Building intimate relationships

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Any intimate relationship, be it a romantic one, relationship with one’s children/parents, or a close friendship, is different from other less intimate ones by virtue of their distinct qualities. Such qualities include authenticity, trust, higher-level respect, and genuine concern. Therefore, to build an intimate relationship, you must focus on fostering these four qualities. Your family, close friends, or romantic partner should be able to understand your insecurities, appreciate your life experiences, acknowledge your flaws, and have a high-level respect for you regardless. They are the ones who should be able to hang on to you when the rest of the world let go.

Intimate relationships should have a positive influence on your life. They should help improve your self-esteem, focus on your happiness, and strengthen your sense of security in this world. Similarly, you should have a positive influence on the lives of the people you are closest to. And while you may not always be there for those closest to you (because you must attend to other important matters like your career goals and responsibilities), you must never depart from them. When other people vanish from your life as though they have disappeared for good, or come to you only when they want something from you, these are signs that you are not important to them; such people shouldn’t have to be important to you. Intimacy in every relationship is a commitment; it sometimes doesn’t feel pleasant, but it is something you must do because of what it stands for.

Intimacy essentially requires authenticity; your family, close friends, or spouse should be able to accept and value you regardless of your baggage (unsavory past). They should judge you not based on the fact that you have been a naughty person, but based on the fact that you value them. Similarly, treat them as very important people, based on the fact that they see you as an important person.  

Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. Unless your loved ones can stomach those unpleasant stories about you and still value you based on the fact that you value them, they do not truly respect you. Sharing some personal information with those closest to you, including those unpleasant experiences you have had in the past may seem like a way to drive them out of your life. You may even be afraid that they may use such information against you. Still, sharing these experiences will help reveal the truly valuable people in your life, will encourage authenticity in your loved ones, and will facilitate the experience of true acceptance from those closest to you.

The mere act of being afraid to speak about your unpleasant past makes you emotionally insecure, and for absolutely rational reasons. While you shouldn’t share about yourself with other people, you should be able to find security with those closest to you. You need this security because an emotionally insecure person cannot enjoy the best out of life. By sharing your unpleasant past experiences with your close friends, you may actually be giving them the courage to do the same. And when this happens, they trust you more.

Showing empathy is one of the ways you build intimate relationships. In my article, ‘How to be more social’, I stated that other people want to feel respected, wanted, and important, because it is human nature. By showing empathy to those closest to you as they go through difficult times, you make them feel wanted and loved. This will not only improve their mood, but also improve their ability to face those difficult times. 

You should also learn to show genuine interest in those closet to you. Be willing to listen actively to what they have to say, and give positive, constructive feedback. Even when you disagree with them, do so with respect. Commend their ideas if they are very good, and show that you value their input. They may have unpleasant habits, and you may not be comfortable with those habits, show tolerance regardless. We all need tolerance; there are certain habits you may have which could be annoying to other people- so you as much as everybody else deserves tolerance. Do not discriminate against people based on race, religion, gender, nationality, or social class. Judge other people by their personal values, and associate with them based on your like-mindedness.