Dance of Intimacy

by Tonya Ladipo

Recently I’ve worked with some clients who are struggling to be emotionally intimate and also maintain a separateness from their loved one. I’ve seen this struggle with friendships, intimate partnerships, and even in the parent-child relationship.

For some, having the As simple as it may seem, the first step is acknowledging the struggling.understanding of their struggle can begin to unlock and release it. I recently had dinner with some girlfriends and we were discussing how to be present and connected with our children while at the same time prepare for them to leave and go into their own world.

Since the conversation I’ve experienced a shift in my relationship with my children. I have less worry and sadness about them “leaving” and instead find myself enjoying this dance of intimacy. I can be close and present with them but also separate and apart from them as is necessary and appropriate.

Other times more than acknowledgment of the struggle is needed. “Maria” and her boyfriend “Marcus” spend so much time together that it interferes with their other relationships. They say that they feel very close to each other and don’t want anything to get in their way. I worked with them to help them see the benefits of having other relationships in their lives. In addition to fulfilling their needs, emotional closeness with others also helped their own partnership.

Marcus and Maria had to take deliberate measures to separate from each other while still feeling an emotional connection. First, they scheduled time away from each other on a regular basis. They could be with friends or spend time alone but they could not always be together.

Second, they created ways to “say goodbye” before these short periods of time apart and they also found ways to reconnect after the time apart. They practiced being separate, in a healthy way, while maintaining the closeness of their emotional and intimate relationship.

Finally, they made a commitment to each other and to themselves that they would support the other in developing and maintaining other relationships. When Maria wanted to stay home with Marcus rather than go to dinner with her friends, Marcus was very encouraging and supportive of her going out. He reminded her of the importance of her friends and that he would still be there for her when she returned.

What do you do to stay emotionally connected to people while also having some separateness from them?

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