There were a little over twenty of us around the long white table, various hues of beautiful browns waiting for our facilitator to start the conversation we were all eager to partake- intimacy. She started the conversation by sharing that we have for better or for worse been drawn into a transactional culture, our relationships have not been spared, and true intimacy has been left under a sheet of dust in the back of a closet of what real relationships used to be like. On the surface the transactional model seems to make sense. It seems to have a republican fairness about it. You give me A, I give you B. You take me to dinner I give me sex. Okay maybe that wasn’t a good example. Yet I am willing to bet that if many of us think about our past romantic relationships, maybe our current one(s) there were a series of transactions. He approached you so you gave him your number. He didn’t seem like a creep so you went to dinner. He paid for dinner so you kissed him or perhaps more. He pissed you off so he gets nothing,no dinner, no “GM” text, definitely no sex, and not even an air hug. This constant negation that we have accepted as relational normalcy that inadvertently and often leaves us emotionally disconnected with intimacy bankruptcy impacting our romantic relationship credit score.
Just to be clear, there is a difference between the presence of reciprocity in relationships and transactions. Transactions negate humanity. It refuses to see interactions as impacting the whole person-mind, body, spirit. It comes from a very selfish place. Healthy relationships, romantic or otherwise don’t thrive on a steady diet of selfishness. Relationships built on foundations where considering, supporting, and meeting emotional needs is optional at best or made to seem frivolous and overlooked at worse simply do not thrive. Nor should they. And sex, regardless of how mind blowing multiple orgasm producing it is, does not equate to intimacy. Having sex can be a part of intimacy, but the act itself i not the same as intimacy.
Furthermore, if you can’t show up and be present for yourself, assess and seek to meet your needs, be in tune with and manage your emotions, sit with bouts of disappointment or loneliness, celebrate your own successes or what I would like to suggest as being intimate with yourself, how can you expect or have that in the context of a relationship?
I have met my fair share of people, especially women who have no clue of who they really are. Sure they can tell you their weight, height, favorite food, why they prefer to wear their hair a certain way, where they went to school, and what they love about being a mother or godmother or auntie. But ask them about what they do that brings them joy. Ask them about the last time they were disappointed and how they worked through that disappointment. Ask them the last time they wept because their hearts were full beyond what words could describe. Ask them the last time they said no and didn’t feel guilty. Ask them the last time they knew they were doing what they were born to do. Ask them what makes their soul shine and heart smile. Ask them their dreams.
When I ask, they usually aren’t sure. Some used to know because they used to know themselves. Yet somehow they stopped choosing to know themselves, to know the ebb and flow of their needs and desires. They didn’t keep up with the person they were becoming and gave up on dictating who they desired to become. They’d become empty- bankrupt. Many looked exasperated at the idea of figuring themselves out. Their account was empty with the exasperation that often comes from knowing everyone else and meeting everyone else’s needs. The fatigue was the consequence. Like overdraft fees when we have no idea what’s in our account and keeping making withdraws; withdraws from empty places,lonely places, forgotten, unknown, strange places.
If you want intimacy in your relationships be intimate with yourself first. To thine own self be true, true to what is true of who know yourself to be. The better you know yourself the better you are able to be in relationships with reciprocity and not transactions. Where there is mutual respect, trust, vulnerability, and love. You are better aware of knowing what you need and what you can offer. You don’t need to self preserve and protect, get yours first, or feel obligated to give out of fear of rejection or abandonment. You have reasonable expectations of yourself and others, and you are clear on the power you have and responsibility you have to yourself to meet your needs. Now hear me clearly. I do not believe as imperfect fallible human beings we can meet all of our own needs. We are relational beings. However no one person is going to meet every need we have and they should not be expected to meet needs that we need to meet for ourselves.
The conversation we had was rich. As I listened to the women in the room speak it was apparent to me that some had foregone themselves to go after someone else. They’d come up short. They got their emotional bank statement and it was full of overdraft fees. My hope for you this week is that you will take a moment and look at you emotional and relationship accounts. Where have you overdrawn? Where are you incurring hurt and disappointment because you’ve negated being intimate with you?