People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize that you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them and their response is “You’re safe with me.” -that’s intimacy. -Taylor Jenkins Reid
I saw this quote on a photo on Twitter the other day and it stuck with me. It’s been swirling around in my head for a few days. It reflects lessons I have learned this past few years on my journey to better relationships with myself and others. What is intimacy? How does one cultivate intimacy in relationships? I am certainly no expert, but this quote speaks to me as a piece of real truth.
I was married, once upon a time. That’s an intimate relationship, right? Marriage, living together, attempting to have a child together, focusing on his teenagers together. If you had asked me then, I would have strongly declared, “Of course this is an intimate relationship!” I would have said, “We have the most intimate of bonds.” In some ways, I suppose we did.
He stood before me once and barred his soul to me. Told me his deepest darkest secret. I also knew about his drinking problem, which was more or less common knowledge, but I was the only one to whom he ever fully admitted this truth. He was intimate with me. His secret soul, his real self was always safe with me. But as often happens in co-dependent abusive relationships, that intimacy was one sided.
The things I revealed to him, before I understood the danger in doing so, he used against me over and over again. He knew I had a prolific sexual past, that was hot, until it wasn’t anymore. When he was angry or hurting, he would throw it in my face and call me a whore. He also knew that many of the men I had dated before him were black men. When he was feeling insecure about his own sexuality, this was something he would use as ammunition to hurt me; brutally voicing stereotypes and comparisons, sure I found him lacking.
Looking back and learning as I go, I recognize that while there was some level of intimacy in that relationship, it was not truly intimate, not in the way I prefer to define that word today. I couldn’t let him see my truth. I could not truly show myself to him, because I couldn’t be sure I would be safe with him.
Intimacy with Self
Once I left him, and started on my journey around the world, I realized one of the people I had to learn to have an honest intimate relationship with, was myself. I had spent so much time even before my marriage, planning and trying to be the person I thought I was supposed to be, that I hadn’t even admitted my own truths to myself. I needed to take the time to learn what those truths were, how to accept them, and then be able to own them safely within myself.
It took a few years, (and believe me, this is something to work on constantly, not just once) but I feel like I can look in the mirror, tell myself my truths, and respond, “You are safe with me.” I can accept the very sexual parts of myself and not feel guilty or feel like I’m a bad person. I can admit that my sexual preferences are fluid and I am happy to engage sexually with both men and women. I can even accept that I have kinky tendencies and being spanked can be a most cathartic experience for me. I love to engage in D/s sexual relationships with the right people and enjoy experimenting with my boundaries.
More than that, I can accept that I like being solo, my autonomy is important to me. I no longer feel like I have to be married to fulfill the proper role for my life. I have accepted my inability to have children. I have learned to hold myself safely when it comes to my body and how I feel about it. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine, it works pretty well most of the time and I have come to realize, it’s hot! I am an adventurer, I am a go- getter, I love new things. All of these things are parts of me that have changed my life over the past few years, thanks to developing a more intimate loving relationship with myself.
Intimacy with Others
As I grew more intimate with myself, I gained the confidence to be more open with others and trust them to safely hold my truths. Once I knew I was open to and actually wanted to pursue a D/s relationship, I was fortunate enough to meet Benjamin and formed a close trusting bond with him. I was able to share that truth with him. I find it difficult to describe the feeling of knowing how real I can be with him. I tell him about the ways I want to experience our D/s relationship and know that he will hold that space for me to be safe and completely me. He adores me and supports me, and totally SEES me. Outside of my best friend, he was the first person I had connected with at this level of intimacy.
This opened the way for me to slowly open myself to others. I don’t reveal myself to just anyone, intimacy requires trust and respect, but it became easier for me to find the right people to be close to, to have intimate relationships with. I have found a lovely tribe of people to around myself with. People who know me. People who hear my stories about my loves and lovers, my feelings and experiences, and all of it is safe with them.
I have always been a people person, always had people around me, a collector of friendships you might say, at least on a surface level. But as I have learned more about intimacy, about vulnerability, about safety, I have begun to forge closer and deeper friendships and relationships. These relationships have new depth, new strength, and I feel a longevity they haven’t had in the past.
This understanding has enhanced both my romantic relationships and my friendships. I am able to cultivate deep respectful intimate relationships with romantic partners, within my polyamorous framework, without needing all the trappings of a monogamous dyadic structure. I can have relationships that don’t resemble traditional partnerships but feel very secure in both their depth and their love by developing and opening myself up to real intimacy.
Even my existing relationships have grown stronger. My best friend, the one who knows me better than anyone in the world, and with whom I have always been safe, now knows thing about me I never dared tell her before, because … Intimacy. Now I just talk about my life without filtering for concern of what she will think. I know she will love me regardless of my truths and the intimacy of our relationship ensures that, “I am safe.”
That’s a pretty great feeling all around.