HOW TO HAVE AN INTIMATE ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP
by Olatunde Howard, MA, LMFT
One of the most sought after things in life is an intimate romantic relationship. I have experienced this personally; and I continue to experience it as a consistent therapeutic goal of my clients. First, let me give you my definition of an intimate romantic relationship:
a relationship where two people are completely free to be themselves and to mutually enjoy being themselves with each other, to such an extent that they are as closely connected as two human beings can possibly be, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
In a word, vulnerability. According to Brene Brown, vulnerability is the key to intimacy. Again, it is truly one of the most sought after experiences in life. (At least for me and YOU!)
So how can you have an intimate romantic relationship? Four things are necessary:
1. Accept and embrace intimacy as a need. Not a nice addition to your life you could live with or without. A bona fide need. According to Attachment Theory, you came into the world with this need, and you will leave this world with this need. Think about it. You literally came into this world through the most intimate physical act possible. You were literally physically connected to your mother, your very life being sustained by that connection. And when you came out of the womb, the need for connection didn’t stop. Without your parent’s attention and connection, you would have died. You didn’t just need food, clothing and shelter, you needed the connection that brought you to life. And as you grew, you still needed it. You sought it, fought for it, cried for it, craved it. It’s a need. And when you accept and embrace it, you’re ready for the next step.
2. Trust your connection intuition. We know about the fight-flight-freeze instinct, but we often ignore (or are unaware of) the pull we feel when drawn to certain people. (If you want, you can explore the study of sociometry, the science of being drawn to some and not to others.) We feel inexplicably safe with some people (no need to fight), drawn towards them (no need for flight), and open with them (no need to freeze.)
Think of at least one person in your life, perhaps on the playground of your childhood, or that person in high school or college that just seemed to be there…you almost can’t remember how or why you met. Think of someone you see while you’re out walking who makes real eye contact with you and briefly says hi, and in that brief passing you felt like you knew him or her. This is your connection intuition. In attraction research it is related to proximity–the idea that you tend to meet these connections right where you are, or through relationships you already have (like friends and loved ones.) Your connection intuition fits nicely with our universal need for intimacy. In other words, you have this intuition because we are all wired to seek out this kind of connection. This leads to the next wonderful realization you need to have if you want an intimate romantic relationship.
3. If you’re looking for someone to connect intimately with, then there is also someone looking for you! What a wonderful thought. Someone has made a list of things (consciously or unconsciously) that he or she craves in an intimate relationship, and you are that list! Just the way you are right now! Remember the definition of intimacy I gave earlier. In an intimate relationship you and the other person are not only free to be who you are, but you actually enjoy being yourself with this person, and you enjoy them being themselves with you. Which brings us full circle, to our final point.
4. Embrace your need for intimacy by fully embracing yourself. If intimacy exists between two people who freely enjoy being themselves with each other, then it’s crucial that you embrace what you enjoy most. After embracing your joy, you decide you will find the one who is looking for you. I can’t stress enough how real this is. I’ve experienced this in my own life, and been amazed at witnessing this with my clients. Almost as soon as they decide they need, want, and will seek intimacy, within a week of the session, if not within that day, someone seems to emerge in their life as an option for intimate connection.
I tell my clients that this decision is like when you decide to buy a specific kind of car. If I decide I want a white jeep cherokee, for example, I all of a sudden start to see them everywhere. It’s not that they started to magically appear. They’ve always been there, but I didn’t notice them because I hadn’t decided to look for them. It’s like that with intimacy.
Another way to think about finding intimacy is this. Say you’re a dog lover, meaning you cannot see your life without a dog. If you embrace this about yourself, then you’ve taken a step to finding intimacy. How so? Remember again, someone is looking for you just like you are looking for that someone. And this someone will accept and enjoy about you what you accept and enjoy about yourself. So if you enjoy dogs, either they will also enjoy dogs, or they will enjoy your enjoyment of dogs. They will definitely not hate dogs, nor simply tolerate or endure them. So it’s likely that you’ll meet “the one” at a dog park, or while you’re walking your dog. While you’re simply embracing and enjoying what you love, and after you’ve decided that you are open to an intimate connection. I mean an actual decision. A stated intention. This intention is like a signal that you are transmitting, a frequency of intimacy. “I’m open.” “I’m available.” But you have to be crystal clear on what you’re open and available to.
You have to embrace your need for intimacy, trust your connection intuition, look for the one who is looking for you, while you are fully embracing what you love to be and do. This is how to find an intimate romantic relationship.
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