By Adam D. Blum, MFT, Gay Therapy Center Founder and Director
We can spend years with our partner, enjoying their company, building a life together, and having good sex, without being emotionally intimate.
That can work for a while—sometimes even for decades—until the couple is tested by life. When challenges like betrayal, health concerns, or financial issues arise, the inability to talk about vulnerable emotions becomes a big problem.
That’s what intimacy is: the expression of vulnerability.
Here’s the big secret: we all are incredibly vulnerable creatures. Even the most confident, successful and good-looking people are insecure and frightened underneath.
Why shouldn’t we be essentially scared? We are all sitting on a planet spinning at a rate of over 1,000 miles per hour, with no idea why we are here or when it all will be over.
That person who is sleeping next to you, who sometimes is so annoying and who can feel like the enemy, is actually pretty terrified. It’s helpful to remember that. It will make them less threatening to you.
Intimacy and Couples Counseling
In couples counseling we create the opportunity for you to survive being more vulnerable with the person you love. When that happens—and it does happen with 75% of couples in counseling—you experience an intimacy you’ve never had before.
Once you taste that intimacy, even for one second, you want more of it. It bridges the essential loneliness of being alive. It provides meaning in a life that occasionally feels meaningless. That’s powerful stuff.
How Do We Get There?
The therapist creates an environment to make it safe enough to be intimate. He or she controls the communication so that attacks are replaced by listening. The therapist gently coaxes closed hearts into open hearts.
When hearts become open, everyone in the room knows it. It changes everything. Healing happens.
We all want the other person to open up, to be vulnerable, but we really don’t want to do that ourselves. It’s scary.
And it is counter-intuitive. We’ve spent a lifetime learning how to protect ourselves from danger. The pursuit of safety keeps us alive. Without that drive to self-protect, we wouldn’t have a roof over our head or food on the table. And we’d be laughed off the island and subject to humiliation.
So purposely trying to be vulnerable? That’s nuts.
That’s the paradox of love. At some point we have to surrender and take the risk of getting our heads chopped off. Without taking that risk, love can’t repair from the inevitable hurts that happen.
Yikes, Give Me Some Good News
Okay, here’s some reassurance. If your partner agrees to go to couples counseling, then at some level, he or she is ready to learn more about how to take this leap into intimacy and vulnerability with you.
It may not always look like that on the surface, but just by entering into couples work your partner is saying, “I care deeply about you”. And that commitment is why 75% of couples succeed in couples counseling.
For more information about how we help LGBT individuals and couples please visit our website at www.thegaytherapycenter.com. We offer services in our San Francisco, New York, or Los Angeles offices or by Skype or phone worldwide.