Intimacy. One little word that can intimidate even the savviest single. And when it comes to addressing intimacy issues with a partner, that can be even more fear-inducing. Instead of shying away from the subject, however, you’re better off tackling the tough topics head-on. What follows are four common intimacy issues you may be scared to address, as well as some strategies to help you broach any subject with ease.
First, let’s define what intimacy actually is. Contrary to popular belief, intimacy is NOT purely physical. You don’t have to be sexually involved with someone to be intimate with them. Instead, intimacy is a connection that builds between two people over time. Emotional closeness, spiritual trust, and physical connectedness all play a role in creating intimacy. With that working definition, let’s move on to the four must-tackle intimacy issues you may be afraid to face.
Intimacy Issue #1: How to define and pace your physical relationship
While intimacy is not solely a sexual issue, physical connection does play a role. And when you meet and start dating someone new, addressing the “how much, how soon” topic can be intimidating. While you may be fearful about expressing your needs to take things physically slow, it’s essential to your relationship success that you express your desires up front and keep the lines of communication open. This will cut down on misunderstandings and unnecessary relationship drama. So how do you broach the subject? First, find a comfortable and safe environment. Next, put your potential partner at ease by letting them know how much you value them. Then, take a deep breath, summon your inner strength, and communicate your needs. Your partner will most likely thank you for being up front and honest. In fact, by having this difficult discussion, you may deepen the level of intimacy between you.
Intimacy Issue #2: How to communicate your emotional needs
Just as it’s important to be open and honest about your physical needs, it’s equally essential in an intimate relationship to communicate your emotional needs. By consistently expressing your feelings and needs in healthy ways, you give your potential partner a window into your emotional well being. If they respond favorably, working to meet your needs as well as expressing their own, you’re well on your way to building a solid foundation of intimacy. Or, if they seem unwilling to meet you half way, uninterested in hearing your needs, or unable to express their own wants and needs, you’re now armed with the information you need to decide if you’d like to work on the relationship or cut your losses and move on.
Intimacy Issue #3: How to build and maintain trust
A key ingredient in any healthy intimate relationship is trust. Again, this builds over time. Therefore, give yourself and your potential partner permission to tread softly at first in the trust department. Reveal yourselves slowly and carefully, paying attention to the other person’s words and actions. As you reveal yourself, how does it feel? Safe and comfortable? Excellent! Keep going. If and when red flags reveal themselves or you begin to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, stop. Reassess the situation. Proceed with caution until you have a clearer understanding of whether to continue building trust with this person or protect your heart and walk away.
Intimacy Issue #4: How to talk about exclusivity
One of the most difficult intimacy issues to discuss in any new relationship is the subject of exclusivity. Are we or aren’t we? How soon is too soon? Is it safe to discuss or not? Instead of letting fear keep you from broaching the subject, summon your inner strength and when the time is right, talk about it. For example, a first date is most likely too soon to talk about being exclusive. However, if you’ve been spending a significant amount of time together, are starting to talk about the future, and are engaged in a deepening physical relationship, chances are good that it’s time for a heart to heart about becoming exclusive with one another. Again, by taking a risk and addressing this important issue, your partner will most likely appreciate your courage. In return, your intimacy will deepen.
Ultimately, intimacy is something that builds over time. In any romantic relationship, it’s important to take things slow, communicate your needs while working to meet the other person’s needs, and build a level of trust you’re both comfortable with. When in doubt, refer to the issues and strategies above. Above all else, trust your gut and respond accordingly.