by Nate Sharp, MAMFT
“There is no trick of a magician or spell of a witch doctor, no drug or mesmerism or bribery or torture or coercion that can compare in power with the force for change unleashed in the human breast through the touch of love.” –Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage
“Our souls crave intimacy.” –Erwin McManus
As Lonnie, one of our group interns, says: ‘It all comes back to intimacy.’ I think I’d define intimacy as taking the risk to fully know and be fully known. As a sex therapist, I see many parallels between sex and the rest of life; here is no exception. In many ways, our sexual lives are a microcosm of our lives as a whole. Thus, one way I like to describe intimacy is becoming naked with another person; this could be physically, spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually. The best intimacy is safe, secure, and trustworthy, allowing us to be vulnerable and not be injured. So, it’s no surprise that intimacy lies at the heart of much of therapy. We have all been injured.
Intimacy is lost when someone close to us dies.
Intimacy is used sometimes used as a currency or liability in our family.
Intimacy takes on horror sometimes when we experience trauma.
Intimacy is difficult for us if we process sight, sound, or emotion in different ways than others.
Intimacy feels hard and nearly impossible sometimes if we suffer from depression or anxiety.
Intimacy is the ultimate reason we long for friendships, dating, marriage, or family.
Intimacy encounters difficult changes with sickness, children, or loss.
Intimacy is obliterated by shame and secrecy.
Intimacy is bolstered by the very vulnerability that is so risky for us.
Affairs begin in the desire for more or different intimacy than we already have.
Affairs remain secret in the fear of loss of intimacy from our partner or our paramour.
We seek intimacy in the lure of pornography, which feels so much like intimacy that we can’t tell the difference.
We change our habits to get intimacy from our spouse or others, then only to realize that the ‘false us’ is getting all the intimacy and we aren’t getting anything.
We have come, in many ways, to equate sex with intimacy.
We have a hard time being emotionally intimate.
Then again, sometimes we are overly intimate and end up feeling used.
Intimacy is a good need that sometimes gets twisted.
We have been wired to connect with others (and even ourselves), but we have a hard time doing so. Shame, injury, trauma, rejection, or brokenness get in the way. As a therapist, working with sexual issues and couples, each presenting concern carries with it a connection to fractured intimacy. In one way, the therapy process is that of learning to seek intimacy in a healthy way, and learning to receive intimacy in a healthy way. This is true whether the patient is a couple, family, or individual, but I love to see partners begin to have a sense of agency within their relationship that allows them to speak their needs freely, set healthy boundaries, and understand themselves. I love to see individuals begin to seek intimacy in healthy ways for the first time within their family system.
I believe Mike Mason hits the nail on the head in the quote above. To find ourselves loved and received fully, even in our most unsightly, warty, dark, wobbly, or dangly parts has the capacity to change us. We would love to help on your journey to healing.
Nate Sharp, MAMFT
Sexual Issues, Depression/Anxiety
Marital and Premarital Counseling