For a very long time I would have an instinctive, if silent, reaction whenever I encountered the word "intimacy". I always translated it as "sex".
I don't think I'm alone in that, especially among my gender. I don't have any data to back up my assertion that most men make the same internal translation - I am instead relying on a lifetime's worth of anecdotal experiences* among the (predominantly heterosexual) men I've known who seem to interpret the term similarly, often with a "wink, wink ... say no more" sort of energy about it.
* Note: I often add photos to my blog posts using stock photos from Wix or Unsplash. A search for the keyword "intimacy" for both of their photo stores mostly returns images of couples holding hands, photos with phrases like 'sexuality' prominently displayed in them, and barely-clothed people looking very sexual. I'll take that as a validating data point for my theory.
Here's the thing that I've come to understand about intimacy over the last several years:
An expansive definition of intimacy - and the willingness to experience it in all its forms - is the key to a fulfilling life ... in all its forms.
That last phrase - "in all its forms" - is crucial. I received an invitation from a new friend/colleague (the Couragist, Karen Senteio) to add that modifier to important statements of intention just the other day. It fits perfectly with intimacy, especially given the narrow frame from which most men tend to view that term.
What is Expansive Intimacy?
I wrote a bit about what I consider to be a more fully developed definition of intimacy last month. So I won't rehash that here.
Why Should I - As a Man - Care About That Kind of Weak Shit?
Here's another one of my strongly held beliefs:
Men's default definition of intimacy is a way of preserving their manliness. In the commonly held view of masculinity in our culture, it's considered "soft" to want deep, meaningful relationships across all aspects of your life.
For men, spending your time on the sort of activities necessary for developing intimacy - bonding experiences, having deep and sensitive conversations, plumbing the depths of our emotions - is seen as weak.
And here's what I have to say about that viewpoint:
Every human wants connection. We are literally and scientifically proven to be wired for connection with others. That connection occurs through interactions that involve things like care, trust, knowledge, commitment, and mutually responsive communications. In other words, connection is created best via the elements of intimacy.
If you're still with me, you might be thinking, "Ok, cool scientific references, Jim. But what's in it for me?"
What's In It For You, Mr. Man?
more fulfilling & less stressful work
active friendships that regularly make you laugh and bring fun into your life
more confidence in your parenting skills
better boundaries in your relationships, so you can create space to pursue the things you love to do for yourself
a relationship with your partner that includes easier & healthier communication, more fun, and, yes, better sex
Guys, I get it. Talking about intimacy is hard. Working on the skills required to develop greater intimacy in your life is even harder. It took me a long time to realize it was worth doing and I'll tell you what ... I'd have done it way sooner if I realized I could have everything on that list. (I do. And it's because I have great intimacy skills.)
How Can I Learn More?
Starting tomorrow - January 1, 2021 - I'm going to be running a recurring series I'm calling "The Men's Intimacy Minute". I will be publishing a bunch of short videos (on my YouTube channel and on LinkedIn) to share what I've learned - in bite sized segments - about intimacy. I want you to have these skills, too. They will change your life and make you happier ... if you do the work to grow the skills for yourself.
So, men, are you ready to expand your view of intimacy?
Jim Young is a coach, facilitator, writer, Dad, friend, lover, improviser, and intimacy aficionado. He has worked for years on his intimate relationship skills in his friendships, as a parent, with his improv teammates, at work, with his partner, and even with his ex-wife. And he'd love to help you develop yours ... because ultimately Jim just wants us all to have a more connected & loving experience in our precious lifetime.
If you are interested in talking more about how to develop your intimacy skills, Jim would love to help. You can reach him through this very website. You can also schedule time to talk with him (at no cost) via his online calendar.