Framing Intimacy

River

New member
"Framing Intimacy" is an odd title, I know. But I can't quickly think of a better title for what I hope to discuss.

I'm using the sense of the word "frame" which relates to linguistics, social science and political discourse (anthropology, etc.)... The basic idea is that words and concepts are imbedded in a larger field of words and concepts and meanings..., and therefore a fair bit of "metacommunication" is often necessary in communicating an idea, experience, perception, etc.

Oftentimes a word or idea or concept will be so nearly ubiqutous or popular that its framing will be taken for granted rather automatically by most people. Attempts to create an alternative frame in such situations can be quite challenging, both for the originator of the 'alternative' frame and also for the collaborators in communication. (Communication is always a collaborative art.)

I have something I'd like to talk about, but it is clear that there is no concise way to convey just what it is, because I'm utilizing a particular framing for "intimacy" which needs first to become explicit.

Were we all to just jump in here and talk about our thoughts and feelings about "intimacy," we'd likely discover rather shortly that we're not all applying the same "frame" for this word. Indeed, we may shortly discover that we're dealing with multiple frames with varying kinds and degrees of similarity and dissimilarity. "Intimacy" means different things to different people. It can also mean several differing things to the very same person!

But I'm not here to write an essay in the opening post. I hope for this to be a collaborative inquiry. So I'll just add a few more opening words and then open this up to conversation.

Most broadly, I want to explore and discuss intimacy -- the word and the experience. More narrowly, I'd also like to convey to the interested reader / participant my own tendency in framing intimacy.

Here are some initial hints of my own tendency in framing intimacy. This is the distilled version.:

I tend to think of intimacy (broadly) as "closeness" combined with affection and/or appreciation, warmth, kindness ... along with a willingness to be unguarded, and/or spontanious..., and "vulnerable".

I tend to think of intimacy in relation to knowledge, both in terms of familiarity / knowing and not-knowing. Not-knowing, here, has a sort of "zen" flavor. Not-knowing, here, does not refer to a lack of factual knowledge so much as a willingness to encounter the other/s with a sense of wonder and openness. Further, my tendency is to frame "intimacy" in light of my notion that we can't really be "intimate" (in this frame) without a sense of "wonder" and "mystery," a sense of one's self and the other as largely unknown (or even largely unknowable). Again, "knowledge" here is of the factual / cognitive sort -- which, arguably, is not the only kind of "knowing".

Obviouisly, this thread will be more of interest to the philosophically inclined.
 
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River

New member
I'm not going to be in the habit of multiple postings, but -- in the interest of inspiring conversation --, I'd like to say just a little more ... some words conveying some of the shape of what I want to enquire into.

In recent days/months/years I've noticed that I have a tendency to frame intimacy in such a way that sets me apart from people who frame it quite differently. This difference is oftentimes most obvious to me in relation to sexuality. My tendency to frame my own sexuality *as* a particular mode or expression of "intimacy" (as I tend to frame "intimacy") is oftentimes not the same framing others are providing (for themselves, with others).

Many people engage, for example, in "casual sex" with people whom they have no desire to explore or express "intimacy" (as I tend to frame it). And I have often wondered "where I am at" with the outward appearance of "casual sex". The outward appearance of "casual sex" is what the bodies are doing and ..., basically, for how long -- in the sense of whether they repeat the event, how often.... But I've concluded that it is the inward experience and attitude that's crucial for me, not the duration or repetition of the connection or association. Quality is, here, more crucial than quantity.

[The example of "casual sex" is intended only to mark a far end of one of several kinds in a spectrum, as I shall indicate over time.]

Okay, this should be enough for now. I could go on, but this is intended to be a conversation! ;)
 

NovemberRain

New member
chewy, this is a quite chewy thread. :D

Most broadly, I want to explore and discuss intimacy -- the word and the experience. More narrowly, I'd also like to convey to the interested reader / participant my own tendency in framing intimacy.

So, are you interested in others' frames as well? Or having the discussion within your frame?

Here are some initial hints of my own tendency in framing intimacy. This is the distilled version.:

I tend to think of intimacy (broadly) as "closeness" combined with affection and/or appreciation, warmth, kindness ... along with a willingness to be unguarded, and/or spontanious..., and "vulnerable".

I suffer quite a bit from thinking and wanting to think without being very specific or precise. I tend to think with my feelings (which I'm certain makes no sense at all, but I do that).

I tend to think of intimacy in relation to knowledge, both in terms of familiarity / knowing and not-knowing. Not-knowing, here, has a sort of "zen" flavor. Not-knowing, here, does not refer to a lack of factual knowledge so much as a willingness to encounter the other/s with a sense of wonder and openness. Further, my tendency is to frame "intimacy" in light of my notion that we can't really be "intimate" (in this frame) without a sense of "wonder" and "mystery," a sense of one's self and the other as largely unknown (or even largely unknowable). Again, "knowledge" here is of the factual / cognitive sort -- which, arguably, is not the only kind of "knowing".

I like that, and it works for me as a frame. I'm a little confused, you say it does not refer to lack of factual knowledge, and then you say knowledge is factual knowledge.

When I was a teen, I wasn't incredibly discriminating, and even more undisciplined in thought than i am now. Intimacy was what happened when clothes were off (or right before they came off). I subscribed to the notion of the 'one' and that he would be my everything. I quickly discovered that was a useless premise. And then I discovered girls.

What I am currently discovering is how amazingly deep I can feel, how close, and yet be so full of not-knowing my partners. I feel like they will be eternal mysteries to me, I will never fully know them; and that's one of the things that inspires me to continue.

It used to be frustrating, I felt I had to know, and I had to know everything, and right now, plz. Now, it's very okay (some days more than others) to not-know, and enjoy the anticipation of exploring and finding out.
 

River

New member
So, are you interested in others' frames as well? Or having the discussion within your frame?

Oh, yes, I'm definitely interested in other people's frames! And I'm interested in sharing my own frame/s, as well as introspecting about my own frame/s -- making it/these explicit. I used the phrase "tendency to frame" as I did because I recognize that I've got more than just one active frame in my mind/psyche. The one I call my "tendency" is the dominant one, and probably the one I'm most familiar with. I would also note that I prefer that frame to any others I'm aware of. So I suppose I'm fortunate, as it could have been that my cognitive framing and my emotional (etc.) experience were incongruent. For example, I could frame things as I do conceptually while, say, desiring a lot of "intimacy"-free sex with strangers whom I treat as objects. That would be highly incongruent.



I suffer quite a bit from thinking and wanting to think without being very specific or precise. I tend to think with my feelings (which I'm certain makes no sense at all, but I do that).

I think it is good that you are aware of this about yourself. It may be that you are somewhere near the low end of the "verbal spectrum," as I informally call it. A "high verbal" person (like myself) is a person who has developed verbal communication skills to a fairly high level. That is, they know a fair bit about how to translate or interpret experience in language. (Language, as I see it, is grounded in experience.)

Being low verbal is not anything to be ashamed of. Nor is it a permanent and unchangable condition. It just happens to be that some people are temperamentally inclined to develop their verbal skills/intelligence to a high level while others are more inclined to develop other skill sets which are not so much verbal.

Language is rarely "specific or precise," even when weilded by masters. But its masters understand this, and so don't expect or demand the sorts of precision which are inappropriate to the available tools. That said, it can be extremely helpful to try using language to convey one's thinking -- both to one's self and with others. "Convey", here is an interesting word, as it suggests communication and imparting, but also laying down a path in which discovery and understanding may emerge. Here I have a mental image of a "conveyance" (bicycle, car...) and a road or trail. In some respects the conveyance and the road or trail are intertwined, such that each emerge together. Neither quite exists without the other. Verbal thinking is what allows us to understand experience in the verbal form. Dancing is one way to understand non-verbal thinking, somatic thinking.... Visual arts and music have their own modes of non-verbal thinking, etc....


I like that, and it works for me as a frame. I'm a little confused, you say it does not refer to lack of factual knowledge, and then you say knowledge is factual knowledge.

I've dabbled in the study of philosophy, and while dabbling in it I came to understand that the very notion of the possibility of non-cognitive knowledge is controversial among professional philosophers / academics. But I'm actually quite comfortable embracing a concept of knowledge which allows for knowledge to be either cognitive or non-cognitive. (We'll avoid for now the controversy over what the word "congitive" means!) Factual knowledge is presented as facts / words ... sentences..... Anyway, the phrase not-knowing which I used just isn't centered on a lack of factual knowledge, per se. One can both have factual knowledge about a person or a thing and also embody an attitude and awareness of "not-knowing" (which is a sort of modern zen phrase). Not-knowing, in this context, is basically a state of available readiness and openness of mind and body which tends not to be goal oriented. It's a quality of "presence" which embodies openness and wonder. Factual knowledge may be present, but it goes rather to the background as a state of rapt attention and presence emerges in the foreground.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
"Intimacy" means different things to different people. It can also mean several differing things to the very same person!

I want to explore and discuss intimacy -- the word and the experience.

I like the bucket system. :)

I believe our whole health picture is made of mind, body, heart, and soul.

  • Mental health and well being.
  • Physical health and well being.
  • Emotional health and well being.
  • Spiritual health and well being.

They are all interconnected to make up the "whole health picture" for me.

So "intimacy" to me corresponds in the buckets too.

  • Mental intimacy -- the sharing of ideas, beliefs, concepts, communication, thoughts. There's a spectrum.
  • Physical intimacy -- touch, gestures. From tickling, kissing, hugging, sex. Again -- a spectrum of possible activities that are physically intimate.
  • Emotional intimacy -- the sharing of feelings, vulnerbale. The yummy feeling ones or the yucky feeling ones. More spectrum.
  • Soul intimacy -- the baring of one's soul, dreams, desires, joie de vivre. What makes you feel ALIVE. Last spectrum.

There's a spectrum inside each bucket. Take physical intimacy for example -- that bucket can hold kisses of various types, handshakes, sex, tickling, stroking, massage, etc.

Depending on the relationship with the person in question what and how much I'm willing to share will vary.

I am willing to strip down near nekkid for strangers to touch me -- if those strangers are my doctor or massage therapist. I am not up for that physical intimacy with random strangers. I don't even like strangers standing to close to me!

I'm willing to hug my mom. I'm not going to have sex with her.

Body is an easy bucket because it is tangible. Sometimes I see people trying to make body intimacy do the work of other kinds of intimacies.

Sometimes that is ok. Someone dies, someone else is mourning. Sometimes just holding their hand in the ministry of presence is enough. Sometimes it is not, and they need to be able to talk (mind intimacy) and cry (emotional intimacy) and bare their soul in some fashion.

I once had a BF who was not great at communication about his feelings and was not willing to grow the skills for better sharing of mind/heart intimacy. He'd try to solve it by showing me affection with hugs and kisses. Which are nice and show me he loves me, but didn't exactly let me in or shares his inner life with me. Touching is not meeting all the need for closeness in the mind and heart buckets. The body bucket being overfull with tons of hugging is not doing much about the empty heart/mind buckets, is it?

Rita Mae Brown put it nicely in "Bingo" when Regina and Nicole are talking... I abridge it here to help illustrate my spin:

"Maybe human relationships are like a clock. With most people the relationship is 15 minutes or 90 degrees on the dial. Sex would be part of the circle. Part of the 360 degrees. And what is so strange is, you could sleep with someone and not complete the circle. Sex isn't enough. It is necessary for full understanding, but not enough. Get it?

"I don't know. What are we?"

"We are 45 minutes. Three quarters of the clock. Close, but I don't know everything and neither do you."

"Are you 60 minutes, 360 degrees with Jack?"

"No. I don't know that any woman gets the whole circle with a man. Maybe. But I've got 45 minutes with Jack -- a different part of the circle though. He has what you miss. And you have what he misses. Ironic."

If there is such thing as an "intimacy clock" with 15 minute or 90 deg portions each representing mind intimacy, body intimacy, heart intimacy, and soul intimacy... I've experience different kinds of intimacies and different degrees in my relationships.

Even with the activity (ex: tickling). Even in the same person -- the intimacies shared could change over time. I've tickled my mother as a child, but not much since I was adult. I still hug and kiss her though.

I tickle, hug and kiss my kid a lot. I figure as she ages she won't be doing raspberries on my stomach much and having tickle fights on the couch. Get them in now then! I'm pretty sure I'll still hug and kiss her as an adult. I know I won't piggyback her as an adult! I've already stopped that. DH is lingering on the piggybacks but she's getting heavy even for him. Then end of that physical intimacy with the kid will one day come for him too.

But I don't share the physical intimacy of tickling with just anyone -- I don't tickle the bank teller. EVER! As a child or adult!

I would NOT share sex with my mother or my kid. I do with my spouse and if I took another lover, I would with them. Another slice even if within the same "physical intimacy" range portion of the clock.

At one time, my DH was my BF. I shared body intimacy with him as his lover. We shared a lot of mind intimacy and some heart intimacy in long conversations. I was not prepared to offer him a full 15 min on heart though -- I was getting over a break up and not up for diving deep too fast in that bucket with him though I certainly enjoyed him as a lover. He was in the same place at the time so it worked out. And I def. wasn't ready to offer clocking any soul intimacy time with him back then.

That heart & soul intimacy thing unfolded later on in the relationship. Some things are just earned in time. :)

Galagirl
 
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dust

New member
This is a great thread, and I want to participate but I don't have as much time as I'd like.

But this (below) is very accurate for me.
I tend to think of intimacy (broadly) as "closeness" combined with affection and/or appreciation, warmth, kindness ... along with a willingness to be unguarded, and/or spontanious..., and "vulnerable".
I think vulnerability is perhaps the most important piece to me. It's hard for me to imagine feeling intimacy without that. Maybe it would be insightful to consider what makes communication NOT be intimate?

When I see a vulnerability, it makes me want to hold or help or touch or share. It seems to be what comes first. If you see something in someone else, then you feel something (appreciation, warmth, etc) in return. Conversely, if you share a (fear, hope or dream - something you care about) then you hope for those feelings in return.

Some people are scared to show their own vulnerability when they see it in others, which prompts them to attack the 'weakness'.
-D
 

NovemberRain

New member
I think it is good that you are aware of this about yourself. It may be that you are somewhere near the low end of the "verbal spectrum," as I informally call it. A "high verbal" person (like myself) is a person who has developed verbal communication skills to a fairly high level. That is, they know a fair bit about how to translate or interpret experience in language. (Language, as I see it, is grounded in experience.)

Being low verbal is not anything to be ashamed of. Nor is it a permanent and unchangable condition. It just happens to be that some people are temperamentally inclined to develop their verbal skills/intelligence to a high level while others are more inclined to develop other skill sets which are not so much verbal.

I had to sit with this quite awhile to respond. I am so not low verbal. I have, as I've aged, become more careful to choose my words. Currently, at work, I have an employee who pretty much suffers from verbal diarrhea. She cannot stop. I have tried saying, 'yes, you told me blahdyblah' and she has to go back to the beginning. She's incapable of adjusting her wordstream to be appropriate to the conversation. It's quite a challenge; and also an illumination for me to be more precise.

I was referring more something like NLP, which describes how a person uses their senses. I am actually highly kinesthetic, which is a feeling sense; and I have a highly developed visual/verbal, because (I believe, because) most of the world operates in the visual, and I am highly adaptive, and have learned (well) to function in a visual/verbal world.

I tend to hang out with people of very high intelligence, and while I am intelligent, I often feel like I'm barely qualified. My formal education doesn't nearly approach the education that my parents had, or my friends. I often feel that I'm just smart enough to not appear stupid. [I've been working on it all my life, it's not a huge deal ~ I'm just trying to show 'where I come from']

Because I'm kinesthetic, and intuitive, I often don't have the words to explain how I reached any given conclusion or point. Hanging out with intelligent people, who are trained in logic and debate, leaves me feeling that I'm less precise. But certainly not less verbal.

Language is rarely "specific or precise," even when weilded by masters. But its masters understand this, and so don't expect or demand the sorts of precision which are inappropriate to the available tools. That said, it can be extremely helpful to try using language to convey one's thinking -- both to one's self and with others. "Convey", here is an interesting word, as it suggests communication and imparting, but also laying down a path in which discovery and understanding may emerge. Here I have a mental image of a "conveyance" (bicycle, car...) and a road or trail. In some respects the conveyance and the road or trail are intertwined, such that each emerge together. Neither quite exists without the other. Verbal thinking is what allows us to understand experience in the verbal form. Dancing is one way to understand non-verbal thinking, somatic thinking.... Visual arts and music have their own modes of non-verbal thinking, etc....

:D Yes.


I've dabbled in the study of philosophy, and while dabbling in it I came to understand that the very notion of the possibility of non-cognitive knowledge is controversial among professional philosophers / academics. But I'm actually quite comfortable embracing a concept of knowledge which allows for knowledge to be either cognitive or non-cognitive. (We'll avoid for now the controversy over what the word "congitive" means!) Factual knowledge is presented as facts / words ... sentences..... Anyway, the phrase not-knowing which I used just isn't centered on a lack of factual knowledge, per se. One can both have factual knowledge about a person or a thing and also embody an attitude and awareness of "not-knowing" (which is a sort of modern zen phrase). Not-knowing, in this context, is basically a state of available readiness and openness of mind and body which tends not to be goal oriented. It's a quality of "presence" which embodies openness and wonder. Factual knowledge may be present, but it goes rather to the background as a state of rapt attention and presence emerges in the foreground.

That helped my understanding of the difference.
 

NovemberRain

New member
A "high verbal" person (like myself) is a person who has developed verbal communication skills to a fairly high level. That is, they know a fair bit about how to translate or interpret experience in language. (Language, as I see it, is grounded in experience.)

Actually, one of my superpowers is translation. I have an amazing ability to perceive, when two people aren't able to communicate, how to re-phrase so they can understand each other. I can see them talking, and see that they aren't understanding, and I can take one person's words, and translate so the other person hears what they need to get the concept.
 

nycindie

New member
River, I also think that vulnerability is a key element of intimacy, and that Western society doesn't have a clue about how to "handle" intimacy in all its forms. I will offer examples of what I mean by that.

Oftentimes, we will read that two actors met on a movie shoot or while appearing in a play together and got involved in a torrid love affair, only for it to all fall apart after the film or play is over. A film shoot, especially if far away from home, or a stage production, is an intensely intimate setting, where people are in close proximity with other people for an extended period, actors let their guard down to dig deep into parts of themselves in order to portray characters, and crew members have to cooperate closely with one another, all while everyone is, at the same time, immersed in this insulated small world working together on the project, and perhaps meeting personal challenges that they wouldn't normally have in their everyday life. They eat all their meals together, look out for each other, take risks, and find camaraderie with folks they never would befriend in real life. If one person catches a cold, everyone does. It is intense and it is intimate. So, oftentimes, two co-stars will start up a romance out of that situation, but it doesn't last after the film shoot or play ends.

Or we know people who met at an office job, and had to work closely together on some project, having become immersed in each other's "work life" in an intense way, and thought that the level of intimacy they experienced during this process was a basis for a relationship, so they start dating. But if one of them moves on and leaves the job or even just transfers to a different department, the relationship fizzles. This is because they tried to build a romantic relationship, not out of a connection that could be a strong foundation but, rather, out of the intensity of feelings they experienced in an intimate setting.

My theory is that people have a tendency to get confused about intimacy in a setting that is simply interpersonal and not sexual; they then try to turn the intimacy they shared and experienced together into a romantic and sexual relationship because they don't know what the hell else to do with all this closeness and revealing of themselves that went on during whatever situation they were in. They became vulnerable with each other, and then got confused about the intimacy. And especially if there is close proximity and some touch, even just hugs or hand-holding, for example, it is even more confusing because Western culture, or at least in North America, is much less comfortable with non-sexual touch and most people don't know how to handle it. So instead of allowing themselves to experience the intimacy, they rush into sexualizing it. They have sex and try to make relationships out of it. But when the intense situation, in which they first experienced the intimacy together, ends - whoa! - then they have the real person in front of them with whom they aren't actually compatible for the long term, and they didn't see that before because they don't really know each other as well as they thought they did, and they rushed into sex and let all those chemicals cloud their judgment and ability to see the actual person for who they are.

The initial period of intense intimacy was based on one aspect of who they are, the vulnerability might have been scary or risky and exciting to feel and share, the sex was based on confusion about what intimacy is, and then ultimately, the relationship didn't have enough of a solid footing to stand alone. Now, of course, some people are right for each other and make it work for years afterward, but more often than not, it doesn't happen. I think that, when intimacy - emotional, intellectual, sexual - can develop over time, in all aspects of being with someone, then there is a basis for a solid, loving relationship. And intimacy can keep growing. But, just because there is such a thing as sexual intimacy, we shouldn't just equate intimacy, per se, with sex or romance. We can be intimate in many ways.

I have thought about this a lot over the years. I hope that all made sense.
 

BreatheDeeply

New member
Intimacy was/is always in the context of sex for me. Direct genital contact, maybe leading to orgasm. But sex itself has always been in the context of, and aftermath of, an emotional bond formed over some time. (Yes I've thought a lot about sex just for the sake of sex, but that would have diminished sex for me. So I never have done, and may never do anything resembling a one night stand.)

My point in bringing that up is one of context. Intimacy is a superset of sex, which also allows for the possibility that for some (few, many?) they are two words with the same meaning and weight. I can't make out any differences unless I take the readers/listeners perspective into account (and here I'm guilty of assuming that everyone I talk to has no problem with the concept of sex with a stranger). Now the terms are distinguishable under this assumption, but only in an external projection.

Does anyone else equate the two to that degree?
 

LilacViolin

New member
This is a great thread, and I want to participate but I don't have as much time as I'd like.

But this (below) is very accurate for me.

I think vulnerability is perhaps the most important piece to me. It's hard for me to imagine feeling intimacy without that. Maybe it would be insightful to consider what makes communication NOT be intimate?

When I see a vulnerability, it makes me want to hold or help or touch or share. It seems to be what comes first. If you see something in someone else, then you feel something (appreciation, warmth, etc) in return. Conversely, if you share a (fear, hope or dream - something you care about) then you hope for those feelings in return.

Some people are scared to show their own vulnerability when they see it in others, which prompts them to attack the 'weakness'.
-D

Have you read anything by Brene Brown? I think you'd like (and agree) with her.
 

LilacViolin

New member
Baby in my arms so I am a one-handed typer. Please excuse typos.

For me, the core of intimacy is the willingness to allow someone to see the true me, even if that does not happen. For example, there is an intimacy with my children - they do not know everything about me but, if it was needed, I would happily share and be completely vulnerable. There are others with whom I feel this closeness: close friends, my siblings, my partner, and sometimes I feel it with strangers. It is not oversharing or purposefully being vulnerable, rather, it is the willingness. Even further, for me it is the not the feeling that I must say "yes" to the intimacy, but the knowledge that I would not say "no" if a person entered into that vulnerability with me. My emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual walls are down, as it were.

That translates into sex and, if I have shared intimacy through sex with a person for a while, it is difficult to transition when that sex no longer is available. But that difficulty during transition is present in all sorts of relationships: not being able to talk to a friend every day, no longer co-sleeping with your child, a work/school project ending.

Intimacy is dicey, it means something different for each person. I imagine most of us have been with someone who had a different understanding of intimacy. Feelings are hurt and relationships change. It is good (for me, anyhow) to reconsider how I feel about intimacy.
 

dust

New member
Intimacy was/is always in the context of sex for me. Direct genital contact, maybe leading to orgasm. ....

Does anyone else equate the two to that degree?

I'm on the other end of the spectrum. Most of the time it isn't sexual at all. Often I see a hardship, (perceived) weakness or pain in someone - and it makes me feel drawn to them - I want to comfort them, let them know they aren't alone. It often resonates as love for me, but not attraction or desire.

I think I could use a little more sex in my intimacy, though - so I'm not in the slightest disapproving. It just seems like a spectrum and everyone finds the spot where they are comfortable.
 

River

New member
Wow, there have been some delightful and insightful -- and lovely -- posts since I checked in here last. It's a lot to respond to! And I don't have much time to respond well just now. So I just wanted to say to the participants in this thread that I'm reading here with enthusiasm and appreciation. Thank you all! I'll have more to say soon.
 

River

New member
I have thought about this a lot over the years. I hope that all made sense.

Yes! It makes lots of sense. And I found this post very insightful and helpful. I agree with what you say and think what you say is important.

It's probably true of all people, regardless of gender (or biological sex -- not that these two are always identical), that the higher the intensity level of "intimacy," in the broadest sense, the greater the tendency to "sexualize" it, or "frame" it -- internally -- as "romantic" (or nearby). [Sorry for the sloppy sentence!]

Of course, what I have just said is relative to cultural contextualization. I'm not sure how to think of this in terms of cultural contextualization because my experience of other cultures is quite limited and my anthropological education is too thin. But I'd hazard a guess that modern/western types are probably just not so much used to a high intensity of "intimacy" (in the broad sense) with others with whom there is not a romantic love container. So to speak. And this does seem to comment on how we as a culture tend to
conceive of and experience friendship--which we think of as "less intimate" than a loverly relationship (Or so I would guess). And that's a little sad, to me. 'Cause friendships have tremendous potential in terms of fulfillment of our need/desire for intimacy.

That said, there is yet another non-"romantic" context, aside from "friendship" as it is usually conceived, wherein a high level or intensity of intimacy might occur. And it is worth mentioning. This other context is "community" in a special sense. Those who live in or seek to create "intentional communities" tend to use "community" in this sense. A community of this sort binds people together more intimately than, say, an urban American would experience in their "communities". Members of such communities would be more like a family or a tribe, I suppose.

Clearly, trust is an important factor in framing "intimacy". People who have learned to trust one another are more likely to experience intimacy with one another. And contemporary urban environments don't provide much basis for widespread or generalized -- communal -- trust.

Just some thoughts....

===

Obviously, I cannot respond to all of the previous posts today. I'll try to respond to others soon.
 

LilacViolin

New member
I wonder if a level of interdependence is an aspect of intimacy as well. I can't think of a relationship that is of substance that doesn't have some level of mutual benefit. I think you can have similar levels of dependency on multiple people (emotional support from close friends, for example) but both parties in each relationship must depend on the other for the relationship to develop intimacy.

To address the question of culture, also from very limited anthropological education, I believe that intimacy is generalized by each sub-culture (in our society, anyhow). What I have learned as intimacy as a white, middle class, presumed heterosexual female is different than another person's experience. However, if you gather many people who have been raised in similar homes, I am willing to bet we would describe intimacy in a same way. My first instinct is to describe intimacy as sex. "Being intimate" with someone is the jargon of Polite Society in my culture of origin. Also, I will generalize here, white middle class culture does not emphasize larger community groups as much as other cultural groups. Therefore, I have experienced less intimacy (broad definition) than others may because of my cultural heritage. As I build my own community this is becoming more obvious.
 

Velvet

New member
This is quite a thread. Wanted to throw in my two cents. If anyone had asked me what intimacy is, I probably would define the word as sex. But the idea of how I "frame" it in my life is an entirely different story.

Years ago, when my boyfriend Ave and I had our 5 year anniversary of being together, a coworker and friend of his asked me how do we do it. How do we stay in love? I think the way I answered that question is my frame of intimacy. At first, I had no idea how to answer why or how our relationship worked. What made it different from when I had a relationship that parted ways. It took me a week of deep thinking to describe what seemed like the ineffable. My answer was, "Because I want too, and he [Ave] wants too as well."

I would call intimacy with another person, and love for that matter, as a process. Not a static state or a fact. Intimacy by any definition involves more than one person, as far as I know. Only when two (or more) people have each other's well being in mind and are willing to put in effort, and forgive failures and shortcomings, can people experience intimacy. Cooperation and the need to make the close relationship work every day are crucial. Intimacy would end the moment any person decides to stop trying. In the end, "Because I want too, and he wants too too as well", is the best description I have for intimacy. I would agree with many of the different types of intimacy mentioned: physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. just that my own take means every day is another day of continueing your intimacy with another person, or other varients. I have a long distance relationship, we might go days or week without talking. But it is mutual that sometimes there are gaps in time, we both agree to it, we both want to be in love, so our intimate relationship continues. Hope that makes sense.
 
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opalescent

Active member
I know I am intimate with someone if I let them see me cry or rage. Showing those sides of myself to someone else is extremely vulnerable. As a result the number of people I was or am truly intimate with is is very small and less than my number of sexual partners. Sex is not automatically connected with intimacy for me although it is one way that I get to know someone, to feel out if I want to be truly intimate with somone.
 
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