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Intimacy and Vulnerability: Can You Have One Without the Other?

Couples with truly intimate relationships want to connect deeply.

Intimacy, by its very nature, requires us to be vulnerable. Our partner, lover, or mate can know us to our very core, sometimes better than we know ourselves, and that can make any of us feel totally exposed. Intimacy can be intimidating. However, it is an amazingly freeing experience when you can be completely who you are with someone you totally trust.

Allowing ourselves to be open gives us the opportunity to let another's heart touch our own; the loneliness in our lives melts away with every tender moment we let in. Despite its benefits, for many people this idea is terribly frightening. Someone may want to connect more than anything else in the world, but the fear of being that vulnerable holds them back. Not the greatest way to get through life. By avoiding intimacy, you never really let yourself be known, and you will never really know yourself.

We create a lot of who we are based on the reactions of others. When it's someone we're in love with, those reactions govern a large percentage of how we behave. We also will share parts of ourselves with someone we love because there is a real desire to connect. What we want is for the person we love to know who we really are.

Couples who have truly intimate relationships can't wait to share their days and dreams with each other. They want to connect, and not just in the bedroom. Couples who choose to engage in an intimate relationship, and it is a choice, do so because they want closeness on all levels. In fact, a case can be made that intimacy itself is a great aphrodisiac. Most people will be more romantic with someone they trust than with a person they don't really know.

So if the idea of intimacy entices you while at the same time causes you to put your guard up, there are any number of things you can do to help yourself open up. Talking about where you are to the one you love is really the best place to start. By saying the words, you will feel a little more trust and a little less fear.

Another step you can take is to do an intimacy inventory. Think about or write down what you believe you know about the one you love and what you think he or she knows about you. Ask yourself if you really "get" each other and talk about it.

Dedicating some time to going deeper and expressing what your needs, hopes, and fears are will lead you to feeling that there's at least one person on this planet who cares and who totally understands you. Now that's intimacy.

More from Barton Goldsmith Ph.D.
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