Intimacy: What I Hope You Learn from My Breakup

A PARTING OF WAYS

My heart stopped when I realized who it was.

And then it felt like a knife had gone straight through it. I wanted to throw up and cry at the same time.

How could he?

Our relationship had only ended a few months previously, and now he was with someone else—and posting about it on my Instagram feed.

How could he?


It’s hard when you see someone you loved moving on. It hurts because you not only loved them, but also knew them . . . and that doesn’t just go away.

The reality is that (depending on the length and intensity of the relationship) you knew each other better than most people. You may have known their family, you may have known their greatest fears and their biggest frustrations, their hopes and dreams, their hurts and insecurities. You may have experienced their anger, their impatience, their gentleness, their sweetness, their weakness . . . you knew them.

And they knew you. The two of you were intimate.

This intimacy is what made the parting of ways (and his moving on) so painful. He knew me and he left. How could he?

If you’ve had this experience or one similar, you know how much it hurts. It has helped me in the aftermath to understand what intimacy really is, and why it’s so important. As you’ll see, we cannot afford to lose the softness of heart that allows others to know us.

INTIMACY: THE BASICS

Often we associate intimacy with the physical aspect of a relationship, but that is only one layer of it. Reflecting the various elements of the human person, intimacy is also emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

The gift of being in a relationship is the intimacy that you develop with the other person. It is knowing them and being known by them. To know someone does not mean to have sex with them; it means to understand who they are as a unique, integrated being with thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, history, family, goals, and a body and soul combined.

What you are meant for is an unconditional love.

Friendship, dating someone, and marriage are a continual unveiling of the other person. It is discovering and being discovered by them over the course of a lifetime. It is this that makes relationships such a beautiful and challenging adventure. Beautiful because intimacy is wonderful and people are good, and challenging because we are all broken and have experienced hurt.

We crave this intimacy. It is embedded in our nature to be seen for who we really are (and not just who our various social media profiles say we are). The challenge with this is that, as much as we ache for this closeness, we are terrified of it in equal measure.

Intimacy, then, is a knowing, an understanding of the other as a person with a body, mind and soul and not merely an extension of yourself. It is this intimacy that allows us to be loved fully— and also what can make relationships terrifying.

THE RISK AND REWARD

You see, revealing yourself to others is also making yourself vulnerable to them. You are exposed and therefore susceptible to being hurt—or worst of all, being rejected.

When someone sees your innermost self—both the good and the . . . less good—it becomes possible for them to see you and say “This isn’t for me.”

So what is the benefit of intimacy? Why bother with it? Why should we even try to delve into relationships if the fallout can be so excruciating?

The unveiling of ones self is a gift to the other that demands to be treasured and cherished.

Over the past few months, it occurred to me that maybe this hurt is meant to indicate something. Maybe what you can take away from this pain is the same thing you can learn from the pain of a sore throat or a broken arm: this isn’t how it’s supposed to be . . . something is not right.

What you are meant for is an unconditional love. A love that sees you completely and accepts you without if’s or but’s. The extent to which you reveal yourself to someone is the extent to which they can love you. They can choose to love in spite of your hurts and struggles and pronounced imperfection. This unveiling of self is a gift to the other that demands to be treasured and cherished. It is not something that should be thrown away or treated carelessly.

The great suffering that can result from the end of an intimate relationship is indicative of its great value. As in my case, the intimacy that should have led to an even deeper love instead led to a walking away—and that is not okay. Love doesn’t make moves like that. Unfortunately our humanity works against us sometimes and prevents us from loving the way we should.

Deep love requires deep intimacy.

Intimacy, therefore, is a great risk—the fallout can wound deeply, and the payoff can heal immensely. Since the outcome is not guaranteed, we may feel tempted to avoid intimacy altogether. This is a mistake since the reward of intimacy is everything: to love and be loved.

THE CALL

Because of this, intimacy isn’t something to be avoided at all costs, rather it is something to be given great value and so treated with immense care. This is what we were made for: to love and be loved. And deep love requires deep intimacy.

My temptation (and maybe yours) after the relationship ended, after he left, and even now that he has decided to love someone else, is to shut down. To lock the door to my heart, close the blinds and place a “no trespassing” sign outside front and center.

But intimacy bids me (and you) to do the opposite.

Our calling to be loved, and therefore to be known, insists that I mourn, I grieve, and then, in time, slowly crack open the door to let someone in again when they come knocking.

Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow or even this year. But one day.

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