Intimate Relationship — What I wish I had known before

Flora
6 min readOct 26, 2020

This is my first post. The purpose of my blog is to share my experience and knowledge on the common topics I often encounter during my coaching practice.

Are you afraid to build intimate relationship?

Are you looking for a healthy intimate relationship?

Or are you feeling frustrated in a relationship and trying to figure out what is going on?

I will explain the definition of healthy intimate relationship as well as the pseudo-intimate relationship in the first post of the intimate relationship series.

I was once scared of intimate relationship and stayed single for very long time. I told myself that, it is better to be single, so that I can enjoy my freedom. As I continued learning coaching techniques and began to self-reflect deeply, I realized that the fear of intimate relationship has costed me a high price and has stopped me from fully experiencing the life and building meaningful connections. Finally, I admitted that it was my fear that was driving this, because deep down I felt I was not good enough.

That is how the change begins.

It is about the same time that I acknowledged this fear, that I met my current boyfriend. Having gone through this experience, I feel I have developed a better understanding of a healthy intimate relationship. My intention is to share my learnings and raise people’s awareness of its importance, especially for those who fear to connect or who are in pseudo-intimate relationships.

Love Quote from Quotedwisdom.com

- 1 - How to define healthy intimate relationship?

The broad sense of intimacy is not limited to love, but also includes family and friendship. The scope of discussion here is limited to romantic relationship between two adults.

There are three characteristics of a healthy intimate relationship:

1. Deep interconnection

2. Free self-expression

3. Growing together

These three characteristics correspond to the survival, belonging and growth of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It also corresponds to the personality structure of the id, ego, and super-ego.

1. Deep interconnection

Connection lies in the core of relationship, and it satisfies our various needs when we respond to our colleagues, friends, or stranger. The deep connection satisfies our need for security. A sense of security is a feeling that you can rely on and trust other party, even if you fall, there is a safety net. It reminds me the feeling as a child, feeling warm and safe in my mother’s arm. The secret recipe of creating the secure environment is unconditional and non-judgmental love. You don’t need to do anything to win other’s love, just be yourself and embrace the little child in your heart.

Partners in an intimate relationship makes each other feel safe, as little child returning to the mother’s arm.

2. Free self-expression

The world we see projects our inner reality, as we look at the world through our own lenses. When we feel the pressure of being judged by others or society, we try to show our most fitting side to gain validation from others. For example, working at home, it is normal to wear pajamas during an audio conference, however, as soon as we are on a video conference, most likely we will change our top.

In an intimate relationship, we don’t feel the pressure to prove ourselves. Without pressure, it is easier to live the present and enjoy the process rather than the outcome. For example, although I am from China, I wasn’t comfortable with my cooking skills. I had the “belief” that I must be good at cooking to invite people over. Now I really enjoy exploring new possibilities, and even at times I fail, nevertheless I find it an enjoyable experience.

Another aspect of self-expression is that two people reach consensus to ensure that both parties can express their opinions equally. Effective communication is the best way to approach conflicts.

3. Growing together

Many couples get bored and start to look for novelty outside their common life. That is the sign of not growing together. To grow together means both parties have the growth mindset, committing to independent personal growth and support each other to become the better version of themselves.

3.1. Supporting each other

It is important to support each other emotionally, mentally, and physically to achieve the common goals as well as individual goals. It is also important to not take control over the other party. The balance of what and how to contribute is the key.

3.2. Providing feedback

Intimate relationship is the best place for self-discovery. It is a hard but rewarding process. Feedback is one of the critical ingredients to raise self-awareness and grow. Who is better than your partner to provide timely and effective feedback?

3.3. Creating common Projects

Engaging in common fun project could be a new adventure, problem-solving task, learning something new, etc. The key is to experience and share together. With the growth mindset, even the boring task can become fun.

- 2 - What is pseudo-intimate relationship

Although the quality of relationship to a great extent defines the quality of our life, we never learn the essential skills at school — what is healthy relationship and how to build one.

If you do not feel the sense of security, are not comfortable to self-express or feel growing in a relationship, it is likely a pseudo-intimate relationship.

Understanding the different types of pseudo-intimate relationship can help to acknowledge and rebuild the healthy relationship.

1. Utilitarian

“Exchange” seems to be a very common philosophy of interpersonal relationship. “I am with you because you can fulfill some functionalities for my benefit, in return I do the same for you.” The problem of such view is seeing people as tools to fulfill certain functions. The relationship is built based on objectified common interests, which are often fragile and could weaken with time.

2. Co-dependence

Although the two parties in an intimate relationship have established a deep connection, they have not lost their inner self. The message is “I want to be with you”.

In a co-dependent relationship however, one party is addicted and dependent on the other party or the other party is forced to take care of. The message is “I need to be with you”.

3. Performer

When two people interact in an intimate relationship, there is no audience but each other. “Performer” couples can also appear very close on the surface, but such interaction is due to external pressure or “show to others”. Like dancing tango, the “performer” couple’s primary goal is not to have fun but a good show.

Summary

A healthy intimacy relationship shares three characteristics:

- Deep interconnection — (id — needs of survival)

- Free self-expression — (ego — needs of belongs)

- Growing together — (super ego — needs of growth), which we can achieve by supporting each other, providing feedback, and creating common projects.

On the contrary, the pseudo-intimate relationship does not provide us with the same level of fulfillment, and often drain our energy. There are three types of pseudo-intimate relationship: Utilitarian, Co-dependence, Performer.

I hope you find the post helpful. For more information, welcome to check my website: exscender.com

Stay tuned for the second one – how does intimate relationship catalyze the growth of you and your partner?

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