I follow reddit relationships to see what advice is given, and there seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to intimacy.
I love the sharing of information on reddit relationships, but let’s be honest most of the reddit relationship advice is not really based on more than personal opinions.
Today you will learn the tools that research found to have the biggest impact on our happiness and well-being.
How to connect and be intimate with another human being.
We all walk around with walls to protect ourselves from people seeing our vulnerable parts, or those parts we are unsure will be accepted.
As we grow up, we learn what is acceptable and expected of us.
We try to fit within these boundaries and hide away the sides of ourselves that we believe are not valued or accepted by others.
Knowing how vital feeling connected and intimate is to our well-being, it seems we are out of balance and need to restore our ability to connect on an intimate level.
Many of us have lost the ability to put our guard down, even with the people we do know and trust, leaving us living very numb, cold, and disconnected lives.
Intimacy is vulnerable self-disclosure meet with acceptance.
We all want to be seen and accepted, and when we have that experience, it creates intimacy and connection.
Intimacy is the biggest contributor to our happiness.
If you want to be happy, you must learn to be vulnerable.
When we can share the vulnerable parts of ourselves that we hideaway, and are met with someone that understands and accepts those parts of us, we feel deeply connected, and we experience intimacy in its purest form.
It’s my interpretation of love.
It’s also deeply healing and makes us more confident, self-accepting, and loving.
For intimacy to happen, we need 3 things:
1. We need a way to evaluate when it’s safe to be vulnerable
2. We need to develop our ability to be vulnerable
3. We need to be exposed to someone that shows acceptance towards our vulnerability
Let’s look at the first point.
It’s not safe to share your vulnerability with everyone.
Some people are judgemental and rather than give you acceptance, they will judge and shame you and make you feel even worse.
Some people will take advantage of the vulnerabilities you share and use them against you.
Signs to not trust someone with your vulnerability:
Do they often gossip or talk bad about others?
If they tend to gossip in a negative way about other people, then it shows a judgemental attitude and that they likely share this judgment with others.
It would be unwise to share vulnerability with someone that consistently acts in this way.
We all show judgment at some point. We are human.
Don’t discard someone for one judgmental comment but watch out for patterns and repeated behavior.
Do they show a judgemental attitude towards others?
This should be a significant warning sign and would often correlate with negative gossip about others, but it can also show up as judgmental attitudes towards strangers; as a co-worker, someone at a party or a person on the street.
If someone is consistently showing judgmental views or opinions about others, then I would NOT recommend sharing vulnerabilities with them.
These people are NOT safe to be intimate with.
Signs to trust someone with your vulnerability:
They mainly talk positively about other people?
If they consistently talk positively about others, then that is one sign that they are safe to share your vulnerabilities with.
They show acceptance towards others?
Now this a great sign of someone safe to be intimate with.
When they talk about other’s and share opinions, do they show acceptance towards others, even those they don’t agree with?
If they do, then this is a good indicator for someone safe to share your vulnerability with.
They stand up for people that are being judged by others?
This is another great indicator that someone can be trusted with your vulnerability.
Someone that both shows acceptance but also actively stands up to judgment is as safe as it gets when we choose who to share vulnerabilities with.
Share less vulnerable, vulnerabilities with them first, and see how they react.
Now despite all your observations above, there is no 100% way to ensure someone will accept what you share before you share it, so I would recommend testing their acceptance yourself.
If you can categorize your vulnerabilities from 1 – 10, 1 being only a little vulnerable and 10 being you would feel devastated if it got shamed or rejected.
Then start by sharing level 1 vulnerabilities, and as you get the acceptance, you can move up to level 2 and so on.
It’s also wise to tell your partner what you are about to share is vulnerable to you, so they know their reaction matters more than usual.
Like all new skills, it takes practice.
If you have been living most of your life behind a wall protecting yourself from judgment, then it might take a little time to learn this skill, so don’t be hard on yourself.
It’s not complicated, but it does require letting go of control.
We grow up in a culture that teaches us to be self-sufficient and not depend on others, to be individuals in charge of our lives.
Vulnerability is this thing we are supposed to hide from everyone.
At job interviews, we only show our “best side.”
To a new potential partner, we only show our “socially acceptable side.”
What if we instead showed up from vulnerability?
How much more connected might we feel to others and help them open more too?
How much happier might we feel?
We learn to be in control constantly.
Control is what makes us feel safe and so letting go of control is inherently scary, as others can impact us more.
Vulnerability is also the place where we can experience deep intimacy and connection, so never taking the risk is a life lived in an emotional desert.
It is within the context of two that love can flourish in a way it can’t in any other way.
It is a human experience, and it’s an experience that needs to be shared.
If your partner does not feel good about parts of themselves, then telling them to accept or love themselves will not help.
Instead, give them an experience of acceptance and love.
This brings me to the next point.
Both you and your partner need to be or become accepting and none-judgemental people for this deep sharing and intimacy to develop.
So, here are some ways you can develop your acceptance.
I have come up with two ways that have helped me, and other’s I mentor become more accepting.
Imagine being someone else
As we live in our own experience, it can be hard to understand other people that have different experiences.
Therefore, I find it useful sometimes to imagine being someone else and think about:
How did they grow up?
What impacted them to become like that?
What shaped them to become who they are?
Understanding other people’s story allows us to understand them better and step away from the narrow-minded view of judgment.
It allows us to see the full person and their views and actions in the context of their story.
It’s hard to hate or dislike someone once we know their story and their “why.”
There is a clear tendency to become more judgemental the less we have experienced different cultures.
It also dispels many of the fears created by lack of knowledge and understanding.
We live in a culture that is so full of shame.
Shame is used to socialize us and make us behave in a way that some feel is beneficial to the group.
Shame often disconnects us from our bodily sensations and limits our self-expression.
It’s one of the key reasons behind sexual dysfunction and inability to express our needs clearly.
Looking down and avoiding eye contact is one of the clear signs of shame.
It means we don’t have to witness the rejection from others that we expect.
The best way to overcome shame is to expose it to a supportive, loving, and accepting person who will stay connected to you and will perhaps show you that your needs are normal, healthy, and accepted.
Shame Share exercise
Sit with your partner and start with silence and eye contact.
Share something you feel shamed about and don’t usually want to share with others, or you don’t want others to know about.
Once you have shared this, look your partner in their eyes and feel their acceptance of you.
As the listener, you have to stay present with your partner and look them in their eyes and feel your acceptance of what they expressed.
It’s very common to get shame-over, like a hangover the day after or in a few days.
You might feel regret having shared this and feeling vulnerable and exposed.
Just know that is normal and part of releasing the shame.