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Why is Intimacy So Hard?

BY ROSEWELL 

JOURNAL / RELATIONSHIPS

October 2020

Journal / Relationships

Issue 01

Intimacy is hard. Opening up, being vulnerable, expressing ourselves, these are all essential parts of fostering intimacy.

These experiences can be extremely difficult, this is nothing new. Throughout human history, intimacy has always been hard and never won’t be, else it wouldn’t be a worthwhile pursuit. However, given the importance of intimate connection to our wellbeing, modern culture should help us to foster intimacy. Far too often, it doesn’t. If anything, our culture today makes creating and maintaining intimacy even harder.

Most of us no longer live in connected communities. Where we used to have a large base of people we could rely on to attend to all of our intimate needs, now we have just one or two. When you consider intellectual, emotional, experiential, and physical intimacy; that’s a lot of pressure for one person. When this pressure turns into negative experiences of stress, that can be detrimental to our relationships.

The age of instant gratification doesn’t help, either. One tap and about half an hour spent doing anything else but cooking and lunch is served. A few taps and we can communicate with anyone in the world. A quick scroll or swipe and we can know what everyone is doing.

The point is, most things in modern life are quick. Intimacy takes time. When we get caught up in doing everything quickly, it’s hard to find time to focus on something for which results are both intangible and distant. But without time, attention, and effort, intimacy suffers.

Compounding the issues we have with intimacy is the common narrative in popular culture, that sex sells, and therefore by implication, sex is the most important type of intimate connection. In fact, when Rosewell put a call out to ask people about their experiences with intimacy (before we became a sexual wellness brand), 60% of respondents discussed sexual acts. These are all valid experiences. However, the sheer number of people who equate sex with intimacy begs the question; how does this culture of hypersexualisation hamper our ability to experience intimacy?

Advertisements and the media set the standard for what is normal and expected. Sexual objectification, such as depicting people with expressions or poses that imply sexual readiness, hurts everyone in different ways. In the traditional man/woman binary, men who see stereotypical bodies depicted in poses that portray power over beautiful, sexualised women internalise ideas about ‘success’ and its ties to power and attractiveness. When visual representations don’t match reality, as they so often don’t, this can lead to anxiety about appearance, feeling ashamed, lower self-esteem, depression and more. For all genders, our thoughts and feelings play a crucial role in our ability to experience intimacy, although the ways this manifests varies between people.

Intimacy is hard because it’s meant to be. Like all worthwhile pursuits, a part of its importance is attained from its difficulty. Lived experiences can often contribute to its difficulty as a protective mechanism. However, modern life doesn’t make intimacy easier – from city design to sexual representation. It’s important to be critical of the norms our society reinforces, define what types of intimate connection are important to us as individuals, and seek out ways to experience it.