Intimacy means self-revelation.
In other words, intimacy requires self-revelation. Which means if you think you are in an intimate relationship but you are hiding parts of yourself (whether due to immaturity, trust issues, psychopathology, or for fear of your partner’s disapproval [meaning, you’d just rather not have to deal with that sort of friction and scrutiny], and not due to an abusive partner), then you’re not really in a truly intimate relationship. What you’re in is a pseudo-intimate relationship. You’re just playing around at having a relationship, and what you’re really doing is hiding out in a relationship, playing it safe, avoiding yourself and life and using another person as a temporary safe harbor in the process (“any port in the storm”). You do not love the other person, because when you love another, the other person becomes an end in themselves, essential and unique and irreplaceable and indisposable to you, not a means or a tool or a prop to be temporarily used or ridden by you in your own self-avoidance and roundabout self-anesthetizing and self-medicating and then disposed of or blithely and cavalierly and self-centeredly moved on from. That’s not love at all. That’s strip-mining or exploiting another, no matter how prettily you may try to cover it over and deceive yourself. Real intimacy requires real investment, recognizing that the other person is unique and irreplaceable, and then investing yourself deeply and tangibly by revealing yourself, warts and all, to the other person (but trying to get your warts under control chiefly by first trying to outgrow them, of course).
Real (or intimate) love requires self-revelation. There’s no two ways about it. If you’re in a relationship and you’re not revealing all parts of yourself (“all parts of the buffalo”), then you’re not really “in” a relationship, you’re only partially in a relationship and what you’re doing is you’re trying to hide out from life and from the ugly and immature and sick/pathological parts of yourself in a relationship. Just as some perverts and deviants enter into the ministry in an attempt to hide from their pathology, so too some people enter into “intimate” relationships as a way of trying to hide from themselves—and life.
Because intimacy requires self-revelation—deep, penetrating, piercing, poignant self-revelation—it first of all requires having a self—an integrated, organized, growing and maturing self of some real depth and substance.
And it requires knowing this self—it requires knowing and understanding yourself. This is not another person’s job—to understand you and to do this for you, in place of you. because you don’t understand yourself. Rather, it’s your job to deeply and legitimately understand and penetrate yourself—to the core—as deeply as possible, to figure yourself out, to get healthy and real with yourself, to know why you are the way you are and why you do the things you do. And in all likelihood, you are not an absolute. You are who you are because of the things that happened to you in childhood—the way that you were raised, the love you were either shown and given, or the love you were not shown and not given, but instead the inconsistency and pathology and screwiness and capriciousness that you were shown and treated to. If you don’t know who you are and how you came to be that way—your conditioning, the effects of your upbringing—then you are not yet eligible for a real (or an intimate) relationship. Real intimacy requires and is based on self-understanding, self-knowledge—which means it’s one of the fruits of an “examined life” or that level of intimacy with oneself, that degree of practice and habit of connecting deeply and meaningfully and psychotherapeutically with oneself. If you don’t truly know who you are as a person (or at least have a pretty good idea of this by now) and what you stand for and what is essential to you in life, then you don’t have a self. And you aren’t eligible for a real (or intimate) relationship. Because if you don’t understand and know yourself—and if you don’t know or haven’t learned how to know and understand and penetrate yourself and be open with yourself—then how will you be able to understand and know and penetrate another? Put another way, a knack for self-examination and self-confronting and a thirst for self-knowledge—intimacy with oneself—are a prerequisite for intimacy with another. If you aren’t intimate with yourself—honest and open with yourself about your deepest fears and hopes and wants and why you are the way you are—then you won’t be able to be truly deeply intimate with another in a sustained and abiding (truly loving) way; at best, the other person will prove to be a brief fascination and temporary curiosity, a passing fad. And, moreover, if you aren’t intimate with yourself emotionally and psychologically—accustomed to examining yourself and how you interface with the world around you—then you’ll have little of substance to share with another on an ongoing basis. As Thoreau put it, “Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are.” If you’re not leading an examined and psychologically self-intimate life, then you’re living a life of stale cheese. Before you can be truly intimacy with another you have to first come to know yourself really well.
Furthermore, real intimacy entails that you reveal or freely share this self—yourself, this self that you deeply know—with another. Thus real intimacy requires being honest and transparent with another. Which means that real intimacy requires real grit, courage, inner stamina, goodness. As Schnarch put it, “real intimacy is not for the faint of heart or psyche.” It’s not for wussies and for people who want guarantees, have a habit of routinely playing it safe, taking the path of least resistance and most avoidance, and who basically have a lot of anxiety and avoidance issues and can’t handle stress (read: real life). Real intimacy requires or means being able to stand on your own two feet psychologically, emotionally, and “being known”—standing on your own two feet (meaning with no support from mommy and daddy and coddling friends) and saying to another, “This is who I am—in my depths, this is who I am as a human being” as opposed to “this is how I just happen to feel at the moment, but given another five minutes or two days, my feelings will change, and so how I will feel then (and thus who I will be then) will change.” Real intimacy cannot be based on something as superficial and random and epiphenomenalistic and surfacy as simply a sharing of feelings or sharing of thoughts based on the feelings or reactions of the moment. Real intimacy requires something more. It requires something more organized and consistent and less reactive and accidental and externally determined. It requires depth, an organized core self based on a series of well-thought-out values and life principles and convictions that one has reality-tested and fought for and gone through the trials for and self-examined honestly and psychotherapeutically and has forged into one’s character or core. And then it requires sharing this depth of personhood with another who can reciprocate from his or her own similar depths/core.
Real (or mature) love requires self-scrutiny and questioning oneself. When you genuinely love another person you will invariably find yourself frequently asking yourself “Am I really loving well enough this person I claim to love? Am I showing him or her enough love and communicating that love in a way that is healthy and that he or she understands and finds meaningful?” (Meaning are you speaking the other person’s love language fairly fluently and proficiently by now?)
When you have “fallen in love” and made the mistake of confusing love with a feeling, you won’t find yourself asking “Am I loving this person well enough?” Instead, you find yourself asking frequently “Is this person loving me well enough?” and you will find yourself trying to figure out how to get more love (read: good feelings, emotional intoxication and exhilaration) from the other—how to get more of the other person’s affection, warmth, attention, hot sex, emotional influx, so that you will feel better, more supported, more alive, more high/intoxicated, in short, more “loved.” But as long as this is extremely slanted or one-sided/one-way and not mutual and reciprocated—meaning what you want to receive is balanced with or equalled to what you are actually giving—then none of this is even close to real love, rather it’s immature or teenage love because it puts the horse before the cart, feelings or input first, and basically it shows the person who is doing such things to be an emotional vampire or parasite or life-sucker.
Real (or mature) love is not based on having a psychological or emotional deficit temporary filled or covered over and feeling elated over this sudden biochemical windfall of lust and infatuation and “wow, I can’t believe this person loves me and finds me attractive and worthy” et cetera-ness. Real love is not based on a rush of relief and intoxication and giddiness like this. Real love is not based primarily on how another person makes you feel. In fact, basing a relationship on how another person makes you feel dooms another and the relationship.
Rather, real (or mature) love is based on who you are as a person and how you define yourself and what you do for another—how you treat another, how much care you have for another, how you show and manifest that care for another, how much responsibility you take for your actions and treatment of another, how much love and warmth and affection and wisdom and consistency and generosity and appreciation and sometimes even self-sacrifice (read also: self-discipline and self-extension) you display in your treatment of another. In other words, real love asks the question—and asks it frequently—that immature or pseudo-love does not ask, namely: “Am I really loving well enough this person who I claim to love?” The proof of the genuineness or falseness of our love is in the presence or lack of self-scrutiny, meaning whether or not we question ourselves as to how loving we are being towards those we claim to love and whether we are day in and day out improving our capacity to love those around us—listening better and more attentively, taking them (and our own life) less for granted, showing them more warmth and affection and attentiveness and appreciation and gratitude, improving our understanding and empathy, and realizing more vitally how fragile and fleeting we all are.