November 10, 2017
The Formula for Intimacy
In this week’s episode, Jess explores the power of vulnerability as part of the formula for intimacy.
Intimacy = Expression of vulnerability + Loving response
She shares one couple’s story and offers insight on how simple interactions can lead to deep connection. Have a listen!
See this episode’s transcription below…
In today’s episode, we’re addressing a very important topic — the formula for intimacy. I’m going to cut to the chase.
To deepen intimacy in your relationship and feel closer, more connected and more in love, there are two simple requirements:
Vulnerability + Loving Response
That’s it. Nothing cultivates deeper intimacy than admitting that you feel vulnerable and being met with loving reassurance.
I’m going to use the story of a couple I recently worked with as an example. Let’s call them Jordan and Rena.
Jordan and Rena are out for dinner and Rena is radiant — inside and out. She has an energy that just lights up the room. All heads turn when they walk in. And when Rena walks past the bar on the way to the restroom, a couple of men approach her. Jordan sees this and he feels threatened – and maybe a little jealous. So let’s look at a few ways this can play out.
Scenario #1: Jordan gets up and confronts the guys and their date night is ruined because he’s riled up and Rena is embarrassed.
Scenario #2: Jordan waits at the table and when Rena returns, something is different. He doesn’t want to engage in conversation. He’s flippant, dismissive and sarcastic. Rena asks what’s wrong and he simply replies “nothing”.
Scenario #3: Jordan waits at the table and when Rena returns, a conversation unfolds:
Jordan: Who are those guys?
Rena: I don’t know them.
Jordan: What did they want? He’s angry.
Rena: Nothing really. They asked to buy me a drink. I declined. It’s over.
Jordan: Well clearly you liked talking to them. I saw you smiling.
Rena: I was being polite.
Rena: Don’t be jealous. I hate when you’re jealous. You’re being insecure.
Jordan: I’m not jealous. They’re douches.
Rena: What’s your problem?
Jordan: My problem? You’re the one who clearly needs everyone’s attention.
And they go on fighting — not really talking about what’s really bothering them (their feelings), but simply being accusatory, defensive and ultimately inhibiting desire by avoiding the most important aspect of the evening — their feelings.
Scenario #4: Jordan waits at the table and when Rena returns, a conversation unfolds:
Jordan: Who are those guys? Remaining calm.
Rena: I don’t know them. They asked to buy me a drink. I declined. I just wanted to get back to hanging with you. We’re lucky to have a night out away from the kids.
Jordan: Smiles. You’re YOU. Of course they want to talk to you. It’s hard when I feel like everyone is after you — I don’t blame them. You’re the best, but it’s still feels weird when other people hit on you.
Rena: You have nothing worry about. I LOVE you. I want to be with you.
Jordan: I know.
They hold hands, feel a little spark in their stomachs and continue their conversation about their plans for the holidays.
In the first three scenarios, Jordan, rather than acknowledging how he’s feeling, goes on the attack (in the first one), withdraws (in the second), and makes accusations/directs blame in the third. In the third, Rena judges Jordan for feeling jealous and even complains that he’s feeling this way. She also accuses him of being insecure. And accusing your partner of feeling what their feeling is ultimately a form of judgment. Jealousy and insecurity are universal emotions. We all feel them at some point and when we do, we need out partners to respond with love and reassurance.
Just as Rena does in the fourth scenario. In this scenario, Jordan tells her that he’s a bit uncomfortable — he doesn’t blame her and he doesn’t lash out. He’s still feeling insecure and jealous, but he admits it (even if he doesn’t use those exact words). And in response, she validates how he’s feeling and gives him reassurance to assuage those negative emotions and they get back to enjoying one another’s company.
What happens in the fourth scenario is simple intimacy building: Jordan admits that he’s vulnerable. Rena responds with love. And they feel more connected to one another as a result.
Now I’ve picked a rather oversimplified scenario. And many of you may take it to the next level and enjoy the fact that your partner is desirable or play with the threat of jealousy as a turn-on. But that’s a topic for another day.
What I want to focus on is that vulnerability is incredibly powerful. Our culture is so focused on strength and confidence and power that we dismiss how transformative weakness, insecurity, and fear can be.
The most successful among us are insecure. The most powerful feel weak. The happiest feel sad at times. The most fulfilled feel needy.
But their success, their power, their happiness their fulfillment does not exist in spite of insecurity, weakness, sadness, and neediness; in part, their success, power, happiness and fulfillment exist because they admit that they’re human and therefore vulnerable.
It’s normal to feel jealous. It’s normal to feel insecure. These can be healthy feelings. Normative jealously, for example, can help you to identify what you value, what long for and what you fear. Jealousy can certainly be negative, but it’s what you do with this emotion that makes it healthy or unhealthy. If you lash out when you feel jealous or pout when you feel insecure, the results won’t be positive. But if you ADMIT to these universal emotions and share them with your partner
AND they respond by offering reassurance and love (like “You have nothing to worry about, You’re my number one”), you’re probably going to live happily ever after.
What’s important is that:
- You admit that you’re not perfect and let yourself feel vulnerable.
- You tell your partner how you’re feeling in a constructive, respectful way without blaming them.
- And your partner validates this feeling, helps you to overcome any shame associated with it and gives you love and reassurance in a way that resonates with you.
Responding to vulnerability with statements like “you’re just jealous” is mean-spirited. It will not deepen intimacy but will detract from it. We all get jealous. Just like we all feel sad at times. You cannot eradicate emotions.
So you need to show emotional humility to express your vulnerable emotions.
And your partner needs to respond with love and support.
And intimacy will thrive in new, exciting and more meaningful ways.
However, you’re feeling whether your excited, happy, nervous, sad, angry, confident, lonely, needy or even a little insecure, let your partner know. Talking openly about positive emotions amplifies their power and talking openly about negative emotions allows you to erode their effect on your happiness and your relationship.
And of course, the more uncomfortable you are with the conversation, the more important it is to have it and the greater intimacy you can cultivate.
I leave you now hopefully feeling more willing to be vulnerable and share these feelings with your partner. And of course, I hope you also appreciate the importance of honouring your partner’s feelings — even when they’re not the most positive — honouring them and making them feel even more loved and supported when they’re not at their best.