Walking into a smart, modern venue in the heart of the Brisbane CBD, I felt instantly at ease and knew today was going to be a great day. This is definitely the place for a truly modern woman, one who doesn’t shy away from engaging in life, her workplace, her community and her family to be. While we have known forever how vital relationships are for all of us, the Women in Livingness event on the real deal of intimacy was just getting started.
So often it is perceived that women who invest in personal development and are interested in self-growth have a certain look about them that could be considered fluffy, new-agey or spiritual. But here was a room packed with oh-so-normal women, from all walks and age groups of life, who most definitely expressed the epitome of the modern woman. These 130 women had come to hear a couple of relationship counselors present their take on What is Intimacy.
Ready to find out?
Annette Baker and Gabrielle Caplice walked onto stage. They oozed spunk, tenderness, seriousness and understanding, rolled up with a good dose of humour. Here is a couple who have dedicated probably thousands of wo-man-hours exploring relationships, starting with their own, and leaving no stone unturned in the process. We were about to spend 4 hours seriously contemplating our own relationships, for some of us possibly the first 4 hours ever!
We began with some provisos:
1) The word relationship refers to ALL relationships. Couple-types, friendships, familial, work-colleagues, ‘random’ meetings with strangers, and the one-off encounters with tradesmen as examples. The purpose of the workshop was to get beneath the understanding that intimacy is confined to the couple-type relationship and therefore make a move to bring intimacy into all relationships.
And it must follow naturally that 2) Intimacy isn’t about sexual behaviour. Period. The reduction of keeping our understanding of intimacy only to the physicality is outrageous.
And finally, 3) Perfection. There is no such thing. We the audience/participators were to be open to the possibility that we can have intimate relationships with everyone, however if we didn’t, it didn’t mean there was something wrong with us, rather signifying it’s time now to bring a focus of intimacy within our relationships.
So, how are many women living?
Have you ever used your body as a shield, to give someone the cold shoulder so to speak? Averting eyes to not meet another’s gaze? Anxiousness is a killer of intimacy and so living with that kind of tension in the body, your body will not be fluid, open and free, which is what is needed to be truly intimate. Instead we live with tense jaws and stiff hips! We’re using our body to push people away, perhaps even being overtly intimate in the wrong way! A far cry from using our body to be intimate (refer back to proviso 2!).
For so much of life we haven’t even been aware of all the times we’ve lacked intimacy and it’s become part of the way we live in adulthood. We have learnt a version of intimacy from our place of origin, forming our beliefs and ideals of how to relate in relationships, held and harboured in us from what has hurt us and now coming through how we live daily.
“The ideals and beliefs we have grown up with are controlling us.” Gabrielle Caplice
We don’t know how to hold ourselves in a loving moment when that is the exact moment we absolutely need to be holding ourselves. If we didn’t do this as youngsters, we will not be able to as grown women. We have formed impressions of what is intimate behaviour to us and for us. And yet when we ask ourselves honestly, we know that what we have subscribed to in the intimacy stakes falls way short of what we crave.
‘Getting Real in Relationship’. What exactly does that mean?
It really means relating in an intimate way with people. The best and worst moments in life are about or because of people, so why not make the way we are with people, more often than not, the ‘best’ and not the ‘worst’?
And so what then do we mean by ‘in an intimate way’?
We work-shopped what it means to be intimate and this is what we came up with:
Openness, trust, honesty, vulnerability, fragility, freedom,
safety, tenderness, delicateness, preciousness, compassion,
sensitivity, understanding, warmth, acceptance, transparency,
allowing, knowing, yourself, at ease, respecting, surrendered,
humility, rawness, energizing, fun, sweet, innocent, cute, loving,
And so we can relate intimately through using the above qualities, and what a gorgeous world it would be should we all do this.
But is that all?
Most of us probably try to live at least some of these words daily, but we all know our relationships are nowhere near a level of intimacy we know is possible, our true potential. Why not?
What if there were qualities that we were born with, that when expressed or honoured allowed for intimacy to just be, naturally?
We all have qualities that are in effect the innate expressions of who we are. And again, not in a fluffy new-age-y kind of way, but in a very concrete, solid, it-just-is kind of way.
Could living with intimacy in all of our relationships be as simple as rekindling our qualities – the warmth, the tenderness, the playfulness, the vulnerability, the seriousness, the whatever it is that is true for each of us at our core?
Annette and Gabe are proposing indeed that it is; that we live a lie when we don’t live our innate qualities and in not doing so, that lie is perpetuated for ourselves and everyone else we are in relationship with. Allowing our qualities to express through us is the gateway to feeling exquisite intimacy in the body.
The way we go about bringing intimacy into our relationships is by reaching in and finding and exploring our own qualities; we need to excavate them and share them with everyone.
It’s about never stopping the self-enquiry that offers us the way to learn about our selves. However to do this, to uncover our own qualities, we must first find our sensitivity for without sensitivity, we can have no hope to go to intimacy. For most of us, when we were young our sensitivity wasn’t honoured; how likely is it then as adults that we will value our sensitivity?
Let’s be very clear here: Sensitivity is not a weakness; there is no such thing as being too sensitive. Being sensitive means you respond to and feel everything around you.
The next step is to find your vulnerability, which simply means to be in the rawness of your sensitivity or to be okay with feeling everything. A lot of what we feel we do not like, so what then do we do with that? We can’t go through life not liking everything! But just acknowledging that we don’t like the way things are is enough, which in itself honours our sensitivity.
Finding our sensitivity and vulnerability leads us into having an intimate relationship with our self for we know who we are through our qualities first and foremost. We then take that out to the world, as examples, in knowing the way to wear our hair to the nth degree, knowing how we like to feel in our clothes and knowing exactly how we will do our make-up, for only our selves. We know what triggers us so we can learn not to give ourselves away to those triggers.
Having our own personal relationship and enquiry with our self is then taken into relationship with everyone. We need to be prepared to perpetually investigate ourselves and deepen in our own knowing. We can therefore access the potential we have in being intimate and open with everyone through this level of self-enquiry.
“We want proof of love but openness has to start with us. We can’t put that onto others and then blame them for not being open too. We all end up walking around shut down. It has to start with the relationship with yourself.” Annette Baker
What are the enemies of intimacy?
Work-shopping the enemies of intimacy, we found:
Overwhelm, juggling balls, losing space, losing rhythm, being hurried, being pushed, imposed on to express/communicate, intense tone of speaking, strictness, superiority, neediness, defensiveness, judgment, fear of rejection, attaching to outcomes, feeling guilty, perfectionism, feeling misunderstood, instructional, expectations . . .
These are all absolute killers of intimacy! So often we discover that what actually disturbs us and results in us losing our sense of intimacy occurs when we behave in the exact opposite to the qualities that are so natural to us and are part of our being / core.
Quietly heading into the physical stuff, Gabrielle made it very clear that we cannot get anywhere near real and true physical intimacy without the intimacy in our everyday relationships. While we will happily ‘explore’ the physical behaviours associated with intimacy, it is so far from the richness possible.
In our quest to explore adult themes as youngsters, many of us find that in the exploration of sexual behaviour, we left behind the young girl in us, who was still complete with wonder, sensitivity and vulnerability. Later on this leads to issues in lovemaking, issues of control and letting go, and to the very ingrained patterns of avoiding intimacy. Women are masters at giving cues to avoid physical intimacy!
“Porn is out of control with many looking for intimacy in a crushing and smashing way. It completely doesn’t honour the abundance of sensitivity we had as the young girl.”
And crucial to expose too is that an open, engaging and embracing woman does not mean she wants sex or that that’s the next step. Girls and boys need to be parented knowing this.
Intimacy is also being prepared to have the awkward or difficult conversations when they’re needed; many golden moments come out of an awkward beginning.
Moving onto a very modern day example. Women everywhere were appalled to hear about the Harvey Weinstein situation – we in fact know this is not isolated behaviour. But women, if we want men to change their behaviour, we as mothers, sisters, partners, work colleagues, daughters, friends, Women, we need to instigate and support that change by being more intimate with ourselves. It is us living in intimacy with ourselves that creates the wisdom of the mature (not in age but understanding) woman who says with every particle of her body that that behaviour is disrespectful and abrasive and that is not okay or going to happen with me.
What’s the point of having intimate relationships?
The real importance of intimacy is that it builds trust. Building intimacy in your self-relationship creates a deep level of trust in yourself. You then take that quality of trust to other people; so many people have lost trust, walking around fragmented and guarded, just waiting for when they’ll be hurt next.
Divine qualities are so beautiful and not allowing our self to express those qualities and not share them, we (all) suffer enormous pain. Allowing what it is that is at our very core to express through us is the gateway to feeling exquisite intimacy in the body. The more and more we learn to express our own divine qualities in our individual self-relationship, the more we build intimate relationships with every one.
Your divine qualities are actually for other people. Your responsibility is simply to go there first and realise them and live them, but once there, they become just who you are, and then you living and emanating those qualities becomes what everyone else benefits from and because of.We are able to get so much value and quality within our relationships when they are relationships of clarity, richness and openness. One can’t look at a person doing this without a level of awe and inspiration because a woman living like this is simply delightful!
“You can’t help but get pulled by a person who is open in relationships! You just can’t be abrupt with someone
who is that free.” Gabrielle Caplice
Where to from here?
Be prepared to see that the mould we’ve been delivered is not it for it does not present what intimacy really is. Then be prepared to break the mould. Being intimate isn’t common; accept that you might be seen as different or odd because you live intimacy when others don’t.
We have an absolute responsibility to remain sensitive. In our sensitivity, we start with one or two qualities that are part of our essence, our core, that we can explore bringing out and sharing. It doesn’t have to be something big or be some huge change in your life; start small; you’ll likely find there are countless opportunities in a day to reveal a quality to people. This is what Getting Real in Relationships is all about.