Building a Culture of Intimacy
When I got married (two and half years ago) I had my assumptions of what it would look and feel like, but nothing can prepare you for the reality. Every marriage is just as different as the people in it.
Matt and I had been dating for 5 years before we said, “I do” and in this time of dating we discovered that one of our values as individuals but also as a couple was honesty and communication. Matt, for a long time, has struggled with anxiety and still does on a weekly basis. It took a lot of courage for him to open up to me about this part of his life, with the fear of being misunderstood or rejected.
We intentionally decided early on in our relationship that we wanted to build a culture of honesty without the fear of being judged, this created an atmosphere where intimacy grew.
Some of you may be familiar with how the word intimacy can be broken down to reveal (into-me-see). For Matt and me, being honest and open about the things that take place in our minds, that are hidden from everyone else, was a place where intimacy grew, and we allowed each other to see inside. It is worth saying, this comes at a great cost. It is a two-way conversation. It would be unfair for me to expect Matt to be honest and open with me about his mental health, and for me not to do the same. There are different forms of intimacy; sexual, mental, emotional and spiritual and all require thought and practice to develop.
If you’re a couple wanting to develop intimacy around mental health and wellbeing, I’ve shared below some of the things that we’ve learnt on our journey which might help you too:
Don’t try and understand exactly what is going on
At the beginning of our relationship I would constantly be asking Matt to explain why he thought certain things or to explain why certain things made him feel anxious. I had good intentions; “Maybe if I can understand, I will be able to support him better.” I quickly learnt that there was no way of me truly understanding exactly what Matt was going through because I haven’t lived through his reality. I needed to practice empathy rather than sympathy. Brene Brown describes empathy as a vulnerable choice that requires you to look inside yourself and find something that relates with the feeling of the other person. She says, “rarely can a response make something better, what makes something better is connection.”
Know your partners love language
What on earth is a love language? Well its basically the way that you feel love, the language that your heart understands. Mine for example is a mixture of quality time and acts of service. Spend the day with me doing DIY = DREAMY! My husband’s love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch, give him a cuddle and compliment his character and hair, job done. The point is – we are all different and we all feel love differently. Knowing your partner’s love language is such a powerful way of increasing intimacy when you don’t know how to support them with their mental health – think about how they feel love and use that to express that you are there for them and love them. You can find out more about the 5 Love Languages here.
Building intimacy takes time and looks different for each couple but it starts by having honest and open conversations.
Jess is 24, lives in London with her husband Matt and has been working for Kintsugi Hope since July 2019. Her role at Kintsugi is PA to Patrick’s Regan and Communications Coordinator. Jess has a real passion for justice in the area of mental health and wellbeing, and making sure people have the opportunity to be heard. In her spare time Jess loves taking photos, drinking coffee and being by the sea.