Saturday 22 April 2017

Familiarity is not Intimacy

Familiarity is not intimacy.

Lying awake one night recently, that line popped into my head.  It explains much.  I've had two long-term partners in my adult life, one for 7 years, one for 13.  I thought each was permanent and considered myself as good as married.  But each relationship was lacking fundamental elements that I always took for granted were part of long-term relationships.  As I attempt to vet and select a third life partner, something I never expected to have to do, I've been considering what was missing in previous relationships and evaluating if it's important in my next one. The answers have been somewhat surprising.

With the perspective of hindsight, I have concluded that there was no true intimacy in either relationship, but I did not realise that at the time because I mistook familiarity for intimacy.  When you live with someone for years—especially in a tiny studio apartment—when you hear all their stories about the big and small humiliations of their childhood and learn, in post-coital conversations, how each scar, physical and emotional, occurred.  When you've seen everything from their baby photos to their primary school report cards and the refrigerator art their mother saved.  When you've met the exes they are still friends with and their childhood best friend.  When you've seen their full emotional spectrum, not to mention seen them with food poisoning.  When you know their habits and preferences so well that you can order for them and shop for them and be spot-on every time.  When you can finish their sentences, and know exactly how they will react to situations and events.  When you have seen them naked, and seen them cum, and explored every inch of their body.  When you have watched them become disillusioned as they self-sabotage themself out of their dreams and ambitions.  When you know their demons, and how and why they are slaves to feeding them.  When you have travelled with them, endured rental car breakdowns in foreign countries, lost luggage, inopportune illnesses, the odd concussion or a few stitches, not to mention a miscarriage, or the death of a family member.

When you have lived in – proximity – to someone through years of life events, good and bad, and they have asked you to pop that zit in the middle of their back, it's easy to assume you are intimate with that person.  But that's not necessarily the case.  Intimacy is more than familiarity, it is a connection that must be forged through love.  It takes empathy, patience, understanding, some form of trust and caring, to build intimacy.  Intimacy is a much deeper bond than familiarity.  You can have familiarity without intimacy.  Is the reverse possible?  Can you be truly intimate with someone with whom you are not extremely familiar?  It doesn't sound probable, but I can't say for sure.

Why were my relationships lacking intimacy?  The easy answer is that it was not something that my partners understood, valued, or sought in a relationship.  Intimacy requires self-esteem, a deep-seated belief that you are worthy.  It was not something either was capable of.  Am I?  I don't know.  Is it important then, when online dating, for me to find a man who seeks intimacy and is capable of creating it?  In my twenties, I would have replied yes, of course, that such a connection is the essence of true love and the secret to long-term contentment with a partner.  But then, in my twenties I was blindly hopeful about so many things in life.

Now, I don't think that I would pursue any relationship if I had financial stability and the means to have a child on my own.  Taking care of a child is so demanding that I don't see how any woman can take care of a man as well.  I don't want to waste my time cleaning up after some asshole, I have things to do, life to live.  It seems like a drag, to have to deal with someone's issues and messes—I have enough of my own to deal with.  Not to speak of the expense.  I've always paid more than half the household expenses and done 100% of the housework, and relationship work.  It's draining and costly and what's in it for me?

So, to be brutally honest about it, if I wouldn't be seeking a relationship if I had money, is intimacy something I really value at this stage of my life?  It is always difficult to conjure a counterfactual in the real world but, it's possible that I am wrong in my belief that I would not be looking for a partner if I were rich.  I tell myself I only want a man for the financial stability and the baby daddy aspects of a relationship.  Why would I take on the headache and the hassle otherwise?  I'm too set in my ways to live with someone and I find myself less and less willing to compromise on anything.  It's my way or the highway.  People make adjustments, sacrifices, concessions to fit a partner into their homes and lives.  I can't imagine any reason to do that if I were independently wealthy; I can't see any positives to a relationship.  That's not normal; most people want a partner because they are lonely or bored.  I don't think I've ever been lonely or bored in my entire life.  I live for solitude and down-time.  That signals that I must lack a craving for intimacy.

But, the truth is, I simply can't think past the practical things because they loom so immutably.  I can't hear anything else for the increasingly deafening tick of the biological clock, or think of anything but juggling which utilities I pay each month so I don't accidentally not pay the same one two months in a row.  So, it may be that I would still put up an online dating profile if I were rich, I'd just have the freedom to look for other things in a partner than his solvency and desire to procreate.  I think one of the reasons I haven’t found anyone permanent yet is because I hate this focused, targeted dating, the weeding out of anyone who seems intellectually compatible but is poor or is certain he doesn't want kids.  It feels calculating but that doesn't bother me as I am calculating by nature.  Could it be that, deep down, I do want intimacy in a relationship and balk at settling for another relationship without it?  If so, I need to get past that.  This is a time in my life to be practical, not ask for the moon.

1 comment:

  1. As someone who has had more than my fair share of long term relationship challenges, I'll offer a bit of advice (I would say unsolicited advice, but you have a public blog): IMHO, the key to successful relationships with people who treat with you well with whom a connection can occur comes from two parts:
    1.) You will never find the right person. You have to BE the right person. If you are on a search for someone to fit into a box, you will never find it. Successful relationships and intimacy come from being open to what the universe brings you and being the kind of person who is appealing to others, to the kind of people you hope to attract particularly. By optimizing yourself, you bring to the table a value that another quality person will see and appreciate. If you are trying to fit someone into a box of what you want, you are putting the focus externally (where none of us truly have any power) instead of internally (which is really the only control we have).
    2.) Never be afraid to walk away and ever let yourself be so dependent that you can't walk away. Somehow, I've walked away from a number of people for whom I find not suitable to continue a relationship and ended up staying friends. Why? Because I don't view another person as a fundamentally flawed human being just because they aren't compatible with me in a relationship. We all have flaws and bullshit (it's just what bullshit is actually compatible). Maybe another aspect to look inward as well. It is quite empowering.