Achieving intimacy on all levels is important in order to truly work as a couple.
Romantic relationships, whether we’re dating or already married, rely on us being not in “I” mode — as isolated individuals — but in the “we” mode, which means sharing and including the other, without losing our individuality.
Each one of us has an interior life, and the more we let another person into that interior world through the process of sharing and communicating, our relationship becomes more and more enriched.
Indeed, experience shows that the less we communicate and the less we share our intimate thoughts and feelings—what makes us happy, what worries us, what makes us sad, what we dream about—the “we” becomes poorer. Sharing our most intimate selves in all the aspects of our being is an integral part of a healthy romantic relationship, essential in order to truly come together with another person.
Physical intimacy is the most obvious kind, but focusing only on that increases the risk of sexuality monopolizing our relationship, and impeding us from getting to know other aspects of the person intimately. This is a problem, because while physicality is an essential part of marriage, the other aspects of a person (their temperament and character, their ideals and aspirations, their spirituality, their sense of humor) truly reveal to us whether or not it will be possible for us to share our entire life with them.
Therefore, we need to open ourselves up to the person we love from the innermost part of our being in order to share what we have in our heart, without trying to skip any of the stages through which love matures. We don’t want to interfere with the beautiful natural development of a relationship by jumping to physical intimacy before the necessary spiritual and psychological intimacy and commitment is achieved and confirmed through marriage.
For this kind of full intimacy to be achieved, good communication is essential. Not only is it important to learn how to give ourselves, to show other people what we feel, what we see, and what we hope for; we also need to become excellent listeners. This has three fundamental aspects.
The first is to shift our focus to the other person. We can’t be thinking about how we’re going to respond while the other person is still talking.
Second, we need to pay attention to our body language, and theirs. For example, we need to look the other person in the eye, to show they have our attention, and look at their bodily cues that complete the verbal information (are they stressed, relaxed, nervous?). This is as important as listening with our ears.
Last, we need to learn to respect our differences, and make an effort to adapt to the other person. Generally speaking, women tend to respond more to what people say and to comment while they listen, which men easily misinterpret as interruptions. Men, on the other hand, tend to give feedback less often when they listen, and their answers tend to be more concise—something that women can easily perceive as a lack of attention or interest.
What really matters in the end, however, is to truly come out of ourselves to meet the other, to talk until we have nothing more to say, and to try to understand each other. We need to know each each other’s favorite stories and experiences, and understand each other’s most cherished dreams. When we are actively in “we” mode, physical intimacy is the manifestation and result of a complete intimacy and self-giving in marriage. It is the culmination of a complete act of love, when two become one flesh because they already are practically one soul, a true “we.”