I hear time and time again from people that they are not experiencing real intimacy in their relationships. Sex? Yes. True intimacy? No. They long for a soul connection, a deep tender love, a satisfying fulfilling sexual love.
In a previous column I wrote about the "communion spiral." I suggested we are hardwired to seek a deep love connection with another, and the key to keeping that spiral moving in an upward direction is communication. While that is true, we need to look more deeply.
True love is not that all-too-familiar but temporary state we call infatuation. Infatuation fades over time. True intimate love grows.
The key to love is acceptance. Can you accept your partner for who they are, warts and all? Acceptance of each other is and always has been the basis for love. Intimate love can’t flourish without it.
When a couple is in trouble in their relationship, it usually turns out that one or both is having real difficulty in accepting the other as they are. Non-acceptance leads to criticism, judgment, and to the downward spiral towards alienation.
Accepting your partner’s shortcomings is accepting reality. You don’t have to like all aspects of that reality. But accepting reality, whatever it is, is the bedrock of good mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.
Your partner’s behaviour and its effects on you are both parts of reality. So if your reality is that your partner’s behaviour is hurting you, it would be unhealthy to pretend otherwise.
Before entering or leaving a relationship answer this: How completely do you accept yourself? The inability to accept as reality something in another usually stems from difficulty with accepting yourself.
Do you consciously give yourself permission to experience and be responsible for your actions, feelings and emotions? Do you do this without putting yourself down? Can you be conscious of and be okay with your thoughts, feelings and behavior, even when you don’t particularly like the reality of some shortcomings you see in yourself?
True self-acceptance is based in consciousness of reality, whatever it is.
For example, if you tend to be a bit judgmental, your easiest course would be to deny it and remain unconscious of it. Being conscious might be uncomfortable because as you come to accept who you are, you might decide you have to make some changes. That could be difficult. It would be much easier to remain unconsciously judgmental.
Your roadmap to change is self-acceptance, because it is based in consciousness.
In the long run self-acceptance pays huge dividends in self-esteem. If you can fully accept yourself, it is easy to accept others. Then your entering or leaving a relationship is based on the reality of the relationship, rather than as a means of avoiding consciousness of things you might not like in yourself.
When both of you can accept yourselves and accept each other, it is possible for true love with real intimacy to flourish.