There have been a lot of words written about the nature of intimacy and how men and women feel intimacy in different ways. Now before I go on I will make it very clear that I am talking about intimacy here, not sex. Sex and Intimacy are very different things. Don’t believe me? Then go ask any rape victim if they are the same.
Intimacy is where we get to share ourselves and we have many aspects of ourselves to share. Some aspects of ourselves are more highly attuned to feeling intimacy. Sometimes our ability to share intimacy is differentiated by our sex. Men may be trained to feel intimate within a sports team, sharing the highs and lows of victory and defeat, striving for a common goal. Women may be trained to share intimacy around food, sharing bonding time as mother and daughter learning family recipes and having the joy of those nourishing meals well received by the family at a shared dinner.
Within a relationship these differing needs for intimacy may present a problem. Let’s have a look at a hypothetical scenario using the above examples.
Bill is a typical Australian male, inculcated into the world of sport from a young age he feels most connected with others when engaged in physical activities. Mary his wife finds intimacy in making great meals and sharing with those she cares for. Now lets say Bill and Mary met on an adventure holiday. They spend their time hiking, swimming, exploring new cultures and eating amazing food. They court each other by going to restaurants, camping and travelling. They fall in love, marry and have kids.
A few years later Bill owns an adventure business and Mary is a full time mum and part-time everything else. Bill is increasingly caught up with his work and keeps missing dinner times with the family. Mary is exhausted by the end of the week and she feels she cannot manage to organise the whole family for a weekend away. Bill becomes resentful and to meet his intimacy needs he becomes heavily involved with the local sports team for his kids and has even less time to spend at home. Mary turns to comfort eating, puts on weight and is even less inclined to ward physical activity of any kind.
They complain bitterly about each other, Bill starts calling Mary fat and lazy, Mary accuses Bill of being cold, critical and uncaring. Neither will listen to the other and the children are beginning to suffer, feeling that they have to side with one parent over the other.
At this stage a friend of both Bill and Mary recommends they try Marriage Counselling. After some nervous negotiation they go to a relationship therapist who begins by gathering information, asking the couple to talk about when and why they got together. Through a series of sessions the relationship counsellor is able to lead Bill and Mary through a process to recognise and acknowledge their differing intimacy needs. Through guided mediation Bill is able to accept responsibility for the effect working long hours has had on Mary and agrees to share at least three dinners a week with the family. In return Mary is able to see how she is using eating to fill her unmet intimacy needs and agrees to an exercise program and a healthy eating plan.
These plans may be implemented with the assistance of a relationship counsellor, but as so many of these things are it is the couple who must make the daily effort to address the issues they have uncovered with the Marriage counsellor.
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