Are We Losing Our Grasp of True Intimacy?

In our sentimental society infatuation has become a common path to the altar. Contemplate the testimony of one newly married groom who met his future wife at a New Year’s Eve party. He stayed up talking to her until dawn and became engaged three days later.

After marrying a little more than a month later on the day before Valentine’s Day, the new groom proclaimed, “Once I knew that this was the right person, that we were meant to be, there was no point in waiting.”

Three days from meeting to engagement? Marriage in six weeks? It sounds rash, impetuous, youthful, even stupid. But responsible, mature, intelligent men and women are initiating such relationships every day across America.

Consider multimillionaire publisher Mort Zuckerman. The brilliant, suave confidant and card playing pal of former President Bill Clinton, among the most coveted of Sunday morning political talk show guests, married Marla Prather, the distinguished head of the Department of Twentieth Century Art at the National Gallery of Art.

Said Prather, “We had a very short courtship, and then boom, we’re pregnant. We’re still getting to know each other and learning to be parents”

Even the finest, most mature products of our top academic institutions are committing to virtual strangers now, getting to know their mate later.

We laugh when uneducated younger couples are practicing foolish courtship and marriage, like when heavy metal rock star Tommy Lee and Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson married after a four-day courtship. When the marriage ended bitterly with charges of infidelity and physical abuse, we knowingly nodded. What we have refused to acknowledge is that the same behavior is practiced by the leaders of our country in every walk of life.

Consider California Democratic Assemblywoman Diane Martinez, who wed a Portland Oregon history professor she met online. They exchanged messages for more than a month, sending their favorite poems to each other, before meeting in person. While we cluck our tongues at Tommy and Pam or Kim Kardashian and NBA star Kris Humphries, we ignore the fact that there are older and allegedly wiser couples behaving in similar fashion.

Many will argue that there is nothing wrong with an instant relationship, just add passion. And that’s fine if you are willing to settle for that. But many young couples that have based their romance on infatuation have deluded themselves into thinking they are enjoying true intimacy. They are sadly mistaken.

True intimacy, as defined by psychologist Harriet Lerner of the Menninger Clinic, is a “relationship where one can be one’s self and provide space for someone else to do the same, where we deepen and redefine the truths we tell each other, where we hear each other and talk to each other about sensitive information.”

As opposed to a true intimate relationship, many couples are merely enjoying sexual intimacy with a stranger. How does this happen? For many men, approaching a woman is like making a sale. They will do their best from the onset to take advantage of the initial physical attraction and present themselves as they think the woman wants them to be, from Prince Charming to a Bad Boy, from an aloof cowboy to a sensitive intellectual. After they have sold themselves successfully and sealed the deal, they remain committed to the role. Sadly, many men can never be themselves or the illusion of love will be shattered.

Read more: Dr. J.R. Bruns and R.A. Richards II, PsychologyToday

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