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Intimacy

My favorite definition of intimacy is full, authentic self-expression in the presence of an important other. This self-expression may well be done in the setting of trust, but only trust in oneself is required. In fact 'risky' self-expression, that is honest assertive self-expression made without assurance of being well received, tends to build trust. When trust is handled as an experience, it tends to grow in our life as we become quicker to recognize who will nurture us and who will not. When trust is handled as a problem of calculating risk, it avoids some pitfalls but quickly gives way to cynicism. Hurts become instructions to avoid an increasing number of situations. We avoid hurt but also miss opportunities to experience joy and intimacy.

Our culture has made the word intimacy a synonym for sex, recognizing perhaps that sex can be the profoundest self-expression we have. Clearly using the definition above, not all intimacy is sexual and much sex is not intimate. Intimacy almost always occurs with familiars but familiarity is neither sufficient nor necessary for intimacy. In fact as a relationship progresses increasing familiarity can threaten the false image we have of the partner and lead us to retreat from intimacy and authentic expression. In typical relationships, there are many barriers to intimacy.