The Real Thing

Someone asked me what the benefits of monogomy were. Because I was caught off guard, I struggled to find an answer that I thought was fitting. I told him that, comfort stability, and companionship were the things that people gained. While I agree with my initial answer, I didn’t think I had given him the best answer I could. But now I do know what it is. 

The answer is intimacy.

Intimacy is multifactorial.  While it certainly encompasses sexual intimacy, sex in itself is not intimate. The thing that makes sex intimate is the soft touches, the kisses, the exploration of the partner’s body, and the cuddling.  When people confuse sex and intimacy, we might see men and women hop from bed to bed, or a willingness for people to accept anything less than 100% of what a partner can offer. Now, that’s not to say that sex has no place in intimacy. It absolutely does. But it damn sure ain’t the biggest part.

Intimacy satisfies the human desire to be loved and and express love, and we do that by opening up ourselves to another person. We have intimate relationships with friends, but I would argue that the intimacy we have with friends and loved ones prepares us for the intimacy we desire with our partners. It is in that space that we can explore the sharing of our most private thoughts, and learn how to reciprocate that sharing. In that same space we learn how to rebound from the disappointment of feeling misunderstood, feeling shut out, or our feelings of inadequacy. Our friends and families teach us how to communicate, hold up mirrors to ourselves, and explore who we are and what we believe.

Again, those relationships are but a stepping stone to the intimacy between partners.  In those relationships, the biggest part of our intimacy is the trust between us. We trust that person not to hurt us, to guard our dreams, to help us realize the future plans we make together. We expect to share values, we expect to share our failures and our victories. We expect someone to support us both publicly and privately, to challenge or cheerlead for us when we need it. We expect someone who can share our worlds and protect our privacy.  We expect a lover (in all senses of the word) and a best friend all in one.

Certainly this intimacy is not built overnight -just like our friendships are not built overnight- especially since it is based on trust. Before we can have an intimate relationship with another person, we have to have trust for ourselves. We have to feel confident that we have made a good decision about the person we have decided to attempt intimacy with. We have to feel confident that we are worthy of that intimacy. We have to be confident that we can receive and reciprocate it. This is something we learn by trial and error, because as we don’t get it right the first time. It is something we learn and relearn everyday, even if we maintain the same partner.

But when it’s mutual, it is worth the work.

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