Never before in all of human history have we been so connected with technology yet so disconnected and isolated personally. I believe there is an intimacy crisis in our nation. Intimacy is not in a crisis. A culture that tries to remove, abuse or ignore intimacy and its importance…is in crisis.
In the mental health field, intimacy is often understood to assume to mean sex. Intimacy can mean sex, but it means so much more than that. I look at the world, the media and my clients, and I do not see a shortage of sex. I do believe we are in a sex crisis, and sex is losing its value and meaning. The world is defining sex to equate to love, or sex is love. Sex is NOT love or intimacy, just ask a prostitute. In my opinion, this is the side of crisis I’m referring to. If our culture continues down this road, it will destroy itself from within and become depraved. Intimacy is the opposite of depravity.
I like to think of intimacy as the act or consent between two individuals to be vulnerable, affectionate, familiar, warm, genuine, and engaging. This could also be practiced in a group. It can be practiced on a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level. Another way to think of intimacy is in-to-me-u-see.
It has been my cultural observation that homes have become more private and much larger. Homes no longer have the big front porch, which were once places to experience community with neighbors. Homes are now larger with privacy fences, back decks and patios that are enclosed with private pools, home theaters or basketball and tennis courts. Homes have large garages that you park your car in, and your car now has tinted windows and bucket seating with media displays and video players. The garage door shuts, and you never have to interact with anyone outside your home. Inside the home, nearly every room has a TV, Internet access, smart phones, electronics and video games to keep us entertained and distracted from having to interact with even our own family members. When intimacy is absent, the soul tries to fill it with other things.
As a recovery intimacy anorexic, it has been my personal observation that I can even get distracted by own to-do list and the rush of life, as I can be at work thinking about what I need to get done at home. When I am at home, I think about all the things I want or need to get done at work. It is very difficult to stay present in the moment we are in with the people we are with. We can appear physically present but mentally and emotionally very distant. Because of this, we rob them and ourselves of the joy of the present. We either experience shame and guilt by thinking about the past, or we are in fear and anxiety because of our thoughts about the future. This makes us very poor listeners, as we are never fully in the moment. Sure, we can hear what our spouse and our children say, but do we really listen? Are we thinking about the future and the project that needs to be completed an hour from now? True listening is 90 percent of the conversation we hear and 10 percent speaking and validating what they said and how they feel. True listening is about validating, not about winning. This takes a great deal of energy and intimacy. When we are fully present in the moment, intimacy flourishes.
Intimacy anorexics are very good at doing, because it is always justified. Things we do need to get done. However, we have a very difficult time being. In order to just be takes vulnerability and requires risk. We don’t want to be seen; because if others see what is inside of us, they most likely will not love us. The more we can keep others from seeing the real us and our flaws the more likely others will love us. Some of us may think we need to be perfect and look perfect in order to be loved. If we are imperfect, we are unlovable. However, this is far from the truth. It is in our imperfections and by allowing others to see the real us that makes us truly lovable. Intimacy requires vulnerability.
Why should we be concerned?
I believe this should be a cultural concern, because we are designed to be connected and intimate. Research has shown that infants who are not held and are neglected due to the lack of touch do not do as well in areas of IQ as well as emotional and physical development as infants who are held. Infants neglected of touch can even die. Elderly people who are isolated and have no family contact may also die more quickly. Prayer is also a form of intimacy. Research also has shown medical patients who are prayed for recover more quickly from medical procedures. Prayer not only changes things, it also changes the person praying. Prayer is intimacy.
Intimacy has a direct correlation to mood disorders (depression and anxiety) and personality disorders (reactive attachment, narcissism, and borderline). This can also lead to increased death rates as well as suicide, homicide and crime, which all negatively impact communities and welfare. People who are not emotionally healthy generally medicate with drugs, alcohol, sex, food, gambling, shopping and any other form of addiction. There is a financial, physical, spiritual and emotional price with the absence of intimacy.
How important is intimacy and vulnerability in marriage? It is critical. Just ask the clients Transformed Hearts serves. With all the secondary issues aside, the majority of the time the core issue is that there is the lack of emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy between the couple. Couples who do not get better in this area generally terminate the marriage in divorce, which impacts the children. There is a high price our children pay when intimacy in a marriage does not flourish.
In the end, all of these are connected like dominoes – dominoes of intimacy. If the very first domino of intimacy falls, we all passively fall with it. What are we going to do about it? What creative solutions do we have to correct this? Not sure we have a solution… because that’s the other thing… the lack of intimacy in a culture negatively affects assertive creativity.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.