One playful yet helpful way to think about the true meaning of intimacy is to break the word down into the syllables IN-TO-ME-SEE. Healthy long-term relationships depend on allowing another to see us as we really are; yet this kind of authenticity and vulnerability can be unsettling, even terrifying.
Each week between now and the end of the year, I'll be posting a series of questions designed to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself, your partner, and your relationship.
I encourage you and your partner to schedule some time each week to have an uninterrupted conversation about that week's question and your answers. Before you begin, make a covenant and agree that the goal of these questions is to understand each other and the relationship in a new way, and discover a few possibilities for growth and positive change. The goal is not to embarrass, attack, or demean each other. Promise to avoid contempt at all cost during this exercise.
To have this conversation, each of you should take turns in the speaking and listening positions. When you are in the speaking position, simply read the question and then share your response.
The partner in the listening position pays attention to the speaker until they are finished talking. Then, the listener tries to mirror back what they heard using their partner's own words as much as possible without adding or subtracting ideas. The listener does not comment on, or argue with, the speaker's words - they simply reflect what they've heard with the goal of having the speaker feel heard and understood.
It's a good idea for the listener to pause occasionally during their reflection and ask, "Did I get that right?" This allows the speaker to clarify. When the speaker feels heard by the listener, its time to switch positions. Both of you should take turns speaking and listening on each question.
Remember - it is more important to love and be loved than to win and be right. Be open to learning aspects about yourself you might like to change, rather than trying to change your partner, and use this conversation to create greater intimacy between the two of you. Good luck and please leave comments about what it was like to discuss these questions with the one you love. Here is question number one:
1. Imagine that you and your partner have gathered eight of your closest friends and seated them comfortably in your living room. If you asked them to describe your relationship with rigorous honesty, what do you imagine they might say? What might they say they have observed about how you and your partner relate?