Every day we wake up, we are faced with a colossal list of pressing matters we need to handle because we label them as “necessary.” We rush around trying to accomplish these things, but what we really need to do is start paying more attention to our pets. Our pets teach us that the most important things in life are hardly ever urgent.
Our pets don’t have lists of things they need to do. In fact, the most important thing they will do today is prepare to go ballistic with excitement the minute you walk through the door. However, our pets have no doubt added to our “to-do” list a few times in their lives. The murder of a family of squeaky toys, torn-up couches, and bathroom accidents are a few of the likely highlights of their lives.
But no matter how many things our pets have destroyed, we still love them. Why don’t we treat our family or colleagues the same way? The reason is because love is a choice, not a feeling.
Love is an act of the will and you can choose to forgive and forget despite any problems caused by another being. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in America, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds. That’s nearly 2,400 divorces per day, 16,800 divorces per week, and 876,000 divorces a year. People don’t get married because they want to get divorced. Their marriages failed because they didn’t know how to succeed. We have an epidemic in America and we need to get back to life being about love and intimacy.
What Is Intimacy?
Author Matthew Kelly says that intimacy is not sex, sex doesn’t equal intimacy, and sex isn’t even necessary for intimacy. It is also something that doesn’t just belong between husband and wife. Intimacy belongs in all of our significant relationships with our colleagues, family, and spouse. Intimacy is self-revelation. It is me revealing myself to you and you revealing yourself to me. This revelation creates a deeply embedded bond that will withstand the beating of all the urgent things surrounding us.
This is precisely why our relationships with our pets are so solid. Our pets are completely vulnerable, whereas we humans hide and spend a lot of effort and energy trying to disguise our true selves. Why? Fear. We are scared that if we reveal our true selves to others, they won’t really love us.
We have all had unsuccessful relationships; experienced the fear of a new job, new coworkers, and a new relationship; and been almost frozen by the fact we are starting over. Creating and nurturing intimacy in current and future relationships can be a daunting task, but there are a few things you can do to improve existing connections and build new reliable ones.
Create a Common Unchanging Purpose
In Psychology Today, Lori Gordon recognizes that most of what goes wrong in a relationship stems from hurt feelings. The disappointment couples experience is based on misunderstanding and misperception. She calls the first stage of a relationship — where we exhibit affection, love, and support — the stage of illusion. After that, disappointment very often sets in because somehow we didn’t get what we were hoping for from our significant other. Fights that start about one issue end on a completely different problem, and you don’t even remember what you started fighting about in the first place.
Matthew Kelly tells us that common interests are not enough to hold a relationship together, and we need a common unchanging purpose. When we start to have issues in our relationships, we need to have something to measure that issue against. This unchanging purpose will allow us to make choices that help us become the best versions of ourselves amid the rapidly changing circumstances of life. Every opportunity or crisis in business or with family members can be measured against this common purpose.
Each one of my athletes knows exactly what their purpose is individually as well as within the team, which gives them an opportunity to consistently choose what is best for them and their team. In order to keep their purposes in the front of their mind, I routinely ask them if they are going to choose the best version of themselves today or some second-rate version. This teaches them how to self-evaluate and doesn’t make them feel I am attacking them personally. This should also be the goal of your relationship with your spouse, with your business mates, and your friends — people coming together trying to help each other become the best version of themselves.
Have a Perspective on Your Opinions
Some of the biggest interferences of intimacy are opinions. None of us possess the same opinion we had ten years ago, but most of us still can’t have a civilized conversation with someone else whose opinion differs from ours.
What we need to remember is that opinions are born from a person’s education and experience. When either of those change, then a person’s opinions will change as well. Five or ten years from now all of our opinions will have changed again. We need to have the maturity to accept that people’s opinions are always evolving and it is okay to disagree with coworkers, friends, or family.
Beware the Danger of Unknown Expectations
In order to be more successful in our next relationship, we typically try to bring what we have learned from previous relationships with us. Our expectations end up being much higher due to our newfound wisdom, and we imagine the chance for success to be the best it has ever been. Unfortunately, we forget to share our new expectations with the other person and instead of giving the other person a chance to meet them, we depend on mind reading.
There are a few rules we can follow to be better able communicate our expectations to others:
- If you expect someone to understand what you need, then you have to tell them. This also means you have to figure out for yourself what you really need.
- You cannot expect someone to understand how you feel about something unless you’re able to speak with them about how you feel.
- If you don’t understand or like what someone is doing, ask about them about it. Explore. Talk. Don’t assume.
So often, all we need to do to resolve a problem is to listen, and not just passively listen but truly hear what is in their mind and in their heart.
Share Your Hopes and Dreams
There is nothing more passionate and energetic than the pursuit of a dream and there is nothing more satisfying than helping someone else achieve their dreams. The single greatest reason I chose the location of my honeymoon was to help my wife achieve her number-one dream of staying in an overwater bungalow.
What should we do once we achieve our dreams? Continue dreaming. Create a list of the things you want to achieve in your life and share it with your friends, family, and spouse. Continue to look for ways to cross items off your list in case you get distracted by the speed of life. Always remember that it is never too late to accomplish your dreams.
To be able to truly reveal ourselves to another person, we must constantly work to become the best version of ourselves. This means addressing our most legitimate needs. We all have legitimate spiritual, intellectual, and physical needs. Take care of your body with physical exercise and you will live a longer and healthier life. Intellectually, we have access to some of the greatest minds in history through books, so read great books and your vision for your life will change for the better. Spiritually, immerse yourself in silence and meditation and you will feel better about yourself and about life.
Life is about love and intimacy. Find your common unchanging purpose, never settle for less than the best version of yourself, and take care of your legitimate needs. Embrace these ideas and you will witness the power of intimacy transform your life.
1. “National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Accessed May 28, 2016.
2. Kelly, Matthew. The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved. New York: Fireside Book, 2005.
3. “Intimacy: The Art of Relationships.” Psychology Today. Accessed May 28, 2016.