What Is An Intimate Relationship?

An intimate relationship is a deeper than usual reciprocal connection between two people.

It's a strong feeling of rapport or harmony that both people find delightful.

The first time you fell for someone as a teenager was like that. If it was reciprocal...the feeling of rapport and harmony was so strong and special that you thought no one else had ever experienced what was happening to you.

In an ongoing intimate relationship...each person learns about the deepest values...ideas...and desires that are part of the other person's nature. And these qualities lead them to prize each other...whether they are good friends, effective colleagues, or whether they are in a romantic and sexual relationship.

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Are romance and intimacy the same thing?

Sometimes people are just in a romantic relationship that feels intimate...but it lacks the deepening awareness of the other person that takes place in all intimate relationships...whether they are romantic or not.

In a relationship that is only romantic...the feelings can burn themselves out without the people involved ever getting to know very much about each other at all.

So for a long term intimate relationship an important ingredient is getting to know and appreciate the personality and values of someone else.

Getting to know someone over time...their faults and virtues...and then deciding that their virtues outweigh their faults results in an intimate relationship of two lives intertwined. Like this loving couple below...

The picture just radiates affection that has been distilled and refined over a long period of time. This kind of intimacy involves the entire personality of the couple...as well as much of their daily lives and activities.

Can intimacy be more specialized?

That's an important question because...most people associate intimacy with romance and sex...and the two should not be confused.

You can have intimacy without romance and romance with intimacy.

This is an important point for clerics and religious vowed to celibacy who often cross romantic and sexual boundaries inappropriately...because they believe that intimacy always involves romance.

The good news is...even celibate ministers can have the joys of intimacy...without sex or romance. You can have relationships that are reciprocal...have strong feelings of affection and rapport...and a deep sense of another person's values...without even a hint of romance or sex!

How can that be?

People who collaborate on an important project can have an intimate relationship in the context of that project.

  • ...Rogers and Hammerstein...in deep artistic rapport...wrote great musicals for the stage together.
  • ...Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were in excellent artistic rapport even though they reportedly had no personal relationship outside of their work together.
  • ...Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn thrilled the ballet world with their artistic rapport...though one was homosexual and the other one heterosexual.
There are boundaries around intimate relationships...whether they are personal...romantic...and sexual. Or whether they are non sexual friendships or professional collaborations.

How is that relevant in ministry?

It's a very important point for ministers...especially catholic priests and religious who do not have spouses and families of their own.

The celibacy requirement in consecrated catholic ministry forbids the minister from having a romantic or sexual relationships. But the good news is...celibacy does not forbid...or prevent... intimacy.

A good friendship that lasts for years is an intimate relationship...because the friends understand each others values...they spend time together...
they work on their relationship so it develops and lasts.

But they may not have the slightest romantic or sexual interest in each other. A proper understanding of intimacy in relationships is crucial to the consecrated catholic minister. The opportunity for appropriate intimate friendship among peers should be a high priority for celibate ministers.

Is intimacy a talent?

No it isn't. At least not in the sense that it is a natural trait. Intimacy is a skill...and so...it can be learned. The foundation of any intimate relationship is rapport...
  • ...Great sales people are geniuses at getting into rapport with others.
  • ...A rock star in a gigantic stadium can get thousands of people into rapport with each other so that their gestures and voices match.
  • ...A great actor will get an entire theater full of people all laughing...crying...or applauding at the same time.
These are transient intimate relationships...as many relationships turn out to be. But when you are in rapport with someone meaningful in your life there is a strong and delightful sense of connection to that person. Your thoughts...words...tones of voice...and gestures tend to mirror each other.

And you can learn to do that as a way of making connection with others. Learn the skills of rapport and you can have intimacy in your life...even if you are a consecrated catholic minister.

And to help you check on the subtle boundary issues in your consecrated life sign up for our monthly newsletter The Boundary Hunter. From this intimate relationship page go to relationship boundaries.
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