As we begin a new year, many of us will be reflecting on the last year. We might look at what we have achieved, what we could have done better, our relationships with family and our partners. As we look forward we may be excited about the next year with our loved ones or we may feel a sense of dread!

For many couples the new year is a time of separation, and one of those reasons to cut ties can be the loss or lack of intimacy.

Maintaining the intimacy in relationships can be extremely challenging. With the hustle and bustle of work and trying to balance your family commitments, friendships and careers, couples often find they lose touch with each other. Some single people may find that due to a variety of reasons they possibly have had many relationships but always felt that something was missing and often that thing is intimacy. 

It is important to note that intimacy is not just sex. Intimacy is the way we show ourselves to another. There are levels of intimacy. With some people (acquaintances) you may only want to have niceties. It could be the way you greet them or have a chat at the coffee machine which doesn’t involve too much depth. With others it could be how you share your hopes and dreams, faults and failures and how you express your needs to them.

A lot of how people are intimate is formed by our earliest attachments. The mirroring of our primary caregivers smile, the ability to explore and be safely vulnerable in the knowledge that you have support should you fall, these are all ways in which we learn how to trust our feelings and others and feel safe in sharing our legitimate needs. Brene Brown’s Iconic Ted X talk on vulnerability spoke of being connected and feeling worthy of love but, also of being able to be fully seen by another. It can be displayed by looking into your partners eyes while making love or your partner holding your hair as you vomit, and you both knowing that even though we are all flawed that the person you are with accepts you warts and all.

When couples lose that connection, or when an individual struggles with the idea of being fully intimate, it can affect our relationships greatly. Not just with our partners but also with friends, family and colleagues. Being able to work your way through the seven stages of intimacy can greatly support you to revive that connection or explore how you can be intimate with another.

Those stages are:

  • Cliches
  • Facts
  • Opinions
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Feelings
  • Fears and failures
  • Our legitimate needs.

There are of course other ways in which intimacy can be achieved however. Many agree that to be intimate is to be fully seen, which is to be vulnerable. To allow ourselves to be vulnerable is to be aware of how we know ourselves, how others relate to us and how we relate to others.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London N1 & N8

Written by Marilyn McKenzie

London N1 & N8

I am Marilyn McKenzie and I am a qualified Psychotherapist who has worked with Couples, Addiction, DV, Young Offending, Grief and Bereavement as well as Anxiety and Depression.

I am Integrative in my approach but often work Systemically. I have a private practise and work with Relate.

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