To feel safe, to receive support, to see your resources, to become freer – a close relationship allows you to be yourself and at the same time to develop and grow. But not everyone can take the risk and dare intimacy. How do you overcome the traumatic experience and dare to be in a serious relationship again?
Entering into a close relationship means inevitably taking a risk. It requires us to open up to the other person, to be defenceless in front of him or her. If they don’t understand us or reject us, we will inevitably suffer. Everyone has had such a traumatic experience in one way or another.
In spite of this, we – some reckless, some cautious – are taking that risk again, striving for intimacy. For what?
“Emotional intimacy is the foundation of our being,” says family psychotherapist Varvara Sidorova. – It can give us a precious sense of security, which in turn strengthens intimacy. For us, this means: I have support, protection, shelter. I won’t be lost, I can act bolder and freer in the outside world too.”
HOW TO DECIDE
1. Revealing yourself
Our beloved becomes our mirror in which we can see ourselves in a whole new light: better, more beautiful, smarter, more worthy than we thought we were.
When a loved one believes in us, it gives us courage, encouragement and strength to grow.
“At university, I considered myself a grey mouse, afraid to open my mouth in public. But he was the star of our course. Suddenly he preferred me to all the pretty girls! I could talk and even argue with him for hours. It turned out that everything I thought about in private was interesting to someone else. He helped me believe that I was worth something as a person. That student romance changed my life,” recalls Valentina, 39.
“When we discover that we are not alone, that we are valuable and interesting to a meaningful other, it gives us a footing,” comments Varvara Sidorova. – As a result, we can move on, think, and develop. We begin to experiment more daringly, exploring the world. That’s how the support that intimacy gives us works.
2. Accepting criticism
But the “mirror” may also point out flaws or shortcomings that we have been reluctant to see or have not even been aware of. We find it hard to accept that the other person we care about may not accept everything about us.
Such discoveries are particularly painful, but it’s also harder to shrug them off
“One day he said to me: “You know what your problem is? You don’t have an opinion!” For some reason that phrase hit me hard. Although I didn’t immediately understand what he meant. I kept coming back to it in my mind. Little by little, I recognized that he was right: I was too afraid to show my true self. I began to learn to say “no” and defend my position. It turned out it wasn’t so scary,” shares 34-year-old Elisabeth.
“I don’t know people who don’t have an opinion,” says Varvara Sidorova. – But someone keeps it to himself, believing that someone else’s opinion is a priori more important and valuable. This is what happens when intimacy is so important to one of the two that for the sake of it he is willing to give up himself and merge with his partner. And it’s good when your partner gives you a hint: build personal boundaries. But, of course, it takes courage and courage to hear it, to realise it and to start changing.
3. Appreciating differences
A loved one can help us heal our wounds by showing us that people are trustworthy, and at the same time discovering that we ourselves have the potential for unselfishness and warmth.
“As a young man I decided that a serious relationship was not for me,” says 60-year-old Anatoly. – Women seemed to me to be obnoxious creatures, I did not want to deal with their incomprehensible emotions. At 57, I unexpectedly fell in love and got married. With surprise, I catch myself that I am interested in his wife’s feelings, I try to be with her carefully and attentive.
The decision to abandon an intimate relationship is usually the result of a traumatic experience
But as we get older, when those who once instilled fear of intimacy are no longer around, we may calm down a bit and decide that the relationship may not be so dangerous, Varvara Sidorova notes. “When we are ready to open up, we suddenly meet someone we can trust,” she explains.
But close relationships are only idyllic in fairy tales. There are crises when we realise anew how different we are. “After the Ukrainian events in 2014, it turned out that my wife and I were on different sides. We argued, quarrelled, and almost went as far as divorce. It is very difficult to accept that your partner sees the world differently. Over time, we have become more tolerant: no matter how you look at it, what keeps us together is stronger than what keeps us apart,” Sergei, 40, shares.
Union with another allows you to discover unexpected sides of yourself and develop new qualities. Intimacy, unlike fusion, implies that we accept our partner’s otherness, and he, in turn, allows us to be ourselves. In this we are the same – and in this we are different. And that makes us stronger.
“I SAY: WHY NOT?”
I was brought up strictly, my grandmother taught me to do everything according to a plan. That’s how I live my life: I have everything planned out. Serious work, two children, a house – how would I cope without planning? But I hadn’t noticed the downside of predictability until my husband brought it to my attention.
I always listen to him, so I began to analyze my behavior and realized that I used to follow a pattern and avoid deviating from it
And my husband is not afraid of new things, he doesn’t limit himself to what he is used to. He encourages me to be bolder, freer, to see new opportunities. Now I say to myself more often: “Why not?” For example, as a person who is completely unsportsmanlike, I now go skiing at full throttle. It may be a small example, but it’s a telling one for me.