There are many different ways in which we communicate with others. Most communication with others is a simple exchange of information. When we go to the store, we don’t need to know a clerk’s life story in order to exchange money for products. Even frequent interactions with coworkers can often be appropriately surface level for years to get business accomplished without requiring depth. Communicating with friends, families, and spouses to remain close involves more than just sharing information, but also sharing the specific meaning to develop deeper understanding. This is just the beginning of increasing intimacy in your relationships.
Intimacy is a normal human need to feel close to others. Like most achievements in life that truly matter, increasing intimacy in your relationships takes time and effort to foster. While everyone desires to feel loved and connected, it is often uncomfortable to do the work to get there. There are two essential pieces that define where intimacy is built: inconvenience and gratitude.
These two concepts do not seem to go together often, but can help form the foundation of trust.
In order to have people trust you, it is more powerful to ask for help than to offer it. Anyone can grant support to others especially when we are doing well ourselves, but it is a rare gift to let someone be a part of your life in a meaningful way most vitally when we are struggling. When someone close to you tells you that they are struggling, it often comes with a melancholic combination of sorrow for the situation and appreciation and honor for being trusted with the sensitive information. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be open and honest about our struggles with anyone and should be treated as such both in how we receive others and how we give grace to ourselves.
A simple and quite common example is in healthy parenting where the punishment for children is less severe when the child is honest about making a mistake. If you find out any other way than the child, there is no way to know if they would have been honest. Children having issues are not unique. Children comfortable enough to inform parents before things get worse is much more rare.
Also to this point, it is impossible to care for something we do not know. Even people high in compassion cannot act on things that they are not aware of. Information, even painful information, gives us something to work with. Of course, it can be heartbreaking to hear bad news that befalls people we care about. However, it can be even more devastating to hear long after the fact that your loved one has been struggling and you were unaware.
If you are the giver in an opportunity to increase intimacy in your relationships there can be a sense of purpose and clarity that comes with trying to actively value your loved ones. It can also feel inconvenient at times. While the behaviors themselves are not without merit, it is more important to consider the attitude by which you approach offering assistance. If the goal is to be owed a favor or to simply show up, but to do so bitterly, the outcome will be less than favorable in the long run. In being there for others in hard times or to be asked a favor, it is important to recognize that while you may not be happy about the immediate inconvenience, you can choose to be grateful to be a part of the journey.
Intimacy is developed in those vulnerable times of need and the conversations around those times that not everyone is given the opportunity to engage in or are willing to be appreciative for. If we are able to tolerate the discomfort and see the opportunity to connect, there is no one with whom we cannot develop a deeper and more intimate connection. While everyone is around for good times, not everyone is willing or able to be a stick around when things are difficult and it is those who do that are the closest people we will ever know.