True Intimacy

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In the first few months of dating, infatuation reigns. It’s a delectable, visceral feeling that sends your heart galloping whenever the phone pings and creates tingles up your arms when your fingers intertwine. Scientists have likened the effects of infatuation on the brain to the effects of heroin. The world is more beautiful: colours are brighter, flowers smell sweeter. This is the high of a romantic relationship, but it’s only the beginning.

In my experience, infatuation begins to wane at about the one-year mark. At this point, somewhat reluctantly, we looked at each other with fresh and critical eyes. For the first time, I noticed his tendency to ignore me while watching TV and that his dirty socks in my car made me gag. Once, everything he did was perfect and every move I made was praised. Seeing someone for who they truly are, and being seen clearly in return, can be equally frightening in its vulnerability and immensely rewarding.

The moment we removed our rose-coloured glasses was the moment our real marriage could begin. It’s a tipping point that, if tread with grace and patience, can lead to something incredible: true intimacy.

I could still see the dazzling charm that I fell in love with, but I could also see beyond to his faults, fears and unvoiced hopes.

The topic of intimacy isn’t often openly discussed; at least, not without a steadying cocktail in hand. But intimacy within marriage goes far beyond the bedroom. It’s about knowing each other’s secret yearnings, greatest fears and idiosyncrasies as well as you know your own—perhaps better. You notice the smallest change in his demeanour because you’ve studied the curves of his face and the tinkerings of his mind and you’re still curious to understand more.

Over coffee recently, a good friend told me about a pact she made with her husband. For years, she’s been plagued with terrible nightmares that leave her sweating and cold. Now married, her husband will wake to her cries, stroke her hair and proceed to recite the most ridiculous jokes he can remember until she laughs, swats him on the arm and they both go back to sleep. For her, his response is more perfect than a dozen red roses. He knows her deepest fears, and they face them together.

Another friend shares, with a small smile and a blush, how much she cherishes her night-time showers with her husband. It’s their time together, blocked off from the world in their own cocoon. Away from the interruption and distraction of their phones, they can talk about anything from what they ate for lunch to their 10-year plan and how they can achieve their dreams together.

When infatuation eases, intimacy settles in for a sweet cup of tea and a shoulder massage. It’s the everyday passion that carries a relationship forward. The rest of the world can only glimpse at its laced hemline, quickly averting their eyes while envying its quiet sincerity.

In an era when technology makes it possible to connect with anyone, anywhere, it’s surprisingly difficult to truly know another person’s inside world. Even harder is the ability to let someone else in completely, to trust them with the thoughts you hold closest to your chest. For me, intimacy required small, hesitant steps. It can be terrifying to feel so exposed to another person, but the rewards are worth it. Every year, you learn a little more about your partner and reveal new parts of yourself. The more you reveal, the more you understand each other and grow together. It’s never a straight and narrow path—people change, ideas change, and you’ll never quite have your other half figured out completely. My husband mightn’t always understand me, but it’s beautiful that he wants to understand. And besides, isn’t peeling back the layers half the fun?

At the beginning of a relationship, there’s no doubt that love explodes with fiery passion, all consuming and red hot. Infatuation makes you feel like you’re falling, breathless and out of control, wondering if you’ll land on your feet or smash into a thousand tiny pieces. The rush is intense, but when it fades the passion doesn’t disappear. It simply settles and grows more intimate, opening a window into another person’s soul and bringing you closer together than you ever thought possible. With loving attention and patience, the intimate passion in your marriage will grow richer and sweeter, becoming the fuel and fortitude you’ll need to overcome anything.

Carly Tia

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