Thank you to everyone who got back to me about the intimacy worksheet! I think what became really clear through reading your responses, and my own experience – these theories and ideas about relationships are great ways to open up a dialogue. So often LIFE (to do lists, work, what to have for dinner, the latest episode of that meter maid show on netflix) takes over all of the talking space and it isn’t until there is an in-your-face issue that we actually bring up how we feel about conflict, sex, communication, etc etc. And by then it’s usually in a fight.
Danielle of A Weighty Mix said:
Matt and I started talking about the different levels of intimacy, and agreed we’d both think about what one was our strength, and what was our weakness. We decided to start with the weaknesses (so we could end the conversation on a positive note!), and I went first, stating the Intimacy (what Intimacy I chose isn’t that important to this story plus I feel kind of awkward talking about it here) that I felt we both could improve on. We talked about it and agreed that we each needed to work on certain aspects, and everything was going really well in our discussion. Matt then had his turn and said he felt our weakness was Work Intimacy, and as we got into the discussion about it, which turned into an argument, this entire Intimacy thing took a completely different turn than what either of us expected.
I felt like Matt was approaching the situation of “you need to work on this, you you you”, while I’d approached the discussion as a “we” type of thing, but what Matt really was expecting from the conversation was for me to respond with, “Well, I agree I need to work on this, but what you need to work on is this…” and it would turn into more of a back and forth discussion about it. Instead, I got a little hurt thinking he was putting it all on me, when in reality that wasn’t his intention whatsoever. He got upset that I took it that way, and figured I would know that he wouldn’t mean it in a mean way but in a constructive way. Basically, it turned into a big mess.
I started to think, “Wow, this was not a good idea…” but then we got deeper into it, talking about how we both need to work on communication. Matt said that it’s like 90% of the time, we are awesome at talking things out and communicating our issues to each other without a problem. But 10% of the time, we have a miscommunication where either Matt says something that comes out the wrong way (his weakness), or I’m just flat out not listening (my weakness). We talked about an issue that had popped up earlier in the day, where Matt was feeling like he didn’t have a safe zone to vent and feel sad about something, and that my response was making him feel like his feelings were stupid. Of course that wasn’t my intention, and rather I was trying to help him get over his emotions rather than let him vent and just think them out/feel that emotion. I’ve had that problem since I was a little kid; I so badly want to fix things for people I love, to make it so they don’t have to feel emotional pain, so I try to dismiss the feelings in a positive way. Sometimes people need to feel sad and that is okay; I have a hard time with that, especially with Matt, and so I don’t listen and in turn invalidate his feelings.
Though there were tears and a lot of going back and forth, I told Matt, “Well, it’s kind of funny. I think we know what intimacy it is that we need to work on. It’s really Communication Intimacy,” and he agreed. It’s amazing how you can think in your mind that you know what it is that you need to work on, but in actuality while talking about those intimacies in your head, you realize through talking that it’s a completely different one you need to improve on.
And that’s exactly it. Things like this create a space to talk about the things we don’t even know are conflicts. And I know Danielle said that she thought “oh no, this was a bad idea!” but really, it so wasn’t. Disagreeing and discovering their might be an issue is SO valuable, especially when you come out the other side like Danielle did, understanding and appreciating each other a little bit more.
Jo’s experience totally makes my point!
Our foray into premarital counseling was less than fulfilling–she didn’t ask many hard-hitting questions and I wanted some! This was a good way to take the temperature of where we are now, vs where we were a year ago when we went thru the 100 Hard Questions to Ask Before You Get Married (or whatever the specific title is).
C came at it from a point of long-term, and I was coming from right now, so I picked #1 as best, and he picked it as the one to work on. If we hadn’t talked about it it would’ve hurt my feelings, because I feel like we have this great partnership. That’s my favorite thing about us! He was looking at it as we have this great partnership now, and it’s so important to him that we continue to prioritize it long-term. That was kind of nice, and segued really well into talking about writing our ceremony.
I love that Nicole, of Truffle Honey suggested checking in with this in 6 months, a year, later. Because closeness shifts, intimacy changes. Things that we were once awesome at can become neglected, and other strengths pop up when we least expect them.
We live together but we’re not married or engaged so it was interesting to discover that many of the types of intimacy listed were ones we hadn’t ever fully explored or discussed as a couple. For example, when it came to spiritual intimacy, we both explained that we do pray at times and do believe in God, which is more than we’ve ever divulged about the topic before. It was enlightening, I think.
We also realized that, for us, the conflict and communication intimacies are the two that are most closely linked; when we have a conflict, most of the time it’s because of some lack of communication. I never thought that one could be so related to the other, but now that I know this, I think that I’ll be able to deal with conflicts caused by communication a little better in the future.
I think the intimacy sheet provoked a lot of meaningful discussion for us, and we didn’t think it was corny at all. Sometimes we are all so busy that we forget to sit with our partners and really, thoughtfully talk about all of the aspects of our relationship and thoughts that we don’t always explore. It helped to center us and remind us that we love each other, and that we’re together because what we share is so multi-dimensional. I’d actually really like to revisit the worksheet in, say, 6 months or a year, just to check back in and see how things will have changed.
If you didn’t get a chance to send in your responses to the discussion, go ahead and leave it in comments!
And thank you for taking the plunge with me! Facing the UNKNOWN is super hard, and opening yourself up for a possible difficult discussion is even worse. You guys are awesome.