Still

Though unspoken, they both knew that after 38 years of marriage their time together would soon draw to an end. Despite the valiant war she waged the cancer had overtaken every aspect of her being and we all knew she would not be with us when the morning came. We moved her into the family room as she requested, so she could be among her children and grandchildren, not tucked far away from them in a corner bedroom.

My father knelt beside her. Thinking he was simply bathing her (a task I myself had performed every day over the course of that week), I began to tidy up the nearby kitchen. He raised her left hand and kissed her wedding band. He began to bathe her hand, her arm, her shoulder. He stroked her hair, over and over. She was much calmer, and her breathing that had been so labored in the previous minutes seemed to become less difficult. She turned her face toward him…they were only inches apart from one another.

They did not speak. Their gaze locked onto one another. His hand lingered over her shoulder, then moved toward her chest. Through her entire illness, I had never seen her shed one tear, until now. His hand did not move. I could only imagine what each of them was thinking.

Were they remembering, were they longing? Yearning? Were they aching in anticipation of separation?

Was he trying to memorize her? She, him?

It suddenly dawned on me what was taking place just a few feet away from me. I hurriedly left the room, allowing them to be alone for the last time.

To the casual observer, the scene unfolding may have appeared to a be a sponge bath from a loving caregiver for his dying wife. But it was so much more than that.

What I was witnessing was a most tender act of love making.

Photo Credit: Man met bril (Flikr.com)

Intimacy Phobia: What is Your Score?

“Our fear of intimacy…inspires ingenious ways of avoiding it.”

Intimacy requires that we unmask ourselves and become vulnerable and risk rejection. Because of this, many people fear intimacy.

Do you find that you’re afraid to establish and maintain close relationships with other people, or that you put up walls or barriers that prevent people from getting too emotionally close to you?

Have you ever found yourself having many friendships–but avoiding one close personal relationship with someone?

Do you ever become over involved in work or use work as an excuse not to hang out with others? Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wow, it’s been ________ days and other than work/class, I haven’t really had any contact with anyone.” ?

If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, you may have a fear of intimacy.

But what exactly is it that people are afraid of? Fear of intimacy comes in many forms and can manifest itself in any of the following ways:

  • Fear of failure: What if this relationship doesn’t work out?
  • Fear of being vulnerable: Is it worth subjecting myself to hurt and emotional pain?
  • Fear of rejection: I’ve been rejected before, I can’t go through that again.
  • Fear of being smothered in the relationship: What if I lose my identity?
  • Fear of sex? What if he/she disapproves of my body?
  • Fear of losing someone we love: What happens if I fall in love and he/she breaks up with me?
  • Fear of abandonment: What if he/she leaves me alone?
  • Fear of being “found out”: He/she will find out who I really am and won’t love me anymore. No one can possibly love me because of all of my flaws

Are you afraid to be intimately close with another person? Take the intimacy phobia quiz here to find out your intimacy score. Be sure to save your results and to share them with your partner!

© Kelly J. Welch, Family Life Now (2/e). Boston: Pearson Education

Photo Credit: e v e n (flickr.com)

Are You Capable of Intimacy? Take Your Intimacy Quiz!

Although intimacy is thought to be an inborn, innate drive and that all of us need intimacy in order to survive, some people are just better at giving and receiving intimacy than others are.

This is because, just as with your love map, your intimacy map develops as a result of your relational life experiences. In other words, who you are as a relational, intimate person is the result of every relationship you’ve ever had in your life—from your parents, to your friends in grade school, to your high school peers and buddies, to your college friends, to every positive and negative hook up or sexual relationship you’ve ever had.

Your intimacy map has been created over time. This is why intimacy doesn’t always come easily to everyone—and why it’s essential that your love partner knows as much about your relational background as you are comfortable sharing.

In fact, most of the time establishing and maintaining a close personal relationship with another person requires a lot of hard work. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that if you find yourself having to work at your relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong or that you’ve chosen the wrong partner.

If you desire someone to openly, honestly, and completely share with you, you have to be willing to be open and honest about your needs and desires. This is the only way the seeds of intimacy will have a chance to flourish and thrive!

Do you get it?

Hectic lifestyles support and promote hectic relationships!

In the drive for “the car, the condo, and our version of success,” we are what Brad Pitt calls a society of desperate and lonely people. He refers to this feeling of meaninglessness as a sense of weakness, an inability, an incapacity.

An incapacity for what? Relating? Belonging? Emotionally bonding? Human connection?

As you take that step that brings you to reveal, share, and disclose your innermost personal thoughts and feelings, as you lower the barriers and allow someone to really know you, you begin the process of intimacy.

Are you capable of giving and receiving intimacy?  Take the quiz hereto find out how emotionally intimate you are. Is your relationship intimacy solid, or do you have some trouble spots?

© Kelly J. Welch, Family Life Now (2/e). Boston: Pearson Education.

Photo Credit: Hamed Masoumi (flickr.com)

When You Say Intimacy, I Think of…..Create Your Intimacy Pie

What does it mean to have an “intimate” relationship? And what do you think the one factor is that seems to deepen your intimacy experiences with your partner more than anything else? Can you pinpoint intimacy components in your relationship? Do you know if your intimacy map is similar to your love partner’s?

Because intimacy is so vital to the health and longevity of relationships, researchers have been studying what “intimacy” is for years. Of course, everyone’s definitions of intimacy are different, because just like your love map and sex script, your intimacy map is built over time…as your experiences change, so does your meaning of intimacy.

Are you ready to build your intimacy map? Put the Snuggie on, crank up your Pandora, and settle in…this is a lengthy one, but oh so very well worth the effort you put into it!

Think of 10 things that you would consider vital to developing and maintaining intimacy with your lover.

I’ll help get you started, here’s what researchers have identified as key components of intimacy. You can choose from these, you can tweek them, you can add more:

  • Self-disclosure: The voluntary sharing of something personal or private.
  • Humor: Helps to keep things in perspective, and in doing so, brings couples closer together.
  • Affection: Expressing and showing feelings of love and tenderness.
  • Sex: Being able to communicate sexual needs, wants, and desires, fulfilling the partner’s sexual needs, wants, and desires.
  • Cohesion: Each partner’s sense of the level of commitment in the relationship.
  • Trust: The level of confidence, belief, faith, and hope held for the lover partner.
  • Compatibility: The sense of comfort each partner feels when they are together; how well the couple relates to each other, how well they work together, how well they play together.
  • Conflict resolution: How couples manage inevitable conflicts and differences of opinion.
  • Spirituality: Shared religious beliefs are known to intensify intimacy between partners.
  • Respect: The level of value and admiration for each other; how well each partner shows consideration of the other.
  • Personal validation: The reinforcement that the partner is worthy of love, devotion, and affection.
  • Emotional (nonverbal) communication: The ability of each partner to “decode” their lover’s nonverbal/emotional cues; as intimacy deepens, couples become more skilled at this.
  • Love: Feelings of connectedness, being bonded to one another, an intense emotional connection.
  • Friendship: Liking each other, hanging out with each other.
  • Desirability: Longing to be in the presence of the other in times of absence.
  • Intellectual: Connecting on intellectual levels.
  • Jealousy: Envious, perhaps resentful, when someone or something takes the attention of your lover away from you.
  • Identity: Being able to maintain separate, unique identities; to not lose individuality in the identity of the couple.
  • Expressiveness: Freely allowing the partner to share and disclose their most personal thoughts and feelings.

Now the tough part!  Click hereto build your intimacy map! If you need instructions, go to ** at the bottom of this page.

Each partner should create an intimacy chart. Be sure to share your charts with each other!

Why is all of this so important? Why is it so important to share your results with your partner?

Because if ANY component from your intimacy map is missing in your relationship, your satisfaction as a couple will be greatly diminished!

On the other hand, if you work to discover—from the very beginning of your relationship—what factors of intimacy are important to one another and how you each experience intimacy in different ways, then you have removed tremendous barriers to achieving a great relationship!

**INSTRUCTIONS:

1.Click on “pie”

2.Click on “data” (upper right hand corner marked by red arrow)

3.Title your graph (I titled mine “My Intimacy Map”)

4.Select the number of pie slices—how many components comprise “intimacy” to you? (I have 10 in my chart)

5.Label each pie slice (“Trust,” “Respect,” etc)

6.Assign a value for each (how important is each one to you? For example, is “Trust” 20% of your intimacy map? 30%? You determine the value for each component.)

7.Click on “preview” (upper right hand tab)

8.Click on “print” (upper right hand tab)

© Kelly J. Welch, Family Life Now (2 ed). Boston: Pearson Publishing

Photo Credit: “Intimacies” by Ferran (flickr.com)

Everybody’s Searchin’ for Intimacy

We are relational creatures—we need to be with other people. Even Aristotle once observed that people who don’t want to be emotionally connected to others are either “a beast or a god.”

Yep–everybody’s searchin’ for intimacy. Everybody’s hurtin’ for intimacy.

 

The word intimacy comes from the Latin word intimus, which means inner or internal, to come from within a person. In my field of family studies, we use the term to refer to an emotional closeness, mutual trust, and comfortable levels of self-disclosure shared between love partners.

And intimacy doesn’t just benefit you as a couple and your relationship. Unlike any other aspect of a love and/or sexual relationship, intimacy meets your crucial individual psychological needs…it actually promotes your own well-being and psychological health.

Through frequent, intimate communication in which your talks include personal sharing, listening, and understanding, your individual psychological needs are met by way of your relationship with your partner! As you self-disclose and share, and as your partner responds positively to your disclosures, your emotional bond to each other is strengthened and deepened—and so is your love for one another.

Developing intimacy is a process, and because it’s a process it means that it will change over time—not might, not maybe, not probably, not possibly.

Intimacy. Will. Change. Over. Time.

<Insert Realistic Relationship Expectation Here>

The intimacy you have today will not—should not (!!!)—be the same 5 years from now or 10 or 20 years from now. Just as your love matures and changes over time, so will your intimacy levels.

As you get to know your partner better, you begin to self-disclose your thoughts and feelingsThis leads to greater sharing of personal vulnerabilities and fears and hopes and dreams and wishesWhich even further deepens your levels of trustWhich gives you the freedom to share even more and moreWhich ultimately creates your own unique, private relational culture.

And that, my friends, is what divorce/affair proofs your relationship!

Oh, creating and maintaining this intimacy culture is tough work, there’s no doubt about that! This is why, when kids come on the scene—and  we’re so busy tending to their needs and driving them over half of hell’s acre to get them where they need to be—most relationships experience a huge dip in relationship satisfaction.

But your relationship doesn’t have to be “average.” You don’t have to experience that nose-dive, OMG-are-we-ever-going-to-pull-out-of-this unhappiness.

It takes work, though. Are you ready to commit to what it takes?

Start by filling out this intimacy inventory. Each partner fills this out on his/her own time…once this is done, get together (away from LIFE!!) in a quiet setting and discuss your answers with each other.

Save your responses, because over the next several weeks we’re going to build on this information and then begin to weave it into what you already know about marriage scripts, love maps, and sex scripts!

And…there’s a surprise twist at the end. You don’t want to miss it!

Photo Credit: “Affection” by Colby Cash (flickr.com)

Couple Challenge: Your Intimacy Needs

All forms of intimacy develop over time, and keeping that intimacy once it’s developed requires nurturing attention to the relationship. Print this off and fill in your answers to the questions, have your partner do the same.
Get together in a quiet setting and talk about your answers together.
When we are emotionally close, I feel _____________________________.
I would describe our intellectual closeness as ___________________________.
As far as intimacy in our relationship is concerned, I am most satisfied when ________________________________________________________.
I am least comfortable about our relationship when ______________
_______________________________________________________.
When you express your emotions and feelings, it makes me __________
______________________________________________________________.
When you express physical closeness, it makes me _______________
____________________________________________________________.
Spiritual closeness is ______________________________________________.
When I experience intimacy with you, I feel ____________________________.
When I am with you, my individuality is _________________________________.
Some people resist intimacy. This makes me think _____________________
__________________________________________________________________.
When I reveal my innermost thoughts, feelings, emotions, and fears to you, I expect __________________________________________________.
When you reveal your innermost thoughts, feelings, emotions, and fears to me, it makes me __________________________________________________.
Intimately relating with you might carry a risk of rejection. The possibility of being rejected by you makes me feel ________________________________.
In general, I am trusting of others. This makes me ______________________.
In general, I am not trusting of others. This makes me ____________________.
If I were to sum up the role of intimacy in my life, I would say it is
__________________________________________.
© Kelly J. Welch, Family Life Now (2nd ed). Boston: Pearson Education.

Photo Credit: Mag3737 (flickr.com)

Cover of the Rolling Stone: Intimacy

Brad Pitt: I know all these things are supposed to seem important to us—the car, the condo, our version of success—but if that’s the case, why is the general feeling out there reflecting more impotence and isolation and desperation and loneliness?

If you ask me, I say toss all this—we gotta find something else. Because all I know is that at this point in time, we are heading for a dead-end, a numbing of the soul, a complete atrophy of the [human] being. And I don’t want that.

Rolling Stone: So if we’re heading toward this kind of…dead-end in society what do you think should happen?

Brad Pitt: Hey man, I don’t have those answers yet. [My] emphasis now is on success and personal gain. I’m sitting in [success and wealth], and I’m telling you, that’s not it. I’m the guy who’s got everything. I know.

But I’m telling you, once you’ve got everything, then you’re just left with yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it doesn’t help you sleep any better, and you don’t wake up any better because of it.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Attachmentis a developmental phase that we never outgrow.

Our experiences with early attachment relationships to our parents become the foundation on which all future love relationships are built—both our ability to love others, and to allow others to love us in return.

There are different classifications of adult love relationships:

·Secure attachment types: Like securely attached infants, secure adults have little difficulty seeking and maintaining closeness (physical, emotional, affectional) with another. They don’t fear being abandoned or losing their partner. They allow others to get close to them and depend on them. They experience enduring, happy, warm, trusting relationships.

·Avoidant attachment types: Avoidant types feel as though they never find “real” love. They are uncomfortable when too emotionally or physically close to another person. They show discomfort with intimacy and are hesitant to trust others. They find it difficult to allow themselves to depend on others.

·Anxious/ambivalent attachment types: Insecurity is the hallmark of this adult attachment type—it is not a matter of if a romantic partner leaves them, but when. With the constant fear or worry that the partner isn’t really in love with them, anxious/ambivalent adults cling to their partner and push for commitment. They may also withdraw and pull away before they get rejected.

What is your adult attachment style?  Take the quiz here!

Now that you have an understanding of your attachment type, reflect on how this understanding of “love” affects your marriage or your intimate relationship.

In what ways does this help you to better understand and appreciate your love map? How does it help you to better understand and appreciate your partner’s unique love map?



Photo Credit: Northern Star (flickr.com)

Boobless But Not Broken

It’s Pinktober. That most wonderful time of the year, National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The time of year when you can’t find a roll of white toilet paper at Target, much less an orange M&M or an Oreo with white icing.

That time of year where people everywhere remind people everywhere else that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.

To be perfectly pinkly correct, I thought it might be a good idea to take a little detour to share something with you about my life. But as I sit here and think about it, we’re not really going off course at all….because what I have to share with you is as much about love, intimacy, sex, and relationships as it is anything else.

I’m the boobless girl behind the pink ribbons.

Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with DCIS, an intraductal breast carcinoma. I was 36-years-old. At the time I had four boys all under the age of 12, and I had just begun work on my PhD. And just two years prior to my diagnosis, I buried my mother who died of cancer (at the age of 57). Her sister died from breast cancer at the age of 39, her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 52, and a cousin, diagnosed with breast cancer just a few months after me, died at the age of 43.

Talk about a crappy roll of the genetic dice.

Ironically, it all started on a perfectly pink October day. And once it started, it was a runaway train…..

I found a lump and went to the doctor and he said “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, I’m the doctor and I’ll do the worrying for you, come see me in 6 months,” and I thought “You’re crazy, I just buried my mom you [expletive], I’m not waiting!” so I found another doctor and [skip forward about 4 months of maaaaaaany tests and scans and needles and oh-so-painful biopsies but I still needed to be a good parent and an “A” student and a good little Christian who counted it all joy] she said, “Come into the kiss and cry room and I’ll give you the dreaded diagnosis, the diagnosis I know you know is coming because you saw my face when I drew the fluid out of your breast,” and so Dave and I sat in the low-lit room that had nothing but a box of Kleenex on the table, and we looked at each other and knew and she came in and said, “Both breasts need to be removed immediately to save your life!” and she expected us to cry but we didn’t even need the Kleenex because we were so dumbfounded and confused nothing made any sense so there were no tears and she explained how the breasts that fed all of my babies and gave my husband and I so much pleasure would be “removed” and how the surgical “procedure” would take about 12 hours and how the treatments would start about 4 weeks after the “procedure” and I had the “procedure” and the pain was indescribable and parenting and loving and living with 12 glass drain tubes and two IVs and 100s of stitches was ridiculously unbearable and insanely hilarious all at the same time and like every woman who had cancer before me, and every woman who has had or will have it since me, we took it minute by minute and sometimes we were incredibly strong and other times we were incredibly weak but we did it.

Whew.  We did it.  And that’s what Pinktober is all about.

Boobless, but not broken.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll share what we learned about love through the process.
Kelly
(Which, ironically, in Gaelic means “Warrior Princess.” In breast cancer survivor speak it means “bad ass”!!!)

Who Wrote Your Love Map?

A critical step in creating a long-lasting, satisfying marriage is exploring the path that guided the development of your love behaviors and patterns.

When it comes to love and loving, we all come into this world as blank slates.  Over time, each of us “loves” in certain, established ways because our past experiences always influence/shape/direct our present experiences. So–who are the authors of your love map?

You can create an instant snapshot of your family’s love and relationship history by creating a genogram:

1. Sketch out the family you were raised in: Use squares to represent males and circles to represent females.

2. Map out relationship dynamics: By using symbols (such as, ……. , used to denote an emotionally distant or indifferent relationship), you can map out the emotional connections between family members. Your genogram can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. The idea is to get an at-a-glance understanding of your partner’s and your own relational histories. This site helps you to create your genogram. (At first it might look a little intimidating–don’t let this freak you out! Again, you can make your genogram as detailed or as simple as you want).

3. Identify the authors of your love map: Looking at your genogram, identify those who are the most influential people in your family history. When it comes to love, loving, and intimate relationships, who are the most positive influences in your family history? The most negative?

4. Share your genogram with your partner: For most of us, this is the toughest part of creating a genogram. Partners are oftentimes afraid to disclose these types of things, because it leaves them feeling vulnerable to rejection or scoffing—especially if they experienced hurtful, abusive, shameful, or conditional love relationships in their past.

Have you ever given any thought about why you love the way you do? From your genogram, were you able to identify positive influences you’d like to continue to carry on? Are there any negative influences you hope never to repeat?

Feel free to email me if you want to talk about your genogram!
Photo Credit: Grunge Textures (flickr.com)