The Oxford Dictionary defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship, closeness”. Psychcentral.com defines emotional intimacy as “being transparent with your deepest feelings, fears and thoughts. A definition that really resonates with me is, “deeply knowing someone, while also feeling deeply known”.
For most of my life my only concept of intimacy was sex. But even in the act of having sex I found it easy to remain emotionally disconnected. In fact, sex without connection is what I wanted. It meant I didn’t need to be vulnerable. And the concept of intimacy with someone I didn’t want to have sex with didn’t exist. With that concept of intimacy, I always seemed to end up feeling lost and alone.
On my road to recovery, I have begun to experience intimacy as knowing others while also feeling deeply known. I first experienced this in a group setting as I was required to share a part of my story that I had sworn I would never speak of publicly. As I began to share what was for me one of the most shameful experiences in my life, I noticed someone across the circle tear up. As I continued to share, I saw men that I had never met before beginning to nod their heads and somehow, I knew without them saying a word that they understood my pain and my experience. It was in these moments of vulnerability that I began to realize that I wasn’t alone. While no one else’s experience is exactly like mine, I am not as unique as I had believed, and thus, not as alone.
I believe we are all born with a need for intimacy with others. Not my mistaken understanding of intimacy as sex, but the need to know others deeply and the desire to be known. We are created with a need for connection with others. It’s Monday afternoon as I’m writing this. Tonight, I will meet with a small group of men, probably about five of us, and we will talk. We will share struggles from this week, and we will share victories. At some point someone will probably say something like, “I never thought I’d be telling anyone this”. And some of us around the table will nod our heads to demonstrate that we understand, at least in part, what the speaker is talking about. Then I will leave the meeting feeling like I know others better, like they know me, and as a result I will feel comfort and peace.
You can find intimacy and community like this in groups like AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, Samson Society and a dozen others. If you want to know more about intimacy and community check out one of these groups or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be glad to talk to you about why I believe we were created for intimacy and community.