Ever since I can remember, I have longed for true love, for unbridled romance and intimacy, for a mate that understands and accepts but also challenges. I was a loving kid. Most kids are. I can remember crying to Fievel and his sister’s song “Somewhere Out There” in the cartoon classic American Tail. As a small child I understood that love and connection were so important and so difficult to lose.
It’s easy for a child to trust and to love. They are keenly aware of what most adults forget: We cannot escape our vulnerable need of others. The expression of this need comes naturally when you’re small and innocent and haven’t been knocked down by life yet. Life has a way of being hard and knocking the ease out of love.
I’ve worked hard to understand how to return to a state where love is easy. That journey has been long and difficult for me. And it continues. Every time I see a new couple in therapy, I learn something else about how intimacy and love work. My clients’ love for each other never ceases to amaze me and remind me of how easy it is to become so mired in the difficulties of life and forget love’s ease.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my clients so far is that “Love is easy. It’s intimacy that’s so hard.” And love cannot grow without intimacy. Intimacy challenges us to grow too. Loving someone else is easy to do. Growing is never easy.
To grow is to be vulnerable, scared, stressed, frustrated, stuck, traumatized, and powerless. Growing is looking your lover in the face and saying, “I’m not sure I’m where I need to be” or “This isn’t working” or “We need to see a therapist”. Vulnerability is telling the truth even if it hurts and finding a way through the pain to grab a hold of intimacy. Intimacy is always on the other side of vulnerability. That’s why it’s so hard. It’s easy to love someone. It’s hard to be vulnerable and intimate with them.
If you’re struggling to feel close to your partner, your love is not the problem. Chances are, even as difficult as your relationship may be right now, you love each other very much. Your problem is that your struggle with vulnerability is overwhelming you before you reach the feelings of connection that come from intimacy.
I’m writing this to you to say that I’ve watched some amazing couples who love each other beyond words struggle to be vulnerable. I’ve watched their marriages fall apart as they choose not to be vulnerable. And I’ve watched their relationships grow as they reach through the pain of vulnerability and grab ahold of true intimacy on the other side. It may not be easy, but it is possible.
This blog series that I’m beginning today will help chronicle the journey from overwhelm to intimacy that I help couples walk every day. It will also chronicle my own journey to understand how to be the best partner I can be. If you need immediate help, I hope you’ll reach out. At the very least, I hope you’ll read and gain something useful from these simple lessons my clients have taught me.
In the meantime remember: If love is easy (and it is), our love is not the problem. I am not the problem. You are not the problem. We’re simply struggling with what all humans struggle with – the vulnerability of intimacy. And we can learn that part. It’s just a matter of discovering that on the other side of pain lies the joy of being close.
Dr. Kinsey’s new series on relationship health is called the Joy of Being Close. In it he will explore the lessons his clients have taught him about intimacy, love, and romance.Schedule for Lee
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