Monday, December 21, 2009

John Buri - What Could Be Deeper Than Discussing What I Care About?

Too many men (and some women), it seems to me, think of "being intimate" purely in terms of physical intimacy. For many women (and some men) emotional intimacy is a prerequisite for physical intimacy. I am one of those men.

The more time we spend building emotional (and even spiritual) intimacy, the better the physical intimacy becomes - really, it's true.

This article from the Love Bytes blog at Psychology Today suggests that sharing and getting to know each other's deepest desires and cares is a great way to build intimacy - I agree. Communication is essential to a healthy and loving relationship.

Love Requires Coming To Know One Another

by John R. Buri, Ph.D.

Let’s start with a little review of some of the most recent Love Bytes blog posts. [Sorry – it’s an occupational hazard…… In the university environment, we are at the end of the semester right now.]

Passion (while important) is not the only thing needed for love. There are lots of deceiving frauds out there passing for love, but if you are looking for is real love, then you are going to need intimacy to go along with the passion [Poaching And The Heart Of Love].

Intimacy is one of our basic human needs. It is universal. We all long for it. We all need it. [The Road To Intimacy]

So where does one find this thing called intimacy? Bottom line: The road to intimacy is paved with communication. If you want love --- not just passion, but love --- then find someone who is willing to communicate [If You Want Intimacy, Then Find Someone Who....].

But what is communication? Communication exists on 4 levels. In last week’s Love Bytes blog [Communication: Going Deeper Than "Wassup"], we covered the first 3: (1) brief, superficial exchanges, (2) discussions of people, places, and things, and (3) talking about what we care about.

In many ways, staying at levels 1 and 2 (while safe) is not really communicating much of anything of substance. We might even go so far as to say that when we stay at levels 1 and 2, we may be talking, but it is questionable just how much we are actually communicating.

Love requires much more than mere talking. Love also requires coming to know one another. And at levels 1 and 2, what am I really telling the other person about me? What have they learned about what matters to me / what I value / what’s important to me? Without level 3, how much of me have I really allowed the other person to know?

And then there is Level 4. This is when we reveal to another just how an event has impacted us personally / how a situation has affected us / how circumstances have moved us.

One of my sons and his wife lost a baby during this past year. In one of our “Guys Night Out” [Guys Night Out (Part 1)], he talked with us about how hard this had been for him --- the sadness, the pain, the disappointment, the hope for another baby in the future, the doubts….. Level 4! He let us see what he had been going through. He allowed us to know him at a very personal level. He let us in.

[I am always honored when someone is willing to communicate in this way. That level of trust is no small thing.]

A question: In our culture, where does this depth of communication most often take place?

If you responded --- “In the therapist’s office” --- you are correct.

Does anyone (besides me) find it strange that many of us need to see a psychologist in order to meet our basic human need for intimacy? That we have to pay someone to engage us in level 3 and level 4 communication?

[I guess in some ways it shouldn’t be surprising --- if people are increasingly willing to pay someone (either live people or just computerized images) to meet their needs for passion, then why not our needs for intimacy as well……..?

Remember the quote from “Shall We Dance” [The Road To Intimacy]? Maybe it should be altered to capture the growing experience of people in our culture: “Why is it that people get married? [Why is it that people go to a therapist?] Because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet. What does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything…. [But with a therapist, he or she is promising to care about everything….] The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. All of it…. You’re saying [The therapist is saying]: ‘Your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will be your witness.’”

We are sorely in need!

For more therapists?

Or for more authentic expressions of love in our marriages?

I vote for the latter.

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