Intimacy: Where Are You?
Have you ever been in a relationship that seemed great at first and then just fizzled? Or, perhaps you’re in a marriage that was once full of fire and excitement, only to now feel boring and unfulfilling? The problem might be your intimacy zone. Often, when we think of “intimacy,” many people think “sex.” The intimacy we’re talking about here is emotional intimacy. Most often, when emotional intimacy is either missing, challenged, or unsafe, the physical intimacy in the relationship can suffer or completely disappear. So, today, I’m going to challenge you to examine your intimacy levels or “zones” with your significant other. In terms of intimacy, where are you?
Zone 1- Safe Communication
This is the zone most used with strangers. You don’t express your opinions or feelings- just the facts. This is “business” type communication. “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?” You have very little vulnerability here. In this zone, couples who are struggling can find themselves talking only about schedules, who’s going to pick up the kids when, etc.
Zone 2- Other’s Opinions & Beliefs
In this zone, we feel just a little safer than in Zone 1, so we are able to discuss the opinions and beliefs of others. It’s safe, because we don’t share anything personal, just reflect what others have said or believe. This is, “I saw on Facebook” kind of communication. We can always adjust to the other person’s reaction to our sharing, which decreases our vulnerability.
Zone 3- My Personal Opinions & Beliefs
In this zone, we start to risk vulnerability at a greater level and we start taking small risks by sharing our own opinions and beliefs. If we perceive a threat in response to our sharing, there is still an opportunity to “back down” and change our opinions or beliefs in order to feel safer.
Zone 4- My Feelings & Experiences
This is the level where we share our feelings; joys, pains, disappointments, grief, failures, mistakes, regrets. This is where we share our hopes and dreams, our goals and ambitions. This is the “Who I AM” level of intimacy where we expose ourselves and our hearts to the other person. This is a more vulnerable level because unlike “lower” zones, we can’t back down; we cannot change who we are.
Zone 5- My Needs, Emotions and Desires
This is the deepest level of intimacy and also the one in which we are most vulnerable. This is the CORE of who we are. This is the zone where we share our most vulnerable parts of ourselves. We share our emotional reactions to things. This is the zone where we share things like “I want to grow old with you,” “I feel hurt when you don’t call.” As humans, our emotional reactions aren’t always pretty. They sometimes challenge our stereotypes of how people “should” act… or they surprise even ourselves… and this places us in an even more vulnerable state. While difficult to risk, the vulnerability of Zone 5 is what can cement a relationship, knowing we’re not judged and that we’re accepted by the other, “warts and all.”
So, where are you?