I know enough to know that it means something different to each individual. For me, it is simply familiarity, closeness, emotional attachment.
I love forming and building connections. When I meet people that I really enjoy being around, I can almost touch the strings that emerge from my heart and mind, seeking theirs. I want to pull them in and learn from them and about them. The best part about this? The more I get close to and the more I learn from others, the more I learn about myself.
Interacting with a variety of people, in my opinion, is the best way to learn how you truly like to foster intimate relationships. I think I’m a pretty self-aware person, but sometimes I still surprise myself on how my heart and mind reacts to a person’s unique personality.
And as long as there is honestly, sincerity, and consideration all around, this belief is why I consider most of my relationships successful, whether I still have a connection with that person or not. Everyone is not compatible with my personality, my love languages, my style of maintaining relationships – and that’s okay. As long as there is communication and neither of us is intentionally harming the other, we can transition our relationship into something that works better for us. I’m not saying that it doesn’t hurt or that it isn’t sad or bittersweet to make a choice to move into a low-entanglement relationship (or even outright lose the relationship all together), but it is possible for it to come about in a way that doesn’t destroy worlds.
Although I love to get emotionally deep and have a yearning to do so with a good number of people, I don’t. I have a short list, and I both intentionally and unintentionally keep that list short. I know I only have so much time and energy, and I do my best to manage this so I don’t get burned out. I also know that some people who I may want to share an intimate relationship with may not or cannot want the same with me. Hell, we may not be compatible in some way that would prevent an emotional connection from even starting, much less be developed into something more.
For me, there are 4 essential elements of deeply intimate relationships. I just can’t see myself maintaining a bond with someone if these things aren’t present:
My love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. I also have this belief that you can only love someone if you know them – loving what you know of them isn’t the same for me. If I only know pieces and I’m essentially filling in the blank for the rest of them, then how do I know I’m really loving them? In turn, I don’t believe when people say they love me and I know they don’t know me – because I haven’t let them in. They don’t know certain personality quirks, my past, my struggles, my dreams. And you know how they get to know this about me AND how they can affirm me? Talking.
I need to have some sort of semi-regular communication with someone – in person, over phone, text, messaging, social media, email, skype, what have you. It doesn’t have to be every day, but those who are unable to communicate with me consistently and frequently don’t tend to slide to the right on my intimacy scale.
I’m not talking about sex.
I am a touch slut. Touch, in and of itself, is pretty much platonic to me and deeply comforting. Recoil from my presence, or any other kind of physical withdrawal or block, from those I love instantly puts me on high alert – especially if it comes without any notice or warning. I logically understand that people don’t want to be touched and need space at times, and I encourage my friends, family, and partners to let me know when this is the case. But if someone dodges a hug or pushes me away, I can’t help but feel a sting of hurt even though I work my way through it. Physical proximity kind of does commute to emotional closeness to me; rationally, I know that that isn’t necessarily true. But for better or worse, this is how my brain computes.
Now, I can (and do!) have deep emotional bonds that stretch over distance; what matters is when we are together, copious touching occurs.
I believe that my mind can be a chaotic melange of sensitive stuffs that could be triggering to some people, or too much to handle and process for others. I need to feel that I can be vulnerable with a person so that I can share my thoughts and perspective with them. I also need for them to be able to be vulnerable with me, and share how they feel, think, and process. Like I said before, I need to feel as if you know me, and I know you, before I will believe the love between us is real. The only way to do that is to be open and exposed.
But one can only open up if they feel safe and they trust the other person. I once wrote that “When I give my heart it will be completely. Or I’ll never give my heart. And the moment I feel that you feel that way too is when I fall in love with you.” (Note: for me, falling in love can happen romantically or platonically.) Giving my heart completely, however, is scary. I’m constantly snatching my heart back during the process, during this journey to comfortable intimacy because I’m terrified that my perception of how another feels is incorrect.
Maybe it’s because of this that when my relationship with someone is established, I don’t really worry what happens to me when others come into their lives. Once I love you, it’s a wrap…especially if you love me too. This may also be why my circle of intimate relationships is so small – I rarely feel that moment when others “feel that way too,” because I have not trusted enough, felt safe enough to open myself up in the manner I would need so that they can truly get to know me and get to that point.
This one should be self explanatory, as most people value honesty. More specifically though, I need for people to be especially honest with me regarding things they disagree with me about. I like when someone is blunt and doesn’t beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat how they feel if they think I’m doing something wrong or hurtful. I also prefer when people tell me their needs and desires, even if they go against things I’ve have said previously – that way we can work on a compromise or come to a decision on how to proceed, together.
I’ve learned that I need all four of these in order to feel like a relationship I have is intimate. I know some people only need a person to display a couple of the items on their personal intimacy needs list to feel bonded with them. Not I.
I once had a partner whom I felt deeply about but was convinced he didn’t desire close intimacy with me. He was vulnerable with me, always honest (and blunt to a fault!), worked through disagreements diplomatically, and I trusted him. But, after the initial “holy crap you’re cool, let’s get to know all about each other!” phase, I learned that he preferred to save communication for in-person interactions or phone calls. When we weren’t busy, this was fine; but when we were, it was difficult (for me, at least). He also was not a physically affectionate person, by nature or by nurture. He simply wasn’t used to it. Sometimes he would immediately scoot over when I sat or laid down next to him – I guess he felt I was too close. Even his friends noticed, probably because I was always unconsciously draped over him – kind of hard not to notice someone pulling away when they have to practically peel a person off of them – and jokingly commented on it several times. I finally got to a point where I learned where his boundaries were, and it didn’t bother me as much. I adjusted my parameters on how close to me he wanted to be.
Then one day I started telling him about this new dude I met, and he shocked the hell out of me as he started to profess his deep feelings for me, how close he felt we were, how he wanted this intimacy to deepen and continue. I was floored. I told him how I felt that he didn’t wish to go as deep as I wanted, and that was fine. How wrong I was. Yet, I still didn’t feel as intimate with him as he did with me because of the “missing” pieces on my end.
We’re still friends. We moved a couple of hours away from each other and both our personal and work schedules got much more hectic. But for me, he was no longer compatible for a deeper intimate relationship: We rarely got to see each other (which meant we rarely talked anymore, due to his preferences), and when we did I respected his need for physical space. We just naturally drifted away from what we had and transitioned into something different.
And that’s okay.
I do desire to have profound emotional relationships with people; however, that doesn’t mean I need to be deeply intimate with everyone I have a connection with. That’s something I slowly had to learn and accept, so that I can now appreciate the uniqueness of the diverse connections I’ve established.