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Walls, Windows and the Nature of Intimacy

Humans are meant to connect with others.  This drive is built in to our wiring.  Though we may have the need we do not always have the ability or abilities are constrained. We are generally much better at building walls than we are at creating windows.  Yet is only these windows into ourselves and others that can ultimately let intimacy in.  It is easier to put up a wall but not better.

Relationships can be built on many other foundations and still serve helpful purposes without reaching into the realms of intimacy.  However, this still leaves a primal void that will seek other ways to be filled, some perhaps unhealthy.

Many of us become involved with addictions, depression and perpetual distress.  We may also see people who fill voids with materialism treating their lack of intimate connections with connections to widening array of self-aggrandizing stuff.  Of course there is always the love of work.  We feel so noble when we throw ourselves into hyper-performing professionally.  The irony is it generally leads to more money so you can feed the materialistic urges too.  What a perfect deal. There no end to the number of habits that we will conjure up to give ourselves some comfort from the pains in ourselves.

Intimacy is not a single state.  I believe it is a process of ongoing revelation and growth.  There are four key elements to it.  I borrowed these from the Johari Window model.   The “other” in this case could be any other person but in this case I am speaking primarily about love relationships.

  1. What you know about yourself and you share with the other so they know it too.
  2. What you know about yourself and do not share with the other so they do not know it.
  3. What the other knows about you yet you do not know it about yourself.
  4. What neither you or the other know about you.

What You Know About Yourself and Share

In an intimate relationship this window should be the largest.  It should also grow as you become of aware of new things and seek to share them.  The things that you know about yourself are both positive and negative (as well as everything in between).  There should be no fear or shame in sharing these with your partner and they with you.  It is the source of the deepest bonds. When a relationship is growing and thriving this will be the area where intimacy thrives.


What You Know About Yourself and Do Not Share

This is not an open window but rather one with the shades drawn.  It can be a dangerous place where we keep things about ourselves hidden and try to manipulate reality.  I am not sure I know of any good reasons to do this though I am sure some people would say that you cannot share everything and some things are best left unknown in the interests of everyone.   I think things should move from this category to number 1 as much as possible.

What The Other Knows That You Do Not

This is like one of those windows in the police station where you can see through it from one side but not the other.  Relationships can suffer when this window gets too big.  Sometimes the other may realize things about your nature that you are not willing to see in yourself.  This denial breeds conflict and pain.


What Neither You Nor The Other Know

Though may seem like a hopeless dilemma it is actually where some of the greatest opportunities for deepening intimacy may come from.  As we open up to ourselves and become more intimate with ourselves, there is more to share.  This also relates to the concept of loving yourself which I recently wrote about here.

I believe we all sense the need for intimacy.  We seek connection.  We hurt when connections are damaged.  We fight when connections are threatened. Here is to the forever flawed and achingly imperfect process of finding our way through our own journeys in intimacy.  Build windows…not walls.



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Written by dkneeland