“My husband and I are so close,” claimed Catherine during one of our sessions. Yet during my conversations with her husband, he said that the two of them have constant conflict. He is ever uncomfortable regarding her always adjusting her self to “take care of” him, like providing a service. He resents her over-dependency on him for approval and self-acceptance. She’s unable to be in a relationship with him in another way. She lives in his personal space.
Closeness and intimacy are not the same. Spouses, family members, or friends who have excessive, unhealthy closeness stop “seeing” each other. In the case of Catherine, she could not know and experience her husband’s disconnection from her. How could she have missed that when she feels “so close” to him? In short, she claims “closeness” when upon examination, this “closeness” does not offer health to her or her husband.
Patrick Malone, author of “The Art Of Intimacy,” explains: “Closeness is what you feel and experience with another in the shared space. If the other is immensely more important, yours is not a healthy closeness, and you have a problem.” This is to say that there needs to be a balance in how much each gives in a relationship. One who gives too much is out of balance. Unhealthy closeness causes one to be psychologically and emotionally neurotic when with the other.
In repairing intimacy, therefore, two people don’t merge as “one self.” Rather two separate selves choose to relate to and nourish each other. Intimacy enriches the relationship. It honors and cultivates individuality. Its accepting of differences, not enmeshed. It’s mutual rather than patronizing. People learn about and grow themselves when intimate in ways that mere closeness cannot.
Intimacy is an essential aspect of true love. True love depends on the balanced interaction between “being close” and “being intimate” in our relationships.