Relationships and Intimacy

Relationships are at the center of everything we do. Yet often, we don’t even see the real person sitting across from us. Instead we interact with the person we think they should be instead of who they are. And everyone ends up disappointed.

To discover the real person inside requires intimacy.

Years ago I worked for a chemistry professor who was a volcano of productivity. A perfectionist, he had high standards for his assistant. Before I came on board his previous assistant lasted an agonizing 11 months. He does not suffer fools.

But this is not about the professor; it’s about intimacy, and hiring an assistant to replace me when I moved on. After 2 ½ years with him, I was returning to my full time coaching practice.

I knew in order to survive working for him, you had to be able to read his handwriting, have perfect grammar, and be really good on the computer. So I created an assessment to test candidate skills.

I remember two candidates who were such opposites. They both looked great on paper with excellent credentials. One was proper and well-groomed, things the professor would approve of; she looked sharp. When I asked her to save her transcriptions, she held up the 3” disc I had given her (remember those?) and she said, “What’s this?”

The other candidate’s outstanding feature was her dreadlocks. Long, dark, thick… you could tell she had dedicated many years to attain the grungiest look possible. Plus, long dresses, no makeup. It appeared she likely didn’t have a place to plug a computer in the yurt she obviously must live in, but boom, she knocked it out of the park. She got hired.

The skills assessment was a structured way to invite a different level of intimacy in a job interview. Had we hired on looks alone and not gone deeper, it would have been a disaster.

Intimacy is when we know each other beyond the surface masks. It’s when we can stay connected around something larger than our disagreements or disappointments.

We all long for intimacy, but at the same time we fear and distrust it. We’re surrounded by so much confusion we don’t even know what it means to be intimate. And just to get it out there, it’s not sex.  I’m addressing this confusion in next week’s blog.

Intimacy is not an event either, it’s a state. It’s more of a verb, really. It’s a deeply felt connection. You can have connection to nature, connection to place, and of course, connection with another person.  That feeling of connection, that state you’re in, is intimacy.

And remember, that connection goes both ways.

When reaching out to another, it’s helpful to let go of pre-conceived notions. Be curious and non-judgmental. Stay open. Listening is a skill and we can all learn to do it better.

#Sad! We are oblivious to our own impact on others.

You have to be responsible for the fog you create around yourself, for the floundering bodies left in your wake. You have to be willing to remove your mask. This is a Big Deal and I’ll talk more about it in a future blog.

Bottom line: to experience true intimacy, you need to truly see the other person and to open your truest self to them.

Intimacy =  no masks.

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