How do we live our most authentic lives while nurturing a deeply connected, intimate relationship with our significant lover?
Here are two equations I recently formulated for my work as a couples therapist.
Taken together, the equations sum up the requirements of living authentically while simultaneously creating a connected, intimate relationship.
- Authenticity + Courage = Freedom
- Freedom + Connection = Intimacy
1. Authenticity + Courage = Freedom
Let’s look at the elements of the first equation more closely so that you can begin to move in the direction of living your best life. The elements of the first equation are…
Many of us desire this, but many of us fear what it requires from us in order to accomplish it. Authenticity requires revealing ourselves even when others disagree, misunderstand, do not like what we are saying, and sometimes even disrespect us. We are never more vulnerable than when we are showing our true, unedited version of ourselves. And because of this authenticity requires a clear sense of who we are. And above all it requires courage.
In order to show our authentic selves and risk the vulnerability inherent in this, we must have courage. Which means that we WILL experience fear. We WILL experience anxiety, but we will forge ahead in spite of the fear and anxiety. Courage is the combined experience of feeling the fear along with taking intentional action. This keeps us moving in the direction of living a purposeful life.
When we combined authenticity and courage and create a purposeful life, we are moving toward freedom. Freedom comes to us when we are able to live our truth and pursue our dreams by having the courage to use our voice, express our heart, and keep fully engaged in life. It does not mean that everyone will always be in support of us or that others will always like who we are or what we believe. Rather freedom is the result of learning how to live from our true self in a world of diversity and differences. We learn how to take a stand about who we are and do so with conviction in the face of differences.
Authenticity + Courage = Freedom
Being a partner in an intimate relationship requires us to begin from a place of awareness, clarity, and authenticity. To reveal our authentic self requires courage. Being courageously authentic leads to freedom. When we feel free to be our truest and most loved self, we are fully available to our partner to engage in intimate, deep connection.
2. Freedom + Connection = Intimacy
Now let’s look at the second equation starting with…
When we courageously create a life in which we are free to be our authentic selves, we create the possibility to connect fully with another. Why is this so? Because connection requires us to join with another.
If we are not clear about who we are, joining our lives with another can result in feeling consumed or absorbed into another’s life without the capacity to hold onto ourselves. Without a clear sense of who we are, joining means that we will merge into something or someone else.
So, in order to fully and genuinely connect, we must have a very solid sense of who we are, feel secure in our own self and have a strong inner core established. When this does not occur, connection with others feels way too threatening.
Let’s Look at How This Works in an Intimate Relationship.
Partner A is in the habit of hiding their authentic self out of insecurity, fear and a desire to avoid conflict or rejection. Because of this habit, Partner A has lost touch with who they are and has a very fragile sense of self.
Partner B attempts to connect with Partner A, but A is so shaky about who they truly are, that connection feels overwhelming, stressful, and way too demanding. Partner A either pulls away for protection or fakes connection by keeping up their guard, not revealing themselves and hiding their authentic self.
You can see in this scenario how the connection is stifled. Without the freedom to be one’s authentic self and without an evolved capacity to connect, intimacy suffers.
Here is an example of how intimacy is created when freedom and connection are able to merge.
Partner A has courageously expressed their authentic self and has felt more solid, clear and strong about who they are. They have done so consistently and have been able to tolerate the anxiety of this process even when their partner disagrees, misunderstands or questions them. The more Partner A stands strong in being their authentic self, Partner B accepts and appreciates knowing their partner so well. Partner B also voices their authentic self and develops a solid sense of who they are.
Partner B attempts to connect with Partner A. Since both are solid, strong, and clear about who they are, they welcome the connection with an open heart. The connection provides an avenue for each partner to feel loved, accepted, desired and supported. The connection does not feel consuming, threatening or overwhelming. Both partners learn how to respect not only themselves but each other. A secure attachment is formed, and both partners are able to attain deeper levels of intimacy as their relationship grows.
If you are desiring an intimate connection with your significant other, go back and look at the equations above. Where do you need to focus your attention now?
- Do you need to first get to know yourself and understand who your authentic self is?
- Do you need to cultivate the courage to express your authentic self and consider how the anxiety or fear is holding you back?
- Do you need to acknowledge and embrace the freedom that you have created in living authentically and celebrate this?
- Do you need to learn to be more aware of opportunities for connection with your partner and embrace these with an open heart?
If you attend to each of these steps in the above equations, you will be most likely to establish a beautifully intimate relationship with your significant other.
This does not mean perfection or an absence of conflict. But rather it means having the capacity to stand strong with confidence in who you are, embrace who your partner is and together form a deep connection that rests in a context of secure, rooted intimacy.
Peace in the journey,
Jane Ryan, M.A., LMFT, is a Licensed Couple and Family Therapist with twenty years of clinical experience and a specialty in helping couples navigate the challenges of intimate relationships. Jane also has a sub-specialty of helping couples navigate the relational and sexual effects of breast cancer.