Dr. Bob Wright | February 18, 2016

Got Intimacy?
Here’s How to Get It…

Intimacy—it’s an often-misunderstood word. Intimacy doesn’t simply mean closeness or romance or sharing a deep connection. Intimacy is about learning and growing together and fulfilling your potential.

Relationships are our womb and our crucible; they form us and help forge us into our best selves. While relationships are nurturing, sometimes growth can also be a painful process.

If a relationship isn’t challenging us and pushing us to grow, then it’s just a placebo—a pacifier. Conflict is where the growth and change really happens.

In our book, The Heart of the Fight, Judith Wright and I discuss the ways love is messy. It’s about embracing our roles and living great lives together. One of us might be a great parent and one might have a great career, but it’s about bringing those things together and becoming transformational agents engaged fully in intimacy and working together to bring out our best selves and the best in others.

It’s about engaging in life together as partners.

Yearnings and the Nature of Conflict

Our yearnings are what drive us. We try to fulfill these yearnings and listen to them. At times, we might deny our yearnings, but it becomes painful. We’ll find ourselves shifting blame and being dishonest about what we want, causing resentments to build as we disengage from the relationship.

Conflict helps us reengage. It’s impossible to work for something without fighting at least a little. Think of any goal. If you want to run a marathon, there’s going to be training and hard work—and it’s going to be painful and unpleasant sometimes. You’re not going to skip out the door one day and get to the finish line.

Some of us don’t like to fight. Maybe we were raised to believe that fighting isn’t beneficial. We call these situations “conflict avoidant.” If we grew up in a conflict avoidant household, it might be hard to see the productivity in conflict. It can be difficult to let go of these limiting beliefs and learn it’s okay to express our yearnings. We aren’t wrong or bad if we feel conflict. Conflict doesn’t make us a negative person.

Part of the skill in conflict is about taking responsibility for your own satisfaction and working together in a partnership. People can become so skilled at avoiding conflict that they avoid themselves right out of the relationship and barely engage with the other person. Meanwhile, they resent their partner for not realizing why they’re avoiding them.

Instead, it’s okay to rock the boat. Learning the rules of engagement helps couples realize they’re actually working for, not against the relationship. Conflict is a means to strengthen your relationship and make your yearnings known.

Intimacy is Engagement

If we think we’re moving toward our yearnings but we’re expecting our partner to get us there, we aren’t really taking 100% responsibility for our own satisfaction. We must be learning and growing on our own—AND together. Express what you want to your partner. Tell him or her your expectations and yearnings. What is it you want together?

Intimacy is about loving each other and being close. It’s about wanting to have more of each other and gaining a deeper understanding of the other person. Couples can become like systems engineers, working through the day-to-day tasks of running a home, going to work, and raising the kids. But in this scenario, these two people are simply bumping into each other and existing together. Instead, you have to get on the same page with your vision and your connection. Don’t just go through the motions.

How To Get Your Partner Engaged in Your Relationship

So what do you do when you start to engage with your partner, and you tell him or her you want to work together on building a deeper connection, and they tell you they think it’s a bunch of B.S.?

Well, this happens more often than you think. Change can be difficult and frightening. When your partner is perfectly comfortable with the status quo, because you’ve made it comfortable for them to ignore your yearnings, what can you expect? You’ve got to make it uncomfortable for them, too.

Too often, we get bogged down in a state where we feel sorry for ourselves. We think, “Gee, I’d love to work and grow, but my partner isn’t interested in that stuff. So it’s her fault I can’t do it.” In reality, THIS is the B.S. line of thinking.

You’re 100% responsible for your own satisfaction. If you’re learning and growing and working to bring out your best self, your partner will have to rise to the occasion. If you’re expressing your yearnings and really listening to the truth in what your partner says, if you’re being open and honest, assuming good will, accepting 50% of the blame, and doing what you need to do, you will be a force to be reckoned with.

It will be so uncomfortable for your partner to ignore your personal power and energy that they will engage with you.

It’s all about using conflict to get to the heart of what you really want. Just because, one time, you threw out, “I’d like to work on this,” and you got shot down, don’t just give up. Go for a different approach. Learn the rules of engagement and get engaged. Get the book. Get your partner to read the book with you, and if they won’t, then just start using the skills and following the rules. Eventually, they’ll get so curious about what you’re doing, they’ll want to know more. (Though they might not readily admit it at first…)

Relationships are beautiful and messy, and they help us to grow and change. When you’re working on your own personal power, a healthy relationship can be a launch pad to really bringing out your best self.

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About the Author


Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.