Sex and Relationship Healing is pleased to partner with Lacy Bentley, host of our Tuesday Women’s Sex/Love Addiction drop-in discussion group and our Thursday Women’s Porn Addiction drop-in discussion group, for our Summer of Love (Addiction). This wonderful series examining women, love addiction, fantasy, pornography, and healing is drawn from Lacy’s book, Addicted to Love.
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In my previous post to this site, I introduced the concept of investigation, defining it as compassionate curiosity. I also mentioned eight areas of intimacy to consider investigating: Spiritual, Romantic, Social, Sexual, Physical, Professional, Emotional, and Intellectual. Last week we covered Spiritual, Romantic, and Social. This week we will examine the remaining areas.
Sexual intimacy is what most people think of when we talk about intimacy, but it is more than the act of sex. It is about how we interact with every person we come into contact with, and how we choose to characterize ourselves with others. How do we portray ourselves? I find this definition valuable and have often been chagrined to realize I have been irresponsible with my sexual interactions.
We have much more impact than we give ourselves credit for. How are you using your power as a sexual being? Are you recovering love and happiness, or breaking yourself and others down? Are you flirting to feel good about yourself, or dressing to make others feel inferior or less attractive? Just take a look and consider how you can be more compassionate and responsible with your sexuality. I’m not saying you need to dress like a hobo; I am simply saying you need to be aware of your motives for what you do and why. That energy goes with you and is destructive when used to cut others down or toy with their emotions. You don’t want that karmic beating up of others coming back on you. Trust me, it is not worth it!
Physical intimacy is any touching, kissing, hugging, or other physical contact with another human being. Who do we let into our bubble of personal space? Do we want them there? Is it appropriate? Am I comfortable with this level of physical intimacy with this person? Would my spouse be OK with the level of physical intimacy I’m engaging in with others?
We get to decide who gets into our personal bubbles, what they can and cannot do within that bubble, and how long they can stay there. We have just as much responsibility to monitor who comes into our physical space as we do to keep out those whom we want to keep out. We must also be responsible with how we enter the physical space of others.
When we work with the same people day after day, relationships naturally form. There is nothing wrong with that. Those relationships need to be appropriate, however. Excessive (some say any) time alone with others we may develop feelings for needs special care. Because I am attracted to men, I watch my relationships with men more closely. I’ve learned a good rule of thumb is: If my spouse, boss, or a friend who knows my challenges were to see this, would they take issue? If the answer is yes, I need to get out!
Emotional intimacy is a measurement of how close we feel to an individual. It addresses the level of detail-sharing and the topics we discuss. Deep emotional sharing can be cathartic in the right setting. It allows us to be vulnerable and ask for help. Emotional intimacy is also critical to long-term intimate relationships. The emotional health of a relationship will indicate its overall health more than any other form of intimacy. Here is where honesty, humility, and deeper commitment are bred and nurtured.
Emotional intimacy is the most delicious and nurturing form of intimacy we can share with other people. It is also the most alluring, destructive, and potentially dangerous form of intimacy. When we are not getting it in our closest relationships, it becomes very easy to get out of balance in other relationships. Without meaning to, we start to create what I call chaotic intimacy. We see the emotional intensity as connection and love. We see the chaos as intimacy when it is actually manipulation of our emotions or someone else’s.
Manipulating another person’s emotions in this way is destructive to the relationship, and quite honestly, it is mean. Our hunger for closeness drives us to irrational behaviors while dissolving boundaries.
Intellectual intimacy has been most tricky for one particular client of mine. She’s what I like to call a “high input/high output” individual. This means she needs a great deal of intellectual stimulation coupled with outlets to express herself. It took her a while to realize she used this as an excuse to have long, isolated conversations with colleagues – male and female. “We’re just chatting,” she’d tell herself (and anyone who questioned her, including me). Yet these conversations laid the groundwork for deeper feelings and a breakdown of emotional boundaries.
Eventually, she started to look forward to conversations with one particular “friend at work.” Before long, she lost focus and was in over her head. This guy was single, but she was not. What started out as friendly conversation was treading on dangerous ground. Emotional, romantic, professional, and intellectual boundaries were crossed. When pressed, so were sexual boundaries, though “only” in her head.
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If you or someone you care about is struggling with love addiction, please check out the FREE Women’s Sex/Love Addiction Drop-In Discussion Group on this website, or, for males, any of the FREE Men’s Drop-In Discussion groups for addicts. (Most of the men’s group are listed as sex/porn addiction, but love addicts are welcomed and generally benefit.)