, emotional intimacy is like a wild river in that it navigates the twists, curves, and complexities in a relationship. Emotional intimacy is also about feeling safe enough to be vulnerable with each other.
I brought the tissue box closer and continued reading.
Dr. Brené Brown, educator, social worker, researcher and author, adds from her book The Gifts of Imperfection:
"Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection."
What I have been taught is the opposite. Keep everything inside. Emotions aren’t good. You are too sensitive. Blah, blah, blah.
Well, that’s wrong.
It isn’t about being perfect. Instead, it’s about lowering our guard, showing trust and respect, and therefore, welcomes our imperfections by being vulnerable with each other.
I kept reading Zen Master Hanh’s love nuggets:
"A true partner or friend is one who encourages you to look deep inside yourself for the beauty and love you’ve been seeking."
"To love is not to possess the other person or to consume all their attention and love."
Well, that makes sense!
I don’t want to be suffocated in a relationship. To me being with someone as Hanh writes, “[is] to offer the other person joy and a [solace] for their suffering.”
That’s so tender!
Have you noticed couples who are deeply in tune with each other?
They aren’t in competition. They are comfortable and confident with themselves as well as their partnership.
To me a relationship is a flowering or maturing when two people are bonded together. There is an abundance of personal independence as well as interdependence. By being emotionally intimate, this is where two souls learn to harmonize.
Bottom-line, there’s nothing simple about relationships. Both partners need to be aware of their own needs and respect their partner’s needs.
Ultimately, respect, safety, trust and vulnerability are key elements in an emotionally intimate relationship. Combining these ingredients together creates a fertile connection of depth in a relationship.
I’m so ready to take that plunge, be who I am, and share that intimate emotional bond with someone.
Originally published on Age of Empathy: What to Do When You are Seeking Emotional Intimacy
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."