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  • Fe Robinson

The nature of mature intimacy

“intimacy is the process of being in touch with or knowing oneself in the presence of a partner” David Schnarch

In psychotherapy, it is commonly the case that people with relationship difficulties are looking for a kind of intimacy that comes from unmet needs in childhood, rather than one of healthy adult relating. They may be looking for a reflected sense of themself in the relationship, a fusing together, a becoming symbiotic and dependent on each other that is more like a mother-infant dyad than about two adults relating together. When these painful unmet needs are present there may be fears of either being engulfed and disappearing, or of being abandoned. It may be that relating becomes conditional, a kind of ‘I will…, but only if you will…” None of these dynamics are particularly enjoyable, and unless both people are happily stuck in them they are likely not sustainable either.

So what is intimacy really about? According to Schnarch, it is about accepting that we are separate, we exist as our own self, and having little expectation of being reflected or need for validation from the other. In mature intimacy we are able to validate and express ourselves. As Schnarch puts it: “I will show myself to you, and in doing so will express my loneliness, yet transcend my aloneness”

This theme of the difference between knowing our aloneness and being able to transcend it in deep intimacy is one that speaks to me. We need to be clear about the integrity of our own being, and to be able to remain our full selves in the presence of the person we love. I express it as knowing that when we are in intimate relating, the other supports us being more of ourself, and we support them in fully being themselves, there is no diminishing of anyone when we can truly be vulnerable and emotionally naked.

Intimacy is not easy. It has an edge, and can bring deep fulfilment. It is also something that many of us may need to learn how to do, healing the wounds of the past.

For psychotherapy that attends to your relational patterns and helps you grow, get in touch.


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