For a lot of us, intimacy is… complicated. The idea of intimacy comes bottled with the sense that it always must be felt with someone else, and that it’s supposed to look or feel a certain way. It’s movie montages and sweet nothings, maybe, or sharing our deepest and darkest secrets, or making passionate love in the most cinematic of ways.
But in truth, intimacy is far more nuanced and complex than the silver screen can probably ever truly capture, and to be completely frank, attempting to turn our own lives into movies usually sets us up for disappointment. While we fully encourage you to harness the positivity that is “main character energy,” real life is still real life, and living with the pressure to turn everything into a film scene is, honestly, exhausting — especially when so much media is limited to archetypes and tropes, specific bodies and specific skin tones, specific forms of love, and so on.
Okay, rant over. But the fact remains: intimacy is no one thing, however all forms of real, true intimacy are extraordinarily beautiful. And the secret to bringing that beauty into your own life? Redefining what, exactly, intimacy feels like to you. Intimacy has no one look, no one body or emotion or skin tone or kind of relationship, and definitely no one feeling. And you’ll know it when you feel it, trust us — but we totally get it if right now, you’re wondering where to start.
And so, as an exercise for just about anyone, whether you’ve yet to experience true intimacy, you’ve have had an experience that has separated you from it, or if you just to develop some kind of intimacy-grounding practice we’ve put together a list of a few practices that may be helpful for helping you redefine what intimacy for yourself. As cheesy as it may sound, intimacy always, always, starts from within.
1. Journal it out.
An oldie, but a goodie. Here are some relevant prompts that we love:
- What makes you feel truly connected with yourself? What does that connection feel like? What thoughts, words, images come to your mind? If you’ve never felt that, 100% okay — write about that. Do you feel that something’s been blocking you from having that experience?
- When and where do you ever hide yourself? Why?
- Have you ever felt truly connected to someone else? What did that feel like? Again, if you haven’t been there, write about that. Do you feel that something’s been blocking you from having that experience?
- What does pleasure mean to you? When have you felt true pleasure? Describe the sensations, however you see fit.
- What does sexy feel like? Not look, but feel? Is it soft silks or linens? Eating pit fruits in the summertime? That one poem that always moves you? A certain song, and the feeling that song gives you? Write it all out!
- When you hear the word sensual, what immediately comes to mind? What sort of sensations do you feel in your body?
2. Dance it out.
- Crank up the music, something that makes you really feel. Close your eyes. No one’s watching. Focus on the feeling, and go. Don’t think!
3. Find ways to connect to pleasure, outside of sex.
- Presence is a huge part of being intimate, not to mention the deep pleasure that can come of intimacy. Cultivating a presence that allows for pleasure in most or all areas of life, is essential for cultivating intimacy.
4. Once we do that, then it’s time to get down to sexier business.
- Take a mirror, get acquainted with the most intimate parts of yourself. Learn what turns you on, learn what turns you off. Use self-pleasure to help you define what sexual freedom really means to you — intimacy, with yourself and with others is next to impossible if you don’t feel free.
5. Perform regular intimacy check-ins with yourself.
- Is life moving so fast that you don’t feel connected? Find ways to move slower. Are you finding it difficult to connect to pleasure? Lean into the tools you may have for those moments.
And remember: intimacy, like love and other things, is far more a verb, or even a state of being than it is an object. It isn’t something you gain, and then just keep. It’s a practice, and if you fall out of it sometimes, that’s okay! Just know that it’s possible to develop some kind of practice for it, which you can come to again, again, and again — if for no one but yourself.
** Quick note to say that, especially when traumatic histories are involved with feeling disconnected to intimacy and to your body, we definitely encourage working with a therapist as well! It’s great to have a home practice, but professional help is never a bad idea, either.
This article is by Maggie Harrison-- a rural Pennsylvania-raised, currently New Orleans-based writer and creative whose work covers everything from wellness to social media to grief and loss. Head to her website to learn more about her work, or follow along on Instagram or Twitter.