You can have intimacy with or without sex.
And, you can have sex with or without intimacy.
Sex with intimacy is the engine that makes a relationship sing. Lack of intimacy and sex means that the relationship is being held together by something unhealthy—perhaps fear or mutual dependency.
Sex provides us with a wonderful way to connect with another to experience an ecstatic moment or luxuriate in the sensuality of another body. Intimacy is the experience of true closeness to another, true knowing and being known. It elevates sex to something spiritual.
It takes a mechanical act—no matter how alluring—and turns it into an act of love.
So where is the rub?
The Field of Intimacy
As I’ve written elsewhere, when we find ourselves in the field of intimacy, we lose control in the classic way we like to have it. Once you are intimate, you are emotionally intimate, and it is not going away any time soon. The person who you are intimate with can be a source of the greatest validation and closeness. He or she can also be the source of infinite pain.
No one can hurt you like the person with whom you are intimate.
The great paradox of intimacy can leave couples confused. You really love her, but her criticism hurts too much. You may really love him, but how can you have sex with someone who leaves your bathroom messy every day? It may be trivial, but when you feel intimate, you are open to disappointment, irritation, neediness, self-righteousness, and feeling intruded upon.
- When you fall in love, first you fall in love with love.
- Then you fall in love with a person.
The challenge of intimacy is that you must transition to truly loving a person, and then ecstatically having sex with him or her. It is the goal. It is the dream.
And, it is doable.
Those Who Give Up On Intimacy
Sex without intimacy is lovely. Just know when you enter the field of intimacy the stakes significantly rise. You may have had issues with your parents or with a former lover. Now it comes to the surface and is triggered by your partner. You may be even-tempered in your life, but now that you are intimate, you are moody and easily triggered.
Can you enjoy sex with someone who makes you feel so unstable?
When we are intimate, we create stories together. When they work, we remember close times. But we also remember a text unanswered, an insulting remark, a rejection, a feeling of being intruded upon. If we carry these feelings to a sexual moment, intimacy can still triumph with intense closeness, but can also backfire into a wish not to be there.
For some, giving up on intimacy is the solution. It is not the good solution or the optimal solution, but it can work. It is like settling for much less than life has to offer because that is the best you believe you can do. Without intimacy, sex is neither as complicated nor as special. Without intimacy, a partner cannot truly hurt you.
Without intimacy, you remain in control.
Getting Real Love and Real Sex
Most sex therapists will tell you that most of the issues they deal with are psychological and not mechanical. If you are able to find a therapist who can help you both enjoy the slings and arrows of relationship ups and downs, while still feeling close and intimate, great sex will follow.
You may have to discover that your beloved brings back memories that are toxic and have nothing to do with him. You may realize that you both lack the ability to truly talk to one another, and it's having an impact on enjoying sex together. Or, the power of intimacy and sex may be bringing out insecurities that have laid dormant for years. It may be time to do some tough growing up.
Having It All
Yes, some give up on intimacy—or they separate intimacy and sex by choosing a mate for one and a lover for the second. The good news is that most of us can have both. But like much in life, you have to face things before you can fix them.
Intimacy is a wondrous gift and a true challenge.
It requires the work of allowing closeness while holding onto who you are. As you develop trust in your partner, and in yourself, you can let go and know that whatever happens today or tomorrow, you will be safe. That is a noble task.
Is it time to give up on intimacy? I don’t think so.
Don't miss the book The Intelligent Divorce.