“Let’s talk about sex, baby…”
Salt -n- Pepa knew how to get our attention, didn’t they? That song can still interrupt the thoughts of almost every adult on the planet! When we think about intimacy, we generally think about sex. However, we are rarely able to have open and honest conversations about it. Perhaps it’s because we’ve had past sexual experiences that we are not proud of and just the thought of them makes us super uncomfortable. Or, our sense of intimacy is so connected to toxic long-term relationships that we find the whole idea off-putting. Either way (and everything in between), exploring how we relate to others intimately can be a significant challenge.
So, if you were worried about unpacking sexual intimacy in this post, you’re safe. Sex is not the focal point of this post. Intimacy is. And, discovering intimacy in our relationships can be much deeper and more awe-inspiring than we understand it to be.
Experiencing intimacy is an incredibly unique moment of closeness with yourself or another person. There are several types of intimacy and each provides us with opportunities to bond deeply with who matters. Although physical intimacy is the most commonly known, let’s explore two kinds of intimacy that we all desperately need but may not experience as often as we would like. Let us tackle the complex yet extraordinary connection that emotional intimacy and mental intimacy can provide us.
Emotional intimacy occurs when we are intentionally and continually affirming ourselves and others. Mindful of how our words impact those we love, we speak to connect and listen to understand. Mental intimacy involves connecting intellectually. Being valued for our thoughts and opinions causes us to feel like important contributors to our relationships and increases our sense of investment. Both types of intimacies require persistent thoughtfulness in order to flourish. And, that can be hard! Expressing support and compassion for someone during times of crisis can feel daunting, especially when we are struggling to show care and healthy connection with ourselves. Also, exploring the critically important things with another person requires vulnerability. However, cultivating emotional and mental intimacy brings a heighten sense of value to our relationships and our intrinsic self.
I feel so seen…
While exploring the impact of the pandemic on our relationships with ourselves and others with a few girlfriends, I made the statement, “This season will either highlight the intimate strength of our relationships or the intimate lack of them.” And, it has. Looking into my close relationships, I have come to the realization that some of them have strong, intimate connection and some of them have little to no emotional/mental bond. And, as every relationship is not made to last a lifetime, that is actually okay. As we edge out of this insane season, it may be time to look at the connections with ourselves and those who matter to us. How emotionally healthy are our primary relationships? Do we feel mentally intimate with those we love? When was the last time we have felt heard and seen?
The past few months may have brought about revelation and we must decide what we will do with it. Exploration of our intimacy levels may feel a bit overwhelming but it is so worth the process. Why? Because we all deserve to feel deeply desired, valued and appreciated for who we are. To feel emotionally and mentally harmonious with another person is life-changing; may we find the courage to pursue that level of connection.
And, don’t worry. We’ll talk about sex next time.