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3 Ways to Think and Talk About Intimacy

“Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.” –Jack Kornfield

I remain convinced that at the end of the day, at the end of our lives, the only thing we are going to count is the people we loved and those who loved us back. I have heard that the final moments of consciousness are a rush of memories, images that have been indelibly etched in our hearts where we connected, where we had let go and opened up to love, where we had been received and loved just as we are.

Our days are full of opportunities to cultivate more of these moments of true intimacy if we would only become attentive and available to them. Here are three simple attitude adjustments that will fundamentally alter our perspectives and allow us to get closer to our lives and the people that inhabit them.

The less we refuse, the more we can accept.

This is a simple practice of surrendering to reality. It requires that we learn to witness what is actually happening around us, which means that we give up our idea of what should be happening.

We lose so many hours in the mental game of believing we can stage our lives exactly the way we want them, and then the endless hours of replaying the story of what did not satisfy. Each rehashing of life’s failings pushes us not only further away from what is actually happening, but further from the connection we so long for.

Most relationship failure is rooted in this insidious, habitual refusal which becomes even more painful and damaging when it is directed towards the people we say we love. Each time we don’t allow our loved ones to be their authentic selves, they move away imperceptibly and we lose sight of the many ways that their imperfect love makes our life worthwhile.

Love is work and work is love.

It was Freud who first equated love and work, calling them the cornerstones of our humanity. Too many of us maintain this Disney-esque immaturity steeped in unrealistic expectations that being in a relationship is all about the fun and ease of the early days of falling in love. Ironically, it is in embracing the work of love and the love of the work it takes to build and sustain intimate connections which creates the ease.

Embracing the challenges inherent in getting close to someone makes the heart work feel less risky. When both people trust that everyone is fully invested, the relationship can weather the rough spots without fear of abandonment. The truth is that the relationships that are fortified with the willingness to work, and the courage to stay open, are completely different than the relationships we participate in with one foot out the door.

The sad thing is that we think we know what the relationship is, but we never truly do because we don’t have a clue about what the relationship could become without committing to the work of loving.

There is no “there” to get to.

Achievement is besides the point when it comes to love, and yet we insist on measuring our love by intangible markers and distant goals. This not only detracts from the daily process that intimacy requires, but creates a scorecard for keeping track of what actually needs to just be forgiven.

In every space in life where we persevere on a desired outcome, our misplaced focus mostly does damage to the time and process that intimacy requires.

Sexual score-keeping is one of the most commonly shared examples, where early dating rituals about who called or texted first evolves into who initiates sexually. This kind of score-keeping goes nowhere fast, and often disrupts the process that leads to the kind of sexual satisfaction that everyone really wants.   

Changing your mind about how love works is mostly about bringing yourself to the moment you are in and calling it good. As simple as it seems, it is one of the most advanced and healing practices we can engage in, letting go of all the ways we refuse to let love in.