Now, more than ever, you hear that our society is getting lonelier, more isolated, more consumed with social media and less connected to the people around them. While I think that could be true, I think that disconnection has been happening long before social media was a thing. We just found other ways to stick our head in the newspaper on the train to work instead of our phone. You can disconnect in a million ways. And as I get older, I’ve started to realize that true intimacy is such a rare thing– because it’s terrifying.
I use to think that I was a pretty vulnerable person. I would tell people intimate things about myself, my past, my trauma, and think that it must mean I’m an open book. But I heard something recently that really shifted how I viewed that. Unless the information that you’re sharing has the potential for the person you’re telling it to, to reject you, it’s not vulnerability. If you can tell that information and you have no internal dilemma of whether or not that person will judge you, leave you, be disappointed in you, etc. then it really isn’t vulnerability, it’s transparency. Transparency is what we fall back on when we feel like getting surface level connection while being too afraid to telling people the things we’d never want them to know about us.
And what do you think builds intimacy? Vulnerability. (Read– terrifying). Which brings me to marriage. Marriage may be the one place you truly can’t hide and run from yourself. I’m lucky enough to have a spouse who knows me almost better than I know myself at times. Clint can tell when I say I’m ok, but I don’t really mean it. He can tell when I withdraw because I feel bad about myself or like I’m not good enough, and he will come and meet me there. But I can be in a marriage without being intimate. It happens all the time. Couples slowly over time disconnect due to a million different reasons: broken trust, shame, missed opportunities for connection, busy schedules, misplaced priorities, addictions, discontent, the list goes on. All of these things can be repaired if both parties are committed to coming together and working on wholeness, connection and forgiveness. But usually this disconnection happens slowly over time, like a ship whose anchor was cut loose by mistake. It drifts slowly until you realize you can no longer see the shore and it seems impossible to find out how to get back.
I know for me, I would put walls up pretty quickly when I feel like Clint was trying to love me well. I realize how counter intuitive that seems, but because of a past history of my old relationships, I have a deep unconscious fear that if I do let him love me, and I let myself love him without restraint, I will lose myself, and eventually him. So I kept myself a bit guarded, not too much, just enough. I adore him, and tell him that all the time, but I may not let myself feel everything I could let myself feel, because then I’m vulnerable. I’m vulnerable to him ever deciding to leave me, deciding it’s too much, deciding this wasn’t what he signed up for. But I’ve learned that the only way I get to have the marriage I want to have, is by pushing past those walls. Those walls did serve me well when I was dating, because it kept me at a distance from people who were not my husband. But now, those walls don’t serve me anymore. They keep me from actualizing the full love and oneness that’s made available to me in marriage.
So I let myself feel it. The walls, they still come. He does something sweet or sacrificial or wants to talk to me about the dreams that I have, and there they are. But now, I feel them come up, I acknowledge that they’re trying to help, but then I walk past them. Because I know that the love I have is on the other side of those walls of fear. And every. single. time. I do this and I push past the fear, it creates a deep and new sense of connectedness, trust, intimacy and love. Clint meets me with so much grace and kindness and we get to learn this dance together of how to be fully present and fully separately us and yet fully one and together. When we really share ourselves and push past the fear of true intimacy, we get to experience something holy and set apart. We get to actually be seen and loved, rather than just known on the surface. And we get to tap into real love and belonging rather than drifting by, hoping that one day people may know who we really are.