Isn't Sex Part of Intimacy?
by Dr. Marty Klein
I'm asked for advice or information about intimacy every week. Here are some of the most common questions and my responses:
Isn't sex part of intimacy? Too many people would rather just talk.
Different people need different conditions in order to want sex. While some people focus primarily on attraction, others focus on, say, trust, closeness or communication before they can relax and enjoy sex. You may be dating people very different from yourself.
|Don't just be truthful to your partner; be truthful to yourself.|
|Don't treat your mate as a member of a gender; he or she is a unique individual.|
|Don't force someone into a level of intimacy they don't want. If you're dissatisfied, consider changing your arrangement.|
|More on intimacy:|
|Nurture Your Relationship|
|What keeps you from intimacy? Take our quiz|
Sex can also be used to avoid intimacy. When people say "honey, let's not quarrel, let's make love" at the slightest sign of difficulty, they're limiting how intimate a relationship can be.
Isn't anyone out there ready to settle down? Everyone is so busy.
Modern life is a paradox: Anyone worth being with is too busy and anyone with plenty of time is, er, suspect.
But let's try a little introspection. Are you looking for commitment too early in a relationship? Are you expecting it from someone who has already let you know they're not interested? Are you talking about commitment in such a breathless, needy way that people just automatically back away? These might be reasons that a committed relationship eludes you.
Is intimacy possible with men? You know what jerks they are.
Is intimacy possible with women? You know what jerks they are.
Attempting to create intimacy is scary, frustrating, time-consuming and risky. None of us is great at it. It's very easy to blame our partner, and after a few frustrations in a row, it's easy to conclude that the problem is all men or all women.
Every group of men and every group of women contains fools, liars and treasures. The trick is to tolerate the first, spot the second and find the third. If you're too tired to tell the difference (or to care), it's time to take a break from dating.
How do you get someone to open up?
You can try by being open yourself. Approach your partner with non-threatening language. Ask, "Is this a good time to talk?" before starting a heavy conversation. Ask your partner to talk about himself instead of talking about others.
But you can't really "get someone to open up." Some people lack either the skill or the willingness to share themselves with a partner. Unfortunately, many of us deny this reality and mate with someone who is less interested in being open than we are. The relationship then becomes a struggle over the couple's level of intimacy.
A wise person will consider someone's interest and ability to be intimate when evaluating his or her potential as a future partner.
Marty Klein, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage counselor and sex therapist in Palo Alto, Calif. He has written for national magazines and appeared on many TV shows, including Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael and Jenny Jones. You can read more about his books, tapes and appearances on his Web site, www.SexEd.org.
More Articles by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Men Are From Earth,
Women Are From Earth
Almost Everything You Want to Know About Sex
The Truth About Intimacy