Finding True Love Through Intimacy
Finding True Love Through Intimacy
By Daniel Linder MFT
A lot of people have been asking about true love; is there such a thing; if so, what is it? Is it attainable; if so, how attainable is it? If it were just love, I wouldn't have so much difficulty. But, true love?
Talking about true love is risky business. I can imagine taking a poll, going around asking people who are looking for true love what it is they're looking for and getting different answers and a lot of 'I don't knows.' Given its subjective nature, it always comes down to one's interpretation or experience. A never-ending number of questions always seem to get raised.
Let's establish that what we are talking about when we say 'true love' would not be referring to how a parent might feel towards his or her child or a child towards a parent, between siblings. The more traditional connotation of true love leans to, at very least, an emotionally intimate relationship, one that lasts a lifetime. It may be platonic, it may sexual. But for the purposes of this discussion we will first explore what may be some common core elements of true love and of true love that includes sexual intimacy.
As we continue the discussion about what true love is, we will see that a number of related questions are raised.
Is true love, love at first sight? Or, does it come later in the relationship?
True love may and often does begin during the initial encounter, when two people are meeting for the first time. However, the spontaneous, eye-to-eye spark, when time gets compressed, when an irrepressible stirring suddenly before they even talk happens more often in the movies, quite rarely in reality.
After love at first sight, the two people will eventually have to talk to each other. For then, they will get to see how they feel being together. That spark will either ignite or be kaput, depending on how it feels to be together, which is largely determined by the quality of their rapport. The highest high can go to the lowest low in the blink of an eye.
It is possible that when there is rapport, some kind of mutual discovery occurs; that they like being together (a lot), that they like each other (a lot), that they have this incredible chemistry, that they communicate about anything and everything; and that this turns them on even more. They can become quite excited by their rapport, but when attraction, desire and sex enter the picture, their excitement is further peaked.
Is true love a matter of luck or something that was 'meant to be'?
Whether or not it was a matter of luck or their destiny to end up together, there is a strong likelihood that there was an initial rapport. It's not luck when conscious intention meets purposeful action. It doesn't just happen. Two people make it happen.
Rapport is a joint effort creation -- two who are people united in purpose, who place a high value getting to know what each other thinks and feels, who want to connect deeply, and are doing so.
During a rapport, there is a bridging of experience, understanding is achieved. Let's establish one criteria of true love as being able to say, "We understand each other," which often begins during the initial encounter.
Along with the ability to achieve a deep mutual understanding is comes a variety of other pleasant surprises. When gazing into each other's eyes and communicating on a deep level, the feeling of knowing one another elevates the level of excitement. "We know each other like no one else does".
For some, the experience of being able to be completely open, free and understood may be the highest of all highs.
How long does true love last? Does it fade over time?
It is reasonable to assume that if they did it once, they could do it again. However, there are no guarantees. What bears out in reality is that true love will last as long as both people are able to continue to communicate intimately. It may work to look at each and every encounter as a relationship in itself, independent of the others. It may also be considered that when there is consistency over time, the continuity will deepen their relationship, strengthen their bond.
Is true love the same thing as "being in love?" Being with that special someone? Being number one? Being turned on? Having great sex?
What does it feel like? Is it a high or rather mundane? Does it have substance or is it merely a bundle of excitement?
Is it a long plateau of fixed contentment, like being "happy ever after?" Or, is it a never-ending, ever-deepening journey fraught with relationship threatening challenges?
Answering the above questions will require that some important distinctions be made beginning with true love versus 'being in love.' Being in love is an altered state of mind. It is a peak experience 'exciting, intense' and temporary, tantamount to being high, running on adrenalin.
When 'in love,' two people may feel extremely turned on to each other, but how intimate they are is another question. They may feel clear-headed and certain about each other while they're in love, while forgetting that they're looking at each other through the lens of idealization, and are often disillusioned and overwhelmed when reality sets in. They are expecting, assuming or hoping that their altered state of mind will last indefinitely. Chances are they don't have the experience in relationships that would tell them real intimacy is lacking or hasn't yet been achieved and/or that they haven't yet been challenged by negative feelings, conflicts or differences. It is more likely to be that they are basking in the false security of their distorted perception.
Another important distinction is true love and great sex.
Confusion is evident in the words often used to describe our sexual encounters. "We were intimate." "We made love." Physical or sexual intimacy becomes synonymous with true love or emotional intimacy. A common pitfall when there is attraction, desire, great sex, etc, is to assume more of a relationship than there is.
In light of this confusion, it's safer and more accurate to not equate true love, or, for that matter, emotional intimacy with attraction, desire or sex; and not to equate the two. Even great sex in no way guarantees emotional intimacy or a great relationship. The two are separate entities and there is no correlation between them.
One reason for this confusion is that emotional openness and sharing are considerably harder to achieve than the excitement, pleasure and ease associated with sex. Once again, it's a trap of false security.
Does true love depend on the prevailing conditions and circumstances at any given point in time, a matter of being in the right time and place?
If there are conditions and circumstances conducive for true love, we may consider them to be contextually based relationships. There is a variety of situations that fit into this category. One is when two people meet when traveling away from home, outside of their usual reality. Another is work-related. There are a great many occupations that afford co-workers intimate knowledge about each other, and endless opportunities to earn respect and trust. In the military, for example, soldiers live and train together for months, sometimes years, and must rely on each other in battle. Police and firefighters also spend large chunks of time together and must depend on each other. Actors travel the whole spectrum of emotions, baring their souls to each other. And people who've been through an extreme experience together, i.e. a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, naturally seek understanding and support from the only one who had been through the same experience.
In contrast, a natural setting is in the natural course of life, independent of an imposed structure, when you must rely solely and entirely on each other to create and sustain rapport.
In these types of situations, it's quite common to explore whether they're able to sustain intimacy, whether their relationship can continue to work outside of the context in which their relationship grew, in a natural setting. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. When their relationship works in both settings, they may be more inclined to use true love to describe their relationship.
Also, when sex enters the picture, a whole other set of dynamics will enter the picture. An intimate platonic relationship doesn't necessarily translate to a sexually intimate relationship.
When it comes to true love, intimacy may be the operative term; true love being interchangeable with true intimacy.
While intimacy may be the operative term, true love may also refer to a bond that goes above and beyond intimacy. We might say, "They are hitting on all cylinders."
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About Daniel Linder, MFT
Relationships. I was born with a keen sense about relationships, was always assessing how close and intimate people are with each other. I had a knack for relationships. The importance of relationships cuts to the core of who I am. The combination of clinical training, 25 years of professional experience treating dysfunctional, non-intimate couples and families, as well as rigorous self analysis has given me a lot to work with. I put what seemed to come naturally to me under a microscope in an effort to break the process of building healthy relationships down to concrete essentials: Understanding of Basic Principles, Communication Skills, Self-realization and Intimacy.