It’s not easy to write about intimacy. Who we let our hearts speak to isn’t something that can be instructed with words. True intimacy is as dynamic, and sometimes elusive as our own self. It’s challenging to be accepting of who we are personally every day, why would it be any different to be truly accepting of someone else? This point, to me, is the most important. The foundation of a healthy, fulfilling relationship starts with the ability to accept our own authentic self. It’s absolutely the only thing we have control of, and it is the only thing we have available to us that can genuinely connect with others.
Those we choose to be in our lives, they are representations of our inner psyche. They are all representative of how we have identified ourselves. Unfortunately, that identification is often through the lens of our wounds. Romantically, we end up dating vessels for our own fears, our own insecurities. We seek relationships with others who sustain the emotional behaviors we’ve grown accustom to, and we seek partners guided by what we feel will be approved of. All in the service of comfort and avoidance of our personal truth.
Then, in time, we blame the other person for existing in the projection of our own weaknesses, our own shortcomings. We begin to dislike them, because they are an extension of how we might dislike ourselves. We subconsciously resent that the relationship was born in, and is filtered through, these holes within us.
There are other people who aren’t accepting of themselves and they are always in relationships. And there are people like me who rarely (never) fall into relationships; we are hardly different, it is only the comfort we seek that looks appears to be. I have been most comfortable alone. It doesn’t challenge me, it doesn’t challenge my vulnerability, it doesn’t challenge the doubts I have about myself. It seems to me the virtues of being alone are endless. Except that I know better. I know that perpetual aloneness is beside the point of life. But just as well beside it is the avoidance of knowing your self without the attachment of another person. Being in relationships that grow from that sense of brokenness satisfy those same comforts, just in a different capacity.
What is happening on the inside of us inevitably projects itself onto our lives, more accurately, it creates our lives. Personally, who I was choosing to date and attract to, my pushing away and obsessive pulling when they were pushing me — all was born from a damaged account I had of myself. It takes a lot of time and awareness, a lot of untangling from the safety nets to change that.
Here’s how it can start: Trust who you are. Take an honest look at yourself. If certain things make you feel shameful and unworthy, or scared, don’t avoid the feelings, acknowledge what they are and the reasons why you feel that way about them. And then forgive yourself for those reasons. Most often, the shame and fear is unnecessary. But change starts with forgiveness. There is no weakness that cannot evolve into a strength.
And getting to know someone is not a matter so serious. What makes it feel so serious and important is the idea that who we are is not enough. That we’re not smart enough, good-looking enough, that we have something to hide, or that we think we are in need of the other person to make us feel whole. You’ve probably noticed that on the other side of that same coin, we are too good-looking, or too smart, or that we could get to know someone and end up hurting their feelings. It’s because we don’t trust ourselves. Because we don’t trust others. We think that the situation, whatever it is, will be too uncomfortable to handle. Beneath all of the labels, insecurities and false egos, there are two people, two faulted human beings with more in common than we ever fully admit to.
I used to become excessively nervous before a date because it took so much effort to be a person I felt would be approved of. I truly thought the only way to feel safe and powerful was by inventing someone else entirely. The only result was that I was mercilessly guarded, making connecting with another person impossible. I had yet to begin uncovering who I am and giving attention to and trusting those positive qualities already residing in me. Who I am is not presented with tidy labels. I’m someone on a complex and unique path, just like everyone else.
Along with this understanding of self came a newfound consideration of sexual intimacy. I discovered sex as two people coming together, being present, enjoying each other. I had previously attached so many feelings of shame such as anxiety and unworthiness, I unknowingly handled it as something else entirely. Something that removed me from the equation, concerned only with what my partner was thinking. Again, guarded. Our sexuality is a clear symbol of how we view our role in relationships as a whole. Sex is not about power, it is not about pleasing for approval, it is not about taking, or giving. It is about the miracle of connection, trusting your vulnerability with another person. It is a communication.
A relationship is no different. Sometimes, when the time is right, it will last, other times it will be fleeting. Don’t worry about that part. Have confidence in what is bigger than you. The nature of life itself takes care of all the beginnings and endings. But we have to let it, we have to listen and accept that it knows better. It’s not make-believe, it’s the purest form of reality, unskewed by our own distorted perspectives and fears. If you are frustrated about patterns and endings that are occurring, this is life speaking to you, trying to teach you a lesson. Nothing will change until you learn it. And it’s through this discomfort, we grow.
We contain within us the valley of our despair, as well as the height of our ego, which mirrors it. And dependent on the day, our temporary circumstances, we identify with either of the two or anything in between. But it is not actually who we are. These are just perspectives that sway right along with the uncertainty of our own self. What makes relationships difficult is that there are two of those sways, trying to meet. None of us is either perfect or unworthy. We are human. And the closer our valleys and depths come together, meeting our darkness with our light, the closer we are to being centered, to becoming the authentic self that we address the world with. The closer we are to becoming whole.
Ideally, dating would be like this — you take chances and are open to others. You’re available for them to know you, not from a place informed by your injuries, or the grand delusion of your ego, but from a place of honesty and centered confidence. And from that same place of honesty and centered confidence, you see them for who they truly are as well. Let what attracts you to others come from that healthy place. Detach your thoughts and behavior from what the outcome will be. If it ends, you learn a lesson from the experience and you’re thankful to them for giving it to you. If you’re the one breaking it off, all you’ll ever owe the other person is your honesty. And if you’re the one broken up with, still be thankful.
Much of why rejection is so hard is the fear that we need the person in order to be happy, that things aren’t happening the way they’re supposed to — it’s only the belief in this that makes it so. Additionally, is the pain it puts our ego in. The knife that cuts deepest is feeling we have not been approved of. More probable is that for one reason or another, it just wasn’t right. Don’t let this unoffensive, benign reality hurt you. Let go as fast as you can stand to, be with yourself, nurture yourself. The road will reappear. Eventually you’ll know that it never left you.
And all the blood and mess that comes in between. But isn’t that what life is for, getting our hands dirty? Uncertainty, vulnerability — that’s where everything you’re ever looking for is. The flowers come from there. Breathe in that place, be present. Don’t try to control their environment, they are nothing more than perfect present moments. They will die, pain is inevitable. Before they do, have courage, be patient enough to let them grow.
At your center is an immeasurable source of grace, it is magnetic. It does not give love, or need love — it is love. Be love.
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