INTIMACY DEPENDS ON SEPARATENESS
In earliest childhood our self-concept emerges from the
symbiotic union of mother and baby. Gradually it dawns on us
that we are separate from our earliest caregivers. First we
learn we have a separate body and eventually we build an
identity, initially based on our caregivers’ responses to us.
As we mature, accomplish developmental tasks and gain
experience as an individual, we realize we will never
again be fully merged with another human. We may bond with
others and seek closeness with them but it will always be
from a position of essential separateness.
No one can directly experience another person’s
“reality”. If we wish to be known by another, we must
communicate. This is both difficult and frustrating. We
want our intimate partner to see us as we wish to be seen and
to validate our own perceptions and judgements by agreeing
But they have their own perceptions and experience and
live in a “reality” forever separate from ours. A clear
understanding and acceptance of this separateness is the
beginning of true intimacy.
It is the process of TRYING to know another and to be
known by them that constitutes the experience of intimacy.
Frustration and conflict are inherent to it. Those who
understand this are more prepared to stick with it.
It is said that, in order to love another, you must
first love yourself. What this really means is that, in
order to accept another’s separateness, we must first accept
our own. Otherwise, we will seek fusion, not intimacy.
To achieve higher levels of intimacy we must have
developed an autonomous sense of self-worth. That is, we
know we’re worthy even when we’re not being reassured of it
by another. This is self-love.
If we’re too dependent upon a REFLECTED sense of self,
we can’t feel good unless another tells us we’re good or
unless we make them happy. True intimacy is not a mutual
admiration society. It’s one self encountering another.
Intimacy results from two SEPARATE selves trying to
understand and be understood, accept and be accepted.