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The New Intimacyby Judith Sherven
Opening to Love
At the heart of the new intimacy is the capacity to consciously open yourself and take in more and more of who your partner truly is.
ThatÆs much easier when what you want to take in is familiar, something you already know and like. But when it comes to differences, ranging from those that are mildly dissimilar, to those that are foreign, or those youÆve been forbidden to even consider, then love may no longer be so easy or even so attractive.
Simply put, loving someone who is like you is love, but itÆs elementary and will remain relatively superficial. Loving someone who is different is a love that requires commitment and consciousness and care. It can take you into profound realms of personal growth and remain a life-long adventure.
The more you are willing to learn, to extend yourself beyond what youÆve known, beyond what you are accustomed to, you will be opening yourself to the vast panorama of life and love. That is the magic. To open fully, it is essential you become more and more aware of yourself, of those around you, of the psychological and cultural setting in which you were born and live. As you do, you will become more inclusive and your whole idea and experience of differences will change.
That kind of openness was very rare as recently as 100 years ago. People hardly moved away from home. They married someone from the same community, whose lifestyle and values were like their own. Their roles were clear and set by tradition. They didnÆt need to concern themselves with creating their own relationship and the married life that followed. They knew it would be very much the same as their parentsÆ, their relativesÆ and virtually everyone elseÆs in their community.
Today many of us move away from where we were born and raised. We meet people who are very different from those we knew growing up. We change, opening to meet the invitations and demands of our new communities. What we want and expect from intimacy and relationship is far less determined by rigid social guidelines and more the result of our personal desires. That means we now have to rely on our own knowledge, experience and consciousness to discover what we want and how we will conduct our lives.
We also face a dizzying array of possibilities in the selection of a mate as well as in the lifestyle and role definitions we choose. Even if we do not move away from home, it is vitally important today to bring a strong sense of identity to our relationships, because increasingly we are free to make personal choices and are responsible for managing the consequences. A strong, healthy identity will allow you to stop experiencing differences as tiresome, even threatening, so you can come to respect and cherish them as the exciting blessings they are. You can embrace more and more of the world around you, letting go of fear and mistrust and prejudice, viewing life and all things alive within it as the setting for an adventure, an opportunity for you to give and receive love.
In addition, we live during a time of heightened psychological and spiritual awareness. Personal development, individual expression, the need to heal childhood wounds and the hunger to discover new ways for women and men to relate to one another adds very new pressures to what we expect from our intimate relationships.
Creating and sustaining a fulfilling love relationship is one of the most important things we do in life. Yet almost no one receives any preparation. Would you send your child to a school with unprepared teachers? Would you take your car to an untrained mechanic? Would you trust your surgery to someone whose only credential is an intense longing to be a doctor? Yet, with $25 for the license and a willing minister or judge, anybody can leap into a trial by fireùget married and have kids, all on the dream of ôhappily ever after.ö
We live in very challenging times, so we need to have compassion for ourselves. But there is much we can learn to make loving and being loved more rewarding and deeply fulfilling.
Answering the following questions will give you an opportunity to take stock of your present beliefs about relationship and about differences. Your answers will shed light on what you imagine a relationship to be.
1. What is your most cherished fantasy about how your relationship should be?
2. What do you expect to receive from your partner in a relationship?
3. What do you expect to give to that person?
4. Can you or your partner or any future partner live up to what you imagine? In other words, are your expectations realistic? If youÆre female, are you expecting Prince Charming to make a life for you? If youÆre male, do you want to marry Lady Perfect?
5. How comfortable are you with the fact that your partner will never exactly match your hopes and dreams?
6. Are you prepared to give up your fantasy expectations in honor of the real person you are with?
7. How tolerant are you of other peopleÆs differences?
8. How prepared are you to learn from and be changed by the ways your partner is different from you?
9. Are you truly available for a relationship?
10. Are you comfortable with emotional vulnerability?
11. What is the purpose of intimate relationship?
12. What do you imagine your relationship will teach you?
13. ist those things that are non-negotiable for you, those that your partner must meet.
14. Describe, for each of your nonnegotiable issues, why difference in these areas is out of the question.
15. Do you feel a yearning for spiritual connection in your relationship?
16. How would the growth and expansion of your relationship affect those around you?
¬ 1997 Judith Sherven & James Sniechowski All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of Health Communications, Inc. from The New Intimacy.
All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of Health Communications, Inc. from The New Intimacy.
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