We all have that in-built need to belong, to love and be loved. We all long for intimacy and belonging.
Experiencing the feelings of love and intimacy can be the most wonderful but also the most heartbreaking moments in your life. The longing and need for intimacy are part of life for everyone.
These longings can be even stronger if you’re troubled by the feeling that you don’t “belong”.
A great deal has been written about insecure romantic love in recent years: the desperate longing many people feel for an intimate connection, the repeated and often futile efforts to find that connection, the emotional turmoil and jealousy that occur along the way, or the painful experience of depression that may follow.
People can experience love in more than one way. Those insecure about romantic attachments have past experiences in childhood or in romantic involvements that have led them to fear rejection intensely. To cope with their fear, they adopt different strategies depending on what has worked for them in the past. Some try to reduce their anxiety by increasing the security they feel in their relationships.
These are the anxiously attached individuals. They cling to their partners or declare their passion in dramatic terms in an effort to elicit a reciprocal commitment.
While too much anxiety can be disabling, too little can make individuals insufficiently motivated to make contact and adjust to another person’s wishes or insufficiently concerned about themselves or their partner.
Similarly, some degree of attachment is essential in a mature, committed love relationship.
It’s reasonable to think often about a loved one and to feel bound to that person’s fate, but not to be so driven by obsessive fantasies or dependency as to be incapable of living life independently.
Discovering real love means discovering the joy and pain that goes with it. Our first relationships can be both wonderful and awful. From these experiences we learn what we are looking for in a lifetime partner. Along the way we need to make decisions about how we want our relationships to be so we don’t stuff things up for the future.
Love and sex
The media often gives the message that having sex is essential to a relationship and will bring a couple closer. Will it? Sex can be a wonderful part of a real love relationship, but of itself the act of having sex does not remove a person’s feelings of loneliness or lack of belonging. Sex does not and cannot replace love.
True intimacy is emotional closeness. Physical closeness (like sex) can happen without any love or intimacy at all. Sadly, it’s easy to mistake sex for emotional intimacy and feel deep hurt and regret afterwards.
Popular culture gives the impression everyone is having sex and those who aren’t are losers. It’s important to make decisions based on a sense of your worth and dignity as a person, and not what advertisers, porn sites and television writers say you are worth.
Infatuation and love
Infatuation – it’s the crazy feeling of being so into someone you can’t think about anything else – their looks, every word they’ve spoken, what they wore.
You can even be infatuated with someone you’ve never met, like a movie star or rock singer.
Infatuation is fun. It adds some magic to life and makes everyday things special but it isn’t what makes a relationship work. A lasting relationship grows and changes as the individuals in it grow and change.
To cope with change, a relationship has to be grounded in more than infatuation. Being able to judge whether your feelings are real love can be difficult when emotions are running high.
Questions that you might ask of your relationship include:
Respect – Does the other person listen when you speak? Does he/she know the things that are most important to you and vice versa? Do you freely share opinions? Would you like your partner as a person if you weren’t going with them?
Equality – What do you do together as shared interests? Do you share each other’s friends? Do you take it in turns to decide what you do and who with?
Affection – Are there any signs of affection or kindness apart from sexual activity?
Loyalty – Is the other person loyal to you regardless of what his/her friends think and do? Ever heard stories back?
Liberation – Do you have someone to turn to apart from this person? Do you still see other friends?
What is the future of your education and other life goals if this relationship continues?
Openness – Do you and your partner feel free to express negative feelings of guilt, anger, depression? Do you and the other person freely express positive feelings of love and affection?
Vigour – Is the intensity of the relationship one sided? Do you see your partner as a friend?
Enrichment – Do you like the way you act whilst in this relationship? Do you believe that you have matured in it?
When you and your partner are open and honest with each other, it’s amazing how close you can feel – that’s the beginning of true love and intimacy.