The last session was about love in all its facets -- the emotions, the thoughts and the arousal associated with it. This session explores the intimacy that sometimes grows out of love. Intimate relationships may or may not be romantic but they do involve love. We have friends and family members with whom we are intimate. And we have romantic partners with whom we are not.

Intimacy is generally defined as closeness, involving feelings of attachment, affection and love toward another, combined with a sense of interdependence and the feeling that one's deepest psychological needs will be met and satisfied by the other. Sounds great, doesn't it? Most people think intimacy sounds great, in theory, but for many, like Peter and Alma, intimacy is also fraught with pain and discomfort.

The Ambivalence of Intimacy

For each source of joy in intimacy, there is a flip side that threatens great pain. When you love someone, you rejoice in having that feeling returned and suffer when it is not. If you, like most members of our society, expect your intimate relationship to be sexually and emotionally exclusive, you also risk the fear and rage of jealousy and betrayal when that intimacy seems threatened.

Intimacy and (Yikes!) Commitment

In romantic relationships, intimacy is tied to commitment. We are intimate with our best friends but we don't expect to spend the rest of our lives with them. For lovers, however, the expectation is often that such feelings of love and deep understanding are the signals that we have found our life mates. And different people have different feelings about this!

For some, like Mira and Les, intimacy is a relief and a joy. The search is over, they have finally found The One. Now they can get down to the business of building their life together.

But for others, intimacy is scary, threatening. As initial feelings of attraction and having fun with someone give way over time to a sense that they are now "in a relationship" with expectations, long-term prospects and certain options foreclosed, something happens. The fun goes away. A sense of pressure builds. To these people, the idea of expectations and long-term commitment seems like a burden, a loss of freedom, rather than the grounding and liberating experience Maria describes.

Imagine that it's a beautiful night and you are walking with your partner. (If you don't have a current partner, remember your previous partner or imagine a partner.) You are stirred by feelings of how fragile life is and how wonderful. Nature seems very close. Your pleasure in the evening has you feeling close to tears. It is very moving. You wonder whether your partner is feeling the same way. What do you do?

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