At first glance, we shrink intimacy only to its sexual connotation. I get it. It’s like when someone says a word, and the first image that pops into your mind, is what it is, in its totality. But, it goes so much deeper than that. When I think about intimacy, I think of a purposeful, unrelenting connection. If you want to be technical,
“Intimacy is close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationships, which requires the parties to have a detailed knowledge or deep understanding of each other.”American Psychological Association
The most important part of this characterization is found in the last sentence: the requirement of the parties having a detailed knowledge or deep understanding of each other. To maintain intimacy in any relationship, you need to ACTIVELY KNOW the person. I stress ‘ACTIVELY’ because the person you knew a year, month and even a day ago, has changed. If you forgo accepting a person for who they currently are, the person you think you know and understand, is really an outdated version of themselves.
Think about your friend, that you know like the back of your hand. You know their quirks, likes, and all the things that make them smile. You have an intimate, working knowledge of this person, and with this knowledge, you are able to be a good friend to them. But what happens when your friend, or romantic partner, that you swear you KNOW, expresses dissatisfaction with the relationship? I’ve been in this position before, and had no clue how to “fix it” because I thought I was doing enough.
I was lent a book called, The 5 Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman. Although this book is tailored for people in relationships, I found the content information to be applicable in all aspects of my relationships, because it helped me gain insight on how to work on building intimacy. In the book, Dr. Chapman highlights 5 ways people perceive and show love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. I took the test and my results showed that my primary love language is Words of Affirmation, and my secondary is Physical Touch. I realized that while I thought I was showing the ones closest to me love and affection, I was doing it based on my defined way of viewing love, and not theirs.
It is very possible for someone’s love bank to run on empty when they are not receiving love in their language. We tend to speak our primary love language, and we become confused when others do not understand what we are communicating. We are expressing our love, but the message does not come through because what we are speaking, to them, is a foreign language (Chapman, G.).
For instance, my husbae’s love language is Acts of Service. I tend to leave him cute little notes, because remember, my primary love language is words of affirmation; so I lean towards that language when showing love. When my actions did not yield the desired responses, I recognized I wasn’t speaking HIS language. I started performing Acts of Service (his love language) like cooking his favorite meals, or packing his lunch (with a love note of course) and I noticed a difference in his responses. He became so appreciative over these gestures, compared to times when I would try to communicate to him in my own love language. This is not uncommon; we communicate to others, in the language we are most fluent in.
So how can you work on building intimacy in your relationships? Step out of your comfort zone, and learn to pour into their love bank, using their love language. When a loved one expresses to you that they don’t feel love, this is an indicator to you, that you may need to be intentional with how you’re showing love.
Using The 5 Love Languages, here are a few suggestions on how to tap into your loved ones love language:
Words of Affirmation:
- Send your partner, kid, friend, or family member a text message sharing how much you love them—Verbalize your appreciation.
- Give a compliment privately and/or publicly.
- Have an unplugged conversation—That means phones/tablets/laptops/watches are shut off.
- Be intentional with planning an outing—It can be to the park, a lunch date, or somewhere you can focus on the other person.
- Gift of presence—Show up when it matters most, and without having to be asked.
- Give a handmade token, or card to show how much you care.
Acts of Service:
- Periodically ask, “How may I help you?” –Don’t think you always know what someone else may need
- Make a list of requests from your partner and actually do them.
- Initiate a cuddle session with your kiddos on the couch while watching their favorite movie.
- Hold hands with your partner for the simple sake of building connection.
You can take the The 5 Love Languages quiz by going HERE. You can also find a multitude of resources on the website, as well as other books written by Dr. Chapman.
On this Valentine’s Day, let’s be accountable to how we show love. Our loved ones deserve it, don’t you think?
Chapman, G. (2004) The Five Love Languages. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing